In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow he points out that one of the indicators that a person is ‘in flow’, or as it is more often referred to in common language as working in ‘the zone’, is when there is a sense that time stands still. The focus and energy of the individual is so intensely mindful on applying what they are doing, that the whole perception of time is just lost and unimportant. What can seem like just a few seconds could actually have been minutes or even hours.
Long distance runners often report of an extended period while training or competing where all they’re aware of is their breath, rhythm, motion. Musicians report on rehearsals that can last for hours that seem to have just flown by.
Paradoxically, for many of us, we get to the end of a day, and while we may not have experienced moments of being in flow, we are often heard to say, “I can’t believe where the time has gone.” We look at our ‘to do’ list and realise there are just as many items on it at the end of the day as there were at the start of the day. The pressure for many of us is to do more things, with less resources and with more speed with the expectation of better and always improving results.
The paradox as I see it is this. When we’re ‘in flow’ time can seem to stand still, and yet in fact, it’s still ticking by second by second, minute by minute, and hour by hour as it always has. And when we’re not ‘in flow’, trying our best at multi-tasking, chopping and changing from one project or activity to another, juggling disruptions with serious attempts at time management, all the while, time is still going to tick by second by second, minute by minute, and hour by hour.
I’ve posted recently about the power of mindfully and intentionally interrupting your routine to break away from habitually living life, and to be more ‘in each moment’ at least a little more than you are now.
I’m referring to this process now as F.I.R’s (yep another 3 letter acronym). FIR’s are moments of Focused Intentional Reflection, where I stop and ask myself over the past hour, how aligned have I been with my intention, how mindfully have I been connected and engaged in what I am doing.
Here’s what I’ve found, and why I’m encouraging you to consider trying this out for yourself.
This simple reflective practice of holding myself accountable for my own level of engagement and concentration, meaning and intention for what I’m doing, helps set up a more mindful engagement for the next hour. It becomes easier to focus on priorities. It becomes easier to manage distractions and interruptions (rather than giving into them as a break from being disengaged with your work anyway). It becomes clearer how this last hour, and the next will help you make the most of the seconds, minutes and hours that you’re investing your life in on a daily basis.
This is not to say don’t keep using your priority management tools, diaries, ‘to do’ sheets, and discipline in applying the 4 D’s that I was taught (1) Do it now (2) Decide when (3) Delegate it and (4) Dump it.
I’ve been thrilled about the level of connection, meaning and enjoyment introducing Focused Intentional Reflections into my life has produced.