You’ve likely heard about the benefits of working in a state of “flow,” being able to to arguably do our best work. While research has shown which environments and activities enable states of flow and which hinder it, new and surprising insights into how we can actively get into our flow continues to arise.
For example, on The Huffington Post, author Daniel Goleman dives through research from the University of Chicago, giving us three powerful ways to get into the flow at work. Goleman writes:
The first method involves assigning tasks according to skill set. In the Chicago study, this was put in terms of the ratio of a person’s abilities to the demand of the task. The more a challenge requires us to deploy our best skills, the more likely we will become absorbed in flow.
When we’re not challenged, our performance suffers and we become disengaged. That’s the plight of a large portion of knowledge workers, some statistics suggest. Upping the challenge would help to immerse these workers, and for a lucky few perhaps get them into flow.
…we can get into a state of flow through fully absorbed focus. The stronger the concentration we bring to a task, the more likely we are to drop into flow while doing it. While the other paths to flow depend on external factors — the challenge/demand ratio, finding work that aligns ethics, excellence and engagement — full focus is an inner dimension. The better our ability to pay attention to what we choose and ignore distractions, the stronger our concentration.
How often do you find yourself thinking that you can’t get into a work flow because of external factors? According to Goleman, if you want to really get into the flow of things at work you shouldn’t blame how the office environment or other’s attitudes makes you feel. Instead, you should attempt to find work you can get authentically excited about, work that challenges your abilities, and — most importantly — work that allows you to focus seriously for at least a few minutes every hour.
Read Goleman’s insights on getting into a state of flow at work right here.
Even if you’re not heading back to college or putting your own kids on a school bus this fall, there’s something about September that brings out an itch for new office supplies. But with thousands of options out there, and a high-price not always equaling a higher value, how do you know what’s the best bang for your buck? You ask The Wirecutter, whose writers tested everything (with “over 50 hours spent on fresh research”) to compile a detailed list of the best pens and notebooks, to dorm life products like eye masks and shower caddies, to tablets and USB battery packs. A few of our favorites include the best pen:
The 0.7 mm uni-ball Jetstream is the top everyday pick of several widely-read pen aficionados—including our own Tim Barribeau, who wrote our guide—and costs only $9 for a three-pack. It’s “widely lauded for being super smooth to use, extremely fine, and requiring very little pressure to use,” Tim says. Every expert he’s spoken to so far has recommended it, and Amazon reviewers, who have given it 4.5 stars over 49 reviews, like its good color and constant flow, saying it’s a good pick for left-handed writers, too.
And the best travel mug is a great pick as well:
If you want to carry your coffee around, the $32 Zojirushi Stainless Mug will keep it hot all day. In our testing, it beat out six other models, keeping coffee at least 20 degrees hotter after eight hours than its closest competitor. You can drink out of it one-handed—no fumbling for the lid latch here—and it still locks easily and efficiently, meaning it won’t spill in your bag on the way to class.
We also love that you can use it for cold liquids, too; no, that’s not the intended use, but when we tested it with cold liquids, the temperature rose only 4 degrees, the best performance of any of the models we looked at.
How to utilize your intuition: Sometimes too much information is just that. It can be overwhelming and logic can only get you so far. That’s when you need to trust your gut and ask, “What’s really important here?” “What’s going on behind the surface, the unsaid versus the said?”
How to hone your interpretation skills: Industry jargon and wordy explanations often mask the true value of something. Learning how to distill a message down to its essence, into simple, understandable language isn’t “dumbing it down,” it’s giving it wings. . .
And finally, learn how to amp up your curiosity: Curiosity pushes us beyond what we know and challenges us to look at long-held beliefs in a new light. Staying curious—always asking “Why?” like an earnest preschooler—is a critical muscle that needs to be continuously flexed if you want to have new, game-changing ideas.
By actively listening, you can find valuable information to inspire new ideas. The podcasts are rich in examples where innovative ideas have come to light because they listened to more than what was being said. As writer G. K. Chesteron noted, “There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”
In an in depth article for The Atlantic, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Nancy Andreasen shares her findings on how creatives can have an over abundance of ideas from seeing connections no one else does. One of the participants in Andreasen’s study suggests finding a partnership similar to a kite to sift through which concepts are worth pursuing:
In the R&D business, we kind of lump people into two categories: inventors and engineers. The inventor is the kite kind of person. They have a zillion ideas and they come up with great first prototypes. But generally an inventor … is not a tidy person. He sees the big picture and … [is] constantly lashing something together that doesn’t really work. And then the engineers are the strings, the craftsmen [who pick out a good idea] and make it really practical. So, one is about a good idea, the other is about … making it practical.
With an overflowing quantity of ideas, it is important to evaluate quality. It’s not always easy to take a step back from your creative work and evaluate which ideas should take flight. Partnering with someone with practical experience can help put strings on your idea to get it up in the air and under control.
Have you ever lied during an interview? If you’ve ever pretended to know something that you don’t, you’re hardly alone – up to 70 percent of people have suffered from impostor syndrome at some point in their lives.
Jason Freedman of 42 Floors told a story about a hiring process where his openness about not knowing an answer sold a candidate. Here’s why:
When people say I don’t know, it lends credibility to everything else that they’ve said.
He further explains:
Saying I don’t know… turns a question into a homework assignment. As long as I follow up with the answer later, they never mind. And it’s 1000x better than bullshitting a half answer.
Rather than nodding your head when you don’t know what someone is talking about, or blindly guessing an answer (only to be proven wrong), give yourself permission to not know it all. Simply admit that you don’t know the answer, while adding that you’re happy to find out and tell them the answer later. Not only will you save yourself from potential embarrassment, you’ll be perceived as more reliable and trustworthy.
As we do every Friday, we’ve collected our best stuff from the past week for your weekend reading pleasure.
Tom Hanks just released a typewriter app for the iPad. Behold, Hanx Writer.
The best job rejection letter you could ever hope for — one thatactually offers feedback and advice.
One man’s experiment to Like everything he saw on Facebook for two days. Spoiler: Things got weird.
Fred Seibert, the man responsible for Adventure Time, Powerpuff Girls, and the MTV logo, on the benefit of making lots of little bets and why you should go haywire every now and then.
Real habit change comes from taking a candid look at your shortcomings. Or, as Epictetus once said: “Self-scrutiny applied with kindness.”
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A recent study backed up a simple strategy for beating procrastination:
Research conducted [...] shows that people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.
The aptly named app Go F***ing Do It forces you to reach your goals, or pay if you don’t. The concept is simple:
- Email your friend with a goal, a deadline and a price.
- If you don’t follow through on your goals, you pay.
According to Dev Basu, it’s a bit like a swear jar, only better. The site records your goal and deadline. Your friend (called a supervisor) will check if you actually did it.
By putting your goal out into the world, you try that much harder to achieve it. No one wants to be publicly embarrassed for being unable to meet their goals. Especially with money on the line.
Update: Be forewarned that should you fail to reach your goal, the site itself gets the money. As worded in a statement by the founder Pieter Levels:
Another topic would be who should get the money when a person doesn’t reach their goal? Me, the (greedy) site owner? A charity? A third friend? That’s vigorously discussed on Hacker News now and I’ll keep reading their ideas and implement it when there’s a consensus.