Could watching a carefully curated magic show during your working day increase your productive flow? Our wonderful AHQ East Parade regular, Scott Perry, thinks so. 

Scott is a world class magician, having spent his life entertaining and wowing audiences around the world – including the royal family! Over the last year, Scott has worked closely with various groups of scientists and psychologists studying productive flow over in America.

The concept of productive flow was developed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It explores the conditions in which we are able to be our most productive and focused selves. This, naturally, is an extremely useful tool for our everyday lives. It is particularly useful at work.

Flow is, essentially, that state in which all our attention and energy is focused on the task at hand. Perhaps you’ve experienced this when finally making real progress on a report or working your way through a mass of data. Think of that phrase we all use from time to time: “once I got into the flow of it…”. The world outside that task no longer interrupts ones concentration. Background noise is irrelevant. 

Flow can be utilised to impact all professions. The lessons learnt from high-adrenaline extreme sports athletes, who have somewhat mastered entering flow, can be taught across all arenas. 

So, how does one achieve a state of flow? How do we encourage it? 

Csikszentmihalyi’s work can be summarised to identify a methodological pattern that encourages our own flow states…

Focus

It is vital to invest, initially, a large amount of attention to getting into focus. 

Concentrating on breathing, on a piece of music, on a certain sensory experience you’re undergoing can aid this. Mindfulness exercises are valuable here.

Entering into a focused state requires effort, but the rewards are enormous and enjoyable.

Acceptance

Our all-too-human habit of endless self-criticism has no place in the initial phases of flow state. 

Working freely and without lingering consideration of what you are doing pushes one towards a highly productive output.

Assessment

Acceptance and freedom of working does not guarantee its quality. Thus, taking time to assess what you have achieved during your freedom period is vital.

Gaining feedback on your progress and output over the previous hour/day/week is a vital way of understanding what is demanded of you.

Gradual Challenges

Expert on flow, Steven Kotler, has identified that attempting to work at around 4% above our perceived ability places the optimum amount of pressure upon our performance. 

For example, an athlete competing with another who generally ranks slightly higher in the league is more likely to feel pressure to keep up. This often results in a faster performance. If the competitor was a world champion, though, the race would feel hopeless and demotivating. The pressure of a challenge is necessary.

It is the first stage, focus, that most of us find hardest to master.  Here’s where the magic comes in. 

Watching a magic trick offers us a very different experience to our day-to-day experiences. Subconsciously, we are enticed into a sense of uncertainty, almost fear. Once the trick resolves itself, concludes with a ‘pop’, we are rewarded by our brains with a warm sense of pleasure and excitement. Magic is immersive- it forces you to concentrate on that precise moment. That focus acts as a catalyst for the ignition of a flow state.

Every other Monday morning, starting on the 7th, Scott will be treating our Avenue HQ East Parade members to specially curated 15 minute magic sessions. These will aim to, briefly, take minds away from the start of week grind and leave participants clear-headed and able to enter an optimum performative state.

The impact and results of the first session will be explored in a follow-up post to this one. A second instalment in our latest series on productivity.

Give it a go. Make the effort to attempt accessing a flow state and see how much you can achieve. 

Harrie Kelly

Harrie Kelly

Community Associate at Avenue HQ East Parade.

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