With my last posting I introduced incorporating awareness of flow in our interest activities we enjoy doing, as a way of growing in Living More Than OK. In this I mean activities with the emphasis on active, something where you are an active participant – painting, sewing, fishing, or gardening. Television is not a flow activity as we just sit there passively absorbed into the screen.
I would like to continue thinking of Dr. Csikzenmihalyi’s thoughts on flow in the context of flow and work. With flow the focus is often in doing activities we have a passion and interest in doing. Work often has a negative connotation -- something we have to do. I remember one warehouse where I worked in shipping, one worker had a saying, “I owe, I owe, It’s off to work we go”. That is so true of many people in their work lives. It is a duty they do not enjoy and often go home full of frustration which affects their personal life. So is it possible to make work a flow experience? And why is flow important in the work setting? In his research on flow, Dr. Csikzenmihalyi reveals how it helps improve our creativity and helps people be more engaged in what they are doing. SO there is a better chance of having a more satisfying work experience. Since we spend about 85,000 hours of our life in the workplace it makes sense to utilize techniques that will help us enjoy our work time.
In Dr. Csikzenmihalyi’s Beyond Boredom and Anxiety he studies the issue of work and flow. He used Surgeons as his main example. Many would think the main reason to be a surgeon is the money . Interviewing surgeons he found that the primary reasons were intrinsic as to the challenge in defeating a disease and helping patients be cured. These are intrinsic factors that can bring flow into their work. Also increasing competence keeps them growing to meet the challenges they face in their work. So elements of flow can be brought into the workplace to enhance our work experience.
Here are some ideas. Part of the flow process is having a goal orientation. In your work do you have set clear specific goals you are aiming for.? These give you a sense of direction to focus on in guiding your work energy. Being in flow relates to being absorbed and focused so the goals give you a basis for your focus which builds your concentration powers.
A balance of challenge and ability helps with flow in your work. If you are not challenging yourself in your work and settled for just doing enough to get by you get in to a rut of routine which creates boredom and not flow. So within the goal creations in your work set the level high enough to make your work challenging. Place time in your schedule to grow in your knowledge and ability for your work. This is the importance of lifelong learning. If you are not growing in knowledge for your work and work is getting more challenging then frustration and stress occurs instead of flow.
As to increasing your abilities and opening up opportunities for flow in your work ask yourself these questions and reflect over ideas to improve your work.:
In looking at your work activities can they be done better, more efficiently?
What steps will make my work contribution more valuable?
How can I make my work personally meaningful?
Are there tasks where I feel incompetent?
How can I learn and improve the needed skills?
Here are some examples of flow in the workplace. Consider a Supermarket clerk who makes it his purpose to instead of just bagging the groceries to pay special attention to the customers in giving a cheery hello and offering to be of help in taking groceries to the cars if need be. A physician who cares about his patients in a holistic manner. Being concerned about their total well being is more important then rushing through as many patients as possible. Or a reporter who is interested in reporting from the standpoint of truth and not just sensationalism to make a name for himself.
Take some quiet time to reflect over the previous questions and see what areas of your work you can turn into flow time. Brainstorm ideas and possible new ideas to use in your work.