I know what you're wondering. No, this isn't a sequel to Finding Nemo. This is about a mental state that any individual can find him/herself in, Flow.
Flow often occurs when you're learning something for the first time, such as playing piano, strumming a guitar or riding a bicycle. But it's not just that. It's way more.
I recently started measuring my productivity and levels of concentration with strategic learning.
The first thing I did was work/study for 50 minutes and then break for 10 minutes. The break could consist of YouTube, music, Facebook, email, washroom, walking around or stretching. I would then do another 50 minutes of studying, followed by 10 minutes of relaxing. This cycle would continue for 7-8 hours.
How I did this: I started the timer on my iPhone for 50 minutes, and proceeded to throw my phone off to the side. During the 50 minutes, my phone would be in airplane mode, ensuring that I didn't get any distracting texts or tweets. After every 50 minutes, Aloe Blacc's song, "I need a dollar." would start to play, announcing the break!
I've done this on and off for the past month and became really excited because I could go 8am-5pm straight. 90% of the time, my productivity would be through the roof. It was awesome! I also somehow associated feelings of happiness and accomplishment every time Aloe came on.
What became weirder over my study sessions was the fact that even when Aloe came on, there were occasions where I would continue working on study problems for 10-15 minutes! Eagerly! These occasions happened when I was in the middle of figuring the question out with a sense of confidence that I was capable of figuring out the answer.
The concept of flow, posited by psychology researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a current mental state which matches your challenge level and skill level, has been floating around in my discussions with friends. For me, being in a state of flow has been phenomenal.
I recognize that I'm in flow when I have all of the following;
a) high intensity of concentration and focus,
b) clarity of thinking,
c) an openness to new ideas or reframing old ones,
d) increase in critical-thinking and problem-solving,
e) an eagerness to learn and discover
f) spurts of limitless creativity where all options seem possible
Flow generally starts when I have an actionable short-term goal that is significant to my well-being in the long run. Time tends to pass by and it doesn't matter because I am focused on the present. It is able to continue if the short-term goals change and evolve for the better. However, the minute something else more interesting pops up, there is a loss of flow.
I'm still playing around with the idea of consistent flow, especially since at this point in time, I've been in constant flow for 72 hours (with the exception of sleep time, which has decreased significantly). To avoid crashing, I'm consuming high levels of nutrients through different fruits (bananas, apples, oranges), and LOTS of tea (8 cups/day: Green, Earl Grey, Chrysanthemum, and some Starbucks Zen ish), and straight WATERRRRRRR =D (4 glasses) , in addition to my meals.
Q-Tip so far:
With subjects that you don't like, or the ones that you find harder to grasp, study in shorter periods of time. (40-50 minutes is optimal)
With subjects that you do like, or subjects that match both your skill and challenge level, longer study sessions are possible since it induces flow. (1 hour+)
Are you outcome dependent?
Tuesday, December 5th.
Michelle sat in her desk, waiting for the final to start. She had managed to get in 2 solid days of studying and felt fairly prepared for the finance exam. Still, even in her 3rd year of university, she strongly disliked taking tests. A decent student, Michelle had a solid B average throughout each semester and worked fairly hard for it. Yet, at the end of each semester, final exams came and dropped her mark anywhere from 5-10 percent because she froze.
The timer on the classroom projector hit 12:00 noon. The 2 hour countdown for finance had begun. Michelle looked at her paper and blinked. It was happening again. She didn’t understand the first question. Nervousness spread across her body as she started tapping the desk, trying to read the questions again.
Thoughts of her current mark going into the final seeped into her mind. If I’m at a 75%...and I get 50% on the final… that would mean I would end up with a 65%! Oh my gosh!
What do you think happened? I'm not too sure, but chances are she didn't do too well.
Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot about top performers. In high pressure situations, they don’t crumble. Why?
Because they take away the pressure on themselves.
They do so by not even focusing on the future, but focusing on the present. They are not outcome-dependent, but instead focused on the task at hand.
They are performance-dependent. What this does is it allows the individual to activate the logical, problem-solving part of the brain, bypassing the emotional part that tells you "OH NO!"
I noticed the following video about Brandon Roy, an NBA player, on Lilly’s Facebook feed. I’m not a huge basketball fan, but watching this made it so obviously clear. For somebody to perform excellently under pressure, you’d have to not be thinking about anything but right now.
By removing the dependency on a good outcome, you are able to focus with decisiveness in your actions and thoughts, providing a certain sense of clarity. As such, you begin to act on the world around you, instead of being strained by it. What this requires is a sense that your past performance should lead up to a sense of confidence that you are prepared.
For instance, you studied 2-3 days, at an average of 7 hours per day, with a decent 75% as a class grade. This should be the foundation upon which you base your emotions in a final. You then are able to tell yourself, "Hey, based on what I've done in the past 3 months, I should know enough to take care of these questions in front of me." This leads to a neutral pacification of your negative emotions of nervousness, lack of confidence, stress, pressure, freaking out, etc.
Just some food for thought ;)
Are you outcome dependent?
Check out the video below! http://www.nba.com/blazers/tbtv/video.html?videoID=2525
It was a Sunday, and i was on my way to church. The weather was nice out, sunny rays of light splitting through the car windshield. December was here, marking a -2 degrees Celsius on the thermometer. I parked my car and rushed in, 1minute before we started, and looked for my preferred spot on the left hand side of the auditorium.
There it was, empty.
The seat by the air vent. Oh, so sweet. =P
It was a seat of comfort and warmth, gently blasting a gust of hot air at my body. This was welcomed, especially with the winter wonderland outside. I sat back, pulled out my Bible, and relaxed, listening to the pastor preach. The heat was so nice...
20 minutes later, I dozed off.
If you asked me, I wouldn't be able to tell you what the preacher spoke about. I glanced at my Bible, it lay on my lap open at Deuteronomy, the first chapter we looked at that day.
All the value that I would have received by staying awake was lost because I chose to be comfortable. Multiply that over time and that's a lot of lost messages.
I find we do that a lot in class, in work, in life. We go with the best intentions, but often fail to follow up being present. Take, for instance, a university class. You go to university, choose classes that you think you'll like, and then go to those classes. All for the purpose of higher education. Yet at the same time, we pull out our laptops and lack the discipline to stay on topic in class. We surf the web, go on Facebook, check our email, and so on. Sitting by the vent could mean the difference between being physically present and mentally present.
I find that the best days I have are the days that I am learning something new, adding to my knowledge about the world/life. Other days pass by with nothing gained, but time lost.
Are you sitting by the vent?
A blog on my continuing journey through life, covering self-development and success strategies, but also personal reflection.