Flow (verb): proceed or be produced continuously and effortlessly. A word that, to be perfectly honest, describes my life at this very moment. In flow. Effortless. Continuous. All of the above.
How many times have you heard the phrase “Go with the flow.” Hundreds? Maybe even thousands? It seems simple enough, right? Just go with the flow. But all too often we don’t even know what flow feels like, or how to get ourselves into a state of flow. We end up resisting, controlling and ultimately end up running ourselves into the ground because we have been trying to (metaphorically) swim against the current.
Today I want to let you in a on a little secret. Flow is very achievable. Ironically, finding flow will take some effort and some control, and being in flow does not mean that you surrender to everything and just give up. No way. It means allowing yourself not to be overwhelmed by small curve balls or large obstacles. It means having all the energy and time you need each day to complete the things you want and need to do. It means moving through your day easily and gracefully, instead of rushing about like a five-year old who was mistakenly given Red Bull.
Flow definitely wasn’t something that just magically happened for me. It took some time and commitment (I am sure you’re cringing at that right now), but it is the truth. For me, the most important aspect of flow is creating good and lasting habits. Daily habits that set you up for a flowing day – every. single. day. The other thing is that flow is achievable even when you have a lot to do (or are “busy”… a word I no longer use). It is not reserved for meditating hippies who spend three hours a day tending to their organic herb gardens. Flow is our natural state, it is where you are your best.
At the moment, for me, flow is all about moving through each day in a calm way, but also being productive and getting stuff done. Over the past two months of my summer break my flow has been building. This is not to say that I have been just relaxing by the pool all day. No, no. This summer has included balancing three jobs, diving training, blogging, writing, organising my life for the next 6-12 months, organising and contacting a lot of other people, attending workshops & classes, travelling and many social events. But in amongst all that I have found flow. And you can too, regardless of what your current demands are.
So here are just a few tips on how to work towards finding your flow:
- Carve out a morning and night-time routine.
So many very wise and successful people have stressed the importance of good morning and night routines before, so I am just going re-iterate their points. Firstly, waking up at the same time each day is crucial for flow, as is going to bed at the same time each night (where possible… with hospitality work this is currently not an option for me). Your body clock, or circadian rhythm, is literally your biological flow-o-meter. If it is in flow, in sync, then you are going to be feeling awesome and hence flow-y! Start by just committing to waking up at an appropriate time for you and make sure you don’t make exceptions. Next, create a beautiful morning routine that gets you ready for the day. Include whatever you like to do in the morning, whether that be meditating, yoga, a workout, green juice, lemon tea, healthy breakfast, reading the paper, dream journalling. Also, MAKE YOUR BED! This is a tip I took away from Lewis Howes‘ book ‘The School of Greatness’ and I cannot tell you how powerfully making my bed each morning has transformed my days. I now do it as soon as I wake up, before I even meditate.
Likewise, at night have a routine that allows you to wind down and prepare for a restful sleep. Once again, you know what is good, but some ideas include reading, meditating (or practicing Legs Up the Wall), taking a bath, having a herbal tea, journalling, listening to soft music or gentle yoga practice. Another good idea is to turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed, so that you can give your body time to start producing melatonin – the neurotransmitter that helps us fall asleep.
- Make a ‘Top Priorities’ list + daily schedule
Once again this is a take away idea from Lewis’s book that I have incorporated into my life. Each night before you go to bed, just take a pen and paper and schedule out your following day. Break it right down to half hour or even twenty-minutes blocks and carve out the time to do the top three things you need to on that day. Even write the top three things on a separate list and tick them off as you do them. By focussing on small, achievable tasks it helps you to be productive, but not be overwhelmed by the length of your to-do list. And you often find you will do all three things by midday and then you can smash out another three before the end of your day. I also make sure I write down my daily activities on my schedule – meditation, yoga, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar tea, time to make and eat healthy dinners, just because it means I will actually have the time to do them all. Schedule in your daily exercise too – you won’t let it slide once it is on your planner! Another great idea is to put one thing a day on the schedule that you are looking forward to, as a reward activity, such as calling/visiting a friend, reading time or a bath and pamper session.
- Do the things you want and need to do only.
This might seem kind of obvious, but don’t waste your time doing things that you don’t want to do, if you don’t have to. Of course there will always be chores to be done, but have a look at your to-do list and see if there is anything that you simply don’t need to do! If there is, then be honest and brutal and take it off your list. Each day focus your energy on first doing the things you do need to do, then those that you want to. If you still have a lot of things that need to be done, perhaps consider delegating them to others where possible, or find a way to turn it into something you want to do. Maybe you can crank up the tunes and have a dance party whilst cleaning the house. Or catch up on your favourite TV show while you do the ironing.
- Allow extra time.
With all this scheduling it can be tempting to pack out your schedule so much that you end up being overwhelmed. This is not conducive to flow. Instead, allow time between events and appointments and always allow extra travel time to accommodate for unexpected traffic/road works/other surprises. This way you can travel slowly and with care, minus the stress of running late. Leave little breaks in your day for you. Slow down. Enjoy the flow.
- Just breathe.
This goes hand-in-hand with slowing everything down, but the importance and power of simply breathing well seems to be forgotten in our daily lives. When you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, just take three long, deep breaths and allow the sensations of relaxation and calm to wash over you. Being calm and centred will definitely allow you to move through your day with a great deal more flow than being stressed and frazzled will. To really get the most benefits, try meditating in the morning and focus on your breath. Then carry this deep breathing on throughout your day.
- Use visualisation.
I am a massive fan of visualisation for all things – my diving, yoga practice, manifestation and life in general. One thing I do to get myself into flow each day is to meditate and visualise exactly how I want my day to unfold. I imagine everything from the moment I leave my meditation spot right up until my head hits the pillow at night. I focus particularly on how I want to feel as I move through the day (happy, calm and centred) and on achieving all the things I have set out to do. I also visualise all of my interactions with people being overwhelmingly positive and warm, from my family to the assistants at the shops. This is a powerful exercise to do each day and it honestly helps you to achieve flow very quickly and easily, since mental visualisation is like a rehearsal – your body doesn’t know the difference between what is vividly imagined and what is reality!
How do you find your flow?
Love Erica x