Flow Triggers, A Guide to Finding Your Optimal State of Focus

George Morris
4 min readSep 6, 2023

Have you ever been so focused on a task that everything else around you seems to disappear? When you enter that elusive state of complete immersion and high performance, you’ve tapped into the flow state — the essence of peak productivity.

Flow is a state of consciousness where one feels fully engaged and energized, as described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Time seems to pass quickly, you have laser-like focus and calmness, and you operate at the very limits of your skills. Athletes call it being “in the zone,” artists refer to it as when the muse takes over. Regardless of how you describe it, everyone has experienced flow at some point.

How can we consistently achieve a state of flow that opens our full potential? Decades of research have identified certain triggers that lead to periods of intense productivity and creativity. According to a course I’m taking at the Flow Research Collective, they have accounted for 22 factors that ignite flow.

The Conditions for Flow

Flow states require a delicate balance of challenge and skills. The task can’t be too difficult or we get overwhelmed. But it also can’t be too easy or we get bored. This sweet spot stretches our abilities just enough to fully engage our brains without going into panic mode. This is also known as the edge of eustress.

Beyond balancing challenge and skills, these elements are vital for flow:

Having Clear Goals — When you know exactly what needs to be accomplished, you can direct all your energy towards those objectives.

Immediate Feedback — Direct input on your performance helps you adjust and improve in real time to stay focused.

Sense of Control — Feeling empowered over your actions and environment reduces disruptive distractions.

Concentration — Sharply focusing your attention is critical for flow. Multitasking is counterproductive.

No Distractions — Minimizing interruptions allows you to devote your full attention.

Intrinsic Rewards — Enjoying the activity itself, not external validation, keeps you motivated.

No Worry of Failure — Letting go of self-judgement prevents you from overthinking and breaking focus.

Sense of Timelessness — When fully immersed, you may lose track of time passing as you tune out external stimuli.

The Process of Flow

Now that we’ve covered the essential prerequisites, let’s walk through how to activate flow during key phases of your work:

Preparation Stage:
- Set clear goals
- Ensure your skills match the challenge
- Minimize possible distractions
- Create a schedule to stay focused

Execution Stage:
- Give the task your full concentration
- Avoid multitasking
- Block out distractions and interruptions
- Remind yourself of the intrinsic rewards

Reflection Stage:
- Evaluate what went well and what needs improvement
- Identify how to better align challenge and skills next time
- Determine how long you stayed focused in flow
- Make adjustments to prolong future flow states

As you progress through these stages, you’ll notice yourself becoming fully immersed during the execution phase. Time will seem distorted, outside noises won’t break your focus, and you’ll have laser precision on the task at hand.

Using The Flow Triggers

Now let’s look at each of the 22 specific triggers scientifically proven to spark that elusive flow state consistently:

  1. Schedule Flow — Block time on your calendar dedicated to flow. Protect this time rigorously.
  2. Single-tasking — Give your full attention to one activity at a time instead of multitasking.
  3. Turn Off Notifications — Eliminate pings and pop-ups that derail focus.
  4. Quiet Environment — Ambient noise and other sensory distractions sabotage flow.
  5. Comfortable Workspace — Don’t underestimate ergonomics. Discomfort breaks concentration.
  6. Energizing Music — The right tempo and melody boosts motivation and primes your brain for flow.
  7. Snack Smart — Having a healthy snack sustains energy levels and blood sugar versus grabbing junk food.
  8. Strategic Breaks — Short breaks prevent burning out while working in flow for long periods.
  9. Mindfulness — Meditation and deep breathing center your mind, reducing mental chatter.
  10. Journaling — Writing out thoughts before diving into flow clears your mind.
  11. Exercise — Physical activity immediately before flow releases endorphins.
  12. Positive Priming — Watch or listen to something uplifting right before flow to build momentum.
  13. Accountability Partner — Agree to check-in with someone at the end of your flow session.
  14. Competition — A sense of healthy competition motivates peak performance.
  15. Gamification — Adding game elements makes tedious tasks more engaging and addictive.
  16. Tangible Progress — Seeing visible results keeps you energized to maintain flow.
  17. Novelty — New projects and unfamiliar tasks stimulate focus and curiosity.
  18. Autonomy — Having control over your actions and environment reduces disruptions.
  19. Vital Behaviors — Identify actions that produce outsized results and do those first.
  20. Record Progress — Tracking key metrics provides immediate feedback to calibrate flow.
  21. Biohacks — Oxygen bars, nootropics, binaural beats. Experiment to boost flow.
  22. Flow Rituals — Consistent routines signal your brain it’s time for deep work.

By intentionally incorporating these triggers, you’ll be amazed at how much more frequently you enter that magical flow state. Over time, you’ll intuitively know how to achieve this hyper-productive mode on command.

I encourage you to experiment with these 22 scientifically proven triggers to consistently achieve the state of flow.

What’s your biggest takeaway?

What flow triggers resonate most?

Share your insights with me! Once you turn on flow, you’ll find the ability to learn faster, work smarter, and maximize your performance at will.

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George Morris

Lifelong entrepreneur and business coach, single father of two. Looking for ways society can level-up to meet the modern global challenges. https://gmorris.com