Sometimes there is a need to perform at your best even when you’re tapped out because the situation demands it. Theres a meeting or a deadline and your focus and attention is needed for the full duration of the stint. You need to milk your productive state of mind for all it can give you because you don’t have a second chance.
What do we do in this situation?
Do more of what got you there in the first place!
This is where “flow triggers” come back into play. “Triggers” are the things that we can use to create states of intense focus (or even flow) for ourselves. The things that we do to get into the zone. The things that give us energy rather than taking it away from us.
But just because you know what your triggers are, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to use them all at the same time. You want to have contextual awareness and use only what the situation demands of you. You want to keep something in your arsenal so that if you can feel attention slipping away, you can pull the trigger and release a bullet that you still have in the reserve.
For example in my article on using flow triggers at work, I talk about how while I am on sales calls I will use techniques like going for a walk, rolling golfballs under my feet, using HRV breathing, and other techniques that all help me to remain present and prevent my attention from slipping away.
But the larger point is that I only use them if I need them. I don’t use these techniques if I’m already in a naturally focused state of mind. I only use them if I feel like I have low energy, can’t focus, or I’m bored.
Think of it like drinking a cup of coffee. Ideally, you should only be drinking it if you’re tired and need energy. If you already have great energy levels, if you’re already stimulated, you shouldn’t need the cup of coffee. You want to save it for when you need it most for maximum benefit.
I think of using triggers in the exact same way. For example, as I’ve been writing this article I’ve been writing in silence. I just noticed my attention slipping slightly, so I went onto Spotify and put on some music. The slight addition of music is enough to change the mood without taking a hard break, and I’ve continued this tangent of writing, thus maintaining my focus and energy levels.
I only use the flow trigger when it becomes necessary. I tap into the arsenal as needed so that I get maximum benefit from it. I don’t rely or lean on the trigger, I use it as a supplement when the situation demands it.
Some days its easier to get in the zone than others, cultivate awareness of using the minimal amount so that adding in more triggers is more effective as needed. Sometimes we only need 2 or 3 triggers, and we want to save the other triggers for when we can feel our attention slipping in order to SUSTAIN flow.
I believe that one of the biggest reasons why people have a hard time sustaining focus and concentration is that they lean on their habits too heavily. They need coffee every day, music every day, walking every day, etc etc. While I am a big believer of habits and consistency, just like coffee, you will build up a tolerance over time, and the flow trigger will become less effective each day that you use it.
I don’t change to a new and novel environment every single day, I use it when I feel like my current workspace is getting boring. I don’t go for a walk on every sales call, I go for a walk when I feel like I am tired and can’t focus. I don’t do HRV breathing for every task, I use it when I feel like I am stressed. I don’t smoke weed before every writing session, I smoke weed when I feel like I have a block and nothing wants to come out of me.
You get the point. I use them when they are needed so that I don’t build up a tolerance to them. This is an important distinction that I don’t feel I’ve properly conveyed in my previous articles about flow, so I’m doing it now instead.
I always like to say “don’t lean too heavily on the medicine”. Just because it works doesn’t mean that you have to rely on it and use it every single day. This my friends, is what we call addiction. Don’t be too addicted to your habits.
So how do we sustain focus and energy levels throughout the day?
By SAVING our triggers for when we need them most. By having a fat arsenal of weapons that we can use when we need them. In the same way that you have triggers to get you into flow, you should have triggers to sustain flow, that are used only when necessary.
Sustaining focus and energy is about conservation of resources. Not expending your resources before you need to. Using them only as necessary.
Start by taking inventory. Are you using everything all at once in an attempt to get yourself into flow addictively, or are you objectively assessing what you really need and using them sparingly? Are you being a junkie or a scientist? It’s a fine line.
Over time play with this balance and cultivate an awareness so that you use these techniques responsibly instead of chasing states of hyper productivity like a drug addict.
May you have productivity and happiness filled days along the way 🙂