10 mindful tips for achieving big things at work

Psychologists call "flow" the moment when you've achieved a state of pure focus and creativity. Entrepreneurs share tips for how to accomplish a state of flow to accomplish work goals.

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When you feel like you’ve hit your stride at work, achieving a state of pure focus and creativity, that’s flow. The term was coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who described it as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.”

Sounds ideal for accomplishing big things at work, right? Read on for how 10 entrepreneurs achieve a state of flow.

10. Remove distractions

“The most important factor that I control for in order to ‘get lost’ in my work is to remove distractions,” said Tony Mariotti, owner and realtor at Great Vancouver Homes. “That might mean turning off my computer and sketching an outline for an upcoming blog post with old-fashioned paper and pen. Often, I have to be separated from my computer, phone, or any other device that will deliver interruptions like texts, emails, or calls. The second controlled factor, which is a little harder to pull off, is to clear my schedule for the first two hours of my workday. That's not often possible, but getting into a state of flow is a little easier in the morning when my head is still relatively free of distractions.”

9. Plan each project

“I achieve a state of flow at work by making myself a visual roadmap of each step that I need to take to get from point A to point B before starting a project,” said David Morneau, CEO of inBeat Agency. “While having a mental roadmap helps, I prefer to have it visible by printing it and keeping it in front of me while I am working. It keeps me aware of what is next, and I stay focused and engaged. I have daily feedback sessions with myself or with one of my mentors to know how well I am doing and how far I am from my goal.”

8. Repeat certain actions

“Repetition is the key to achieving a state of flow,” said Adem Selita, CEO at The Debt Relief Company. “I achieve this via positive reinforcement supplemented by repetitive cognitive behaviors. Whenever I am scheduled to speak with a significant client or potential partner, I press my chest twice (similar to how Tony Robbins does), and my mind is naturally conditioned to experience a change in state due to this. After years of this simple repetition, my brain helps me shift my state and achieve a state of high energy and accelerated output.”

7. Do something that invites flow

“Let curiosity be the ticket to flow when it comes to work,” said Linda Clark, CEO and founder of Linda Clark Consulting LLC. “Do what takes you into flow, and then transition to work. I may hoop for a few minutes, and then tackle a project that needs creativity. You might run or meditate. Flow is more sustainable with breaks, but don’t take that too far into fracturing your attention span. Come up for air, grab a snack, and go back into the moment. When you’re in flow, or working to get there, create a space for that with minimal interruptions. Close your office door. Go somewhere new, even if it is your patio.”

“Find what you're good at — or willing to get better at — and make it a cornerstone of your work.”

6. Time yourself in a creative way

“I use a modified version of the Pomodoro Technique (25 minutes on, five minutes off) to help me get into a good work flow,” said Dan Gower, owner of Buddy Gardner Advertising. “Breaks help keep me energized for longer, plus the knowledge that I'll have to take a break in 25 minutes forces me into a groove right away. I use albums to time myself, as one side of most vinyl records is about 25 minutes. When it's time to flip the record or put a new one on, I take my break and remember what time I'm supposed to go back to work.”

5. Plan for flow

“Before attempting a flow session, you should block out enough time on your schedule,” said Micah McGuire, founder and program strategist at The Mind Redesign. “Most experts recommend somewhere between 90 to 120 minutes. This will allow enough time for you to reach flow state (which can take up to 45 minutes) and remain there without the stress of an impending deadline. Then, set a highly specific goal of what you’ll work on during the flow session before starting. You should define the boundaries of your flow session work and what counts as completion. Finally, check the challenge level of your goal to ensure you’ll stay in the flow channel (illustrated in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s "flow" diagram). You want the challenge to push your skills by roughly four percent. This may be a concrete goal (such as increasing your target word count on a blog post draft) or a more abstract goal (like brainstorming until you feel you’re mentally challenged).”

4. Know what activities aren’t flow compatible

“There are a lot of tasks that are ‘flow resistant,’” said Matthew Burke, editorial director at The Complete Guide to Archery. “It could be answering calls from angry customers, dealing with difficult co-workers, or anything that you truly dislike. There are some tasks where it's not worth finding flow, so hammer down these tasks, get them done, and then get back to the activities that let you focus. Mastery is an important element of flow. Find what you're good at — or willing to get better at — and make it a cornerstone of your work.”

3. Find the right music

“What’s worked for me is to put on noise-canceling headphones and listen to ambient music or techno depending on what I’m trying to achieve,” said Ron Stefanski, founder of “In the mornings, while I have coffee and try to get through most of my work, electronic music at 140+ BPM is what gets me in flow state. In this state, I can multitask and cut through my more mundane and time-consuming tasks with more efficiency. In the afternoons, when I’m writing, I prefer more ambient and chilled-out music to get me in the mood to write. With no vocals, my mind can drift through my thoughts as I write and think in perfect synchronicity. Music is the rhythm of life, and using it correctly can definitely help you achieve flow state once you’ve trained your mind.”

2. Accomplish small things first

“To get into a state of flow, start with a ‘quick win list’ — a list of tasks that can be done in five to 15 minutes,” said Trevor Lohrbeer, founder of Day Optimizer. “Checking off these wins will spike your dopamine, helping you increase your focus and motivation. To set yourself up for success, before you end your day or when you are wrapping up a specific type of task, take five minutes to create a quick win list for your next work session. This will help you quickly get back into a state of flow next time.”

1. Activate alpha brain waves

“There are quick steps to activate your alpha brain waves and hit that optimal state of flow where focus is interrupted and time flies,” said Tessa Hull, success and optimization coach at No Right Way Ltd. “Green tea holds L-theanine, which has been shown to significantly increase activities in the alpha frequency band without causing drowsiness, and 30 minutes of exercise has also been shown to help. If you could get meditation, a quick workout, and a cup of tea into your morning routine, you’re on the right track to achieve flow state more effectively.”

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