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Friday, April 13, 2012

The Power of Flow

Earlier this week I was working on an assignment for a class I'm taking, and when I looked up at the clock, I saw that it has been over two hours since I had last looked. I had been in "flow"--the state of being so involved in what you are doing that you are aware of nothing else--and it was wonderful. And I realized that while flow is the most satisfying state for me to be in regardless of what I'm doing (and particularly when I'm writing), it had been a long time since I had slipped into that level of consciousness.

And why is that? Why do I get into flow so very infrequently? For one thing, it's because I have so many commitments to family, job and schooling that I am constantly telling myself  "I'll study this chapter for 20 minutes before I have to go pick up H. from his activity" or "I'll work on this poem for 40 minutes until I absolutely have to get dinner started," etc. I am so overscheduled that I can't wean myself from the clock, and awareness of the clock is the enemy of flow. To get into flow, you have to have enough time in a single stretch that time is not an issue, and I never have that anymore.

So what am I going to do about this? Well, I can't quit my job or my classes, or put my kids up for adoption. But what I can do is, instead of attempting to study every subject and work on poetry and refine lesson plans a little bit every day, try to do fewer things per day for longer periods. This is totally against my nature. I grew up practicing the piano every day without fail and believing that everything has to be done daily to be mastered. I have always studied for every class I've been taking every single day of the week. This strategy has always worked for me too.

But now I'm going to try to do activities for longer periods of time, but fewer times per week. I have to believe in flow 100% to do this; I have to believe that I will get more deeply into each project so that it will be more effective than doing it daily for shorter spurts of time. Do I believe this? In theory, I do; but since I've always been such a proponent of daily practice for everything of any value, I'm scared.

So I'll let you know how it goes.

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