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3 ideas for getting into the flow

3 ways to get into the flow I can't remember having a problem with flow when I was a child. I remember days of watching ants hills and making needlepoint rugs for my doll's house, of hanging upside down on a rope ladder, and reading, reading, reading - but I don't remember the hopping, constantly refreshing brain.

That seems to have come with adulthood and the increasingly disparate number of things on my 'to do list'.

And my phone. It definitely came with my phone.

The past six months have been a quest to bring some of that flow back into my life- to feel my mind stretching and settling into a project. I decided that the ability to get into a sense of flow was probably something that just needed commitment and practise.

These are what I have found to be the best three tactics for me.

Be the boss of your phone.

I love my phone - the idea of carrying around so much equipment in such a tiny hand held box is an every day miracle to me. But I also know that my phone is the enemy of flow. I think I can use self control and will power to stop the reflexive checking but it always turns out that I can't.

My main problem is that I love to take photos - of flowers and breaking buds on walks perhaps, of an unexpected colour combinations, - things that will become drawings and designs later. But every single time, checking that the pictures were in focus had me spiralling onto my email box and facebook notifications.

Then I spoke to Charlie Gladstone, one of the founders of The Good Life Experience, who also loves to take photographs of things when he walks. He had found great freedom walking in the north of Scotland where there was no phone signal. The camera on his phone still worked, the details of walks were still recorded, but there was no temptation to sabotage the flow of the walk with connecting into social media.

Now I mimic the isolation of the Highlands by putting my phone onto airplane mode when I am out walking my dogs and immediately my mind relaxes into the rhythm of my steps rather than worrying about whether someone has got back to me.

Practise flow while doing everyday things.

The cookery writer Anna Jones writes about Cooking with Grace in her beautiful book The Modern Cook's Year.

"The kitchen can be a transformative place . . . it is a healing, not just through the nourishment it provides but in the very act of doing something physical and practical. It calms my mind and allows me to focus on just one thing"

At first I thought 'yeah, yeah' - for my cookery is not very graceful, my cooking is cluttered and noisy, music on, clattering pans, 6 things going on at once - like a short order restaurant but with a phone beeping on the bench.

But then I tried it - not all the time by any means, but enough to know that it makes a difference to my day. I cleared space, both physically on the work bench and in my schedule, to cook slowly, to focus on the chopping and the washing and the stirring, the setting of the table, to appreciate the scents and textures and colours.

As well as there being less burnt food, there was a feeling of calm which became easier and easier to tap into the more I did it.

For it to work though my phone has to be out of sight or I automatically reach for it 'just in case'.

Set aside time and space to be creative.

I work as a designer, so it now seems very odd that I got to a point where I was very rarely getting into the creative flow. Part of the reason was that I was working out of season, Christmas in February, summer in October, and part was that I was working at my computer a lot of the time.

Last year I decided to change that and began to set aside time, out of working hours, to be creative, mainly to build up my focussing muscles.

For me this has been time spent drawing flowery landscapes - partly because it is easy to set up my pens, paints and paper somewhere where there isn't a computer or a pile of dishes within my sightline.

Gradually I have learned to treat drawing as a meditation, getting into the flow of stems and petals, picking them out in watercolours. There is no need for complete accuracy in these drawings, flowers are a forgiving subject, the result is always pretty even if it is not botanically accurate.

My advice

  • Switch your phone to airplane mode on walks
  • Be deliberately focussed and mindful when doing things which need to be done anyway (cooking, making beds, setting tables)
  • Set aside time and space to do something creative out of sight of chores and technology.

I would love to hear your advice - what have you done to increase that sense of flow in your daily life?


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Comments: 5

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Nicola Cramond

I love this, recently up north and we all....myself, husband, 14yr old and 12yr old loved the peace and family time that no signal and crappy wifi brought us (well i think we loved it more than the girls but they didn't complain as much as I thought they would!) Now home and trying to find that space so I am definitely using the 'airplane mode' for dog walking now!

Snapdragon Jane

Hi Nicola - it is a constant inspiration isn't it? - trying to bring those things home that have worked well on holiday. I'm so glad you enjoyed your trip. x

Gemma Hutchinson

Really enjoyed reading this Jane. I have plans written for a similar (ish) blog post all about finding focus and being productive with your time amidst all the constant chatter and interruptions. Mine is going to be completely different as it is largely about the apps I use, music, aromatherapy... all sorts of things that I do and have been especially putting into practice over the last few months. I’m getting so much done.

Lynn Wilkins

I love the idea of putting my phone on airplane mode to prevent interruptions. Never even occurred to me to do that. Thank you!

Lynn Reid

Love the idea of aeroplane mode. I often put mine on silence from 9pm and try not to look at it after this time. The phone rules my life but it's time I became boss. Thank you for the hint x