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4 Steps to Improve Your Productivity by 500% Whilst Being Happy

Finding ways to improve your productivity by 500% seems a bit difficult to believe, but this claim is backed up by a ten-year study of senior executives, however, you know when you’re totally absorbed in a task that you love doing where time seems to distort. Some people say that time stands still, others think that time flies. Either way, when you’re totally in the zone nothing else matters and you emerge feeling energised, having achieved something brilliant. Everything you do in this state seems to flow effortlessly and connections are made that you hadn’t seen before. Not only do you feel as though you’ve made valuable breakthroughs, but you also feel empowered and full of life. This is being in what’s called a flow state and is achieved when you push yourself to achieve something worthwhile.


Closeup of a computer and a drink with a straw about flow for productivity

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow is a term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who studied this fascinating psychological concept, which is a highly focused mental state where we are totally absorbed in what we’re doing and everything else just falls away. We are totally in the zone and fully engaged in an activity for its own sake and where the ego dissolves. Csikszentmihalyi says that this is where we are at our happiest, when we are in a state of total concentration on something that we love doing and are good at.


In this flow state, there is a reduction of activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision making, planning, moderation of social interaction and learning rules. When we are in the zone, the prefrontal cortex is reduced in a process known at transient hypofrontality, leading to experiences of time distortion, a loss of self-consciousness and a reduction of the inner critic. This allows more brain areas to communicate freely and to engage in the creative process. ‘It’s an efficiency exchange,’ says neuroscientist Arne Dietrich, who helped discover this phenomena. ‘We’re trading energy usually used for higher cognitive functions for heightened attention and awareness.’ This means that getting in a flow state to improve your productivity means swapping our sense of self for a more expansive and creative state where connections and associations are made to find highly creative solutions to challenging problems.


So Where Does the 500% Productivity Increase Come into it?

A McKinsey report conducted over ten years on employee performance and flow found that executives at senior levels were five times more productive than those not in flow. This is staggering, considering what it could mean for your output and also your mental state. So how can we get into a flow state? What can we do to improve our productivity by 500% and be happy doing it?

Finding the Space, Man

The first thing for this to happen is to carve out a space in which to work. This is harder than it seems, especially working from home, but even short blocks of time can be beneficial. The most important thing is to be undistracted, which means finding a quiet corner somewhere, maybe with noise-cancelling headphones and do nothing other than what you want to focus on and get into a state of mind where you achieve flow.

Create a Work Ritual to Get into the Right Headspace

To improve your productivity, set up your workspace how you want it and go through a set routine before you start work. This might be making a cup of tea or coffee, clearing your desk to avoid any distractions, putting on your lucky writing pants, whatever gets you in the right headspace to start work. Done regularly, this will trick your mind into entering into a state of concentration and help with getting into your flow.

Free Yourself from Distractions

This is a challenging one, but one of the most important. We are constantly bombarded with texts, emails, WhatsApp, social media alerts and other people who want our attention. For the duration of the time that you’ve carved out for yourself for your task, turn off your phone (or at least put it on mute, upside down and out of reach), close all emails and social media tabs on your browser and put a sign on your desk saying, ‘do not disturb’. If it works for you to remain uninterrupted, do it.

Focus on One Task and One Task Only

A lot of people can multitask, but they usually end up doing many things badly. This is what happens when everyday life takes over, pulling you in many directions. Choose what you want to achieve in the time that you have and stick to it. One-pointed concentration on one task at a time is the key to finding your flow and absorbing yourself fully in your activity.

When we focus on the things we enjoy doing and challenge ourselves, the limits are endless and the results also include feelings of elation, increased motivation and satisfaction, so why not practice finding your flow to improve your productivity as much as you can? If the studies are accurate, imagine what you could achieve with one full day fully immersed in flow.



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