The Art of Welldoing

08 | 10 - Flow


Get in the zone.

How flow can 5x your work.

In a ten year study, management consultancy McKinseys found that workers in a state of ‘flow’ were 5 times more productive.

When you’re in ‘flow’, you’re ‘in the zone’ - ready to be and do your best.

How does ‘flow’ feel?

People in ‘flow’ experience a number of feelings coming together at once.

  • You feel fully present

  • Your being and doing are one

  • Your inner critic is asleep

  • You feel in control

  • You have lost a sense of time

  • You feel worthwhile

When was the last time that happened?

Would you like to learn how?

The best conditions for ‘flow’

First you need to create the right environment, as best as you can. 

  • Free from distractions - turn off notifications, do not disturb mode, find an empty office, put on headphones, find a cave - that kind of thing.

  • Clear and challenging goal - a little out of your comfort zone but something you really want to get better at.

  • Measurable and visible progress - no. of words or pages, bite size chunks, timer countdown.

And then be prepared for what to expect by understanding the 4 stages of the ‘flow’ cycle.

The ‘flow’ cycle

1. Struggle

Your journey into flow starts with struggle. You feel challenged but also stressed. Many give up here. There is a risk of failure and you are feeling uncomfortable. To do this you will need to breathe deeply into this discomfort. If you can ride this out, you’re on your way to flow. 

2. Release

This is where you let go and trust yourself. No mean feat. You have the skill, you just need to relax and allow yourself to do your best. By lengthening your exhalation you can learn to lean into challenges.

3. Flow

“Aaah! You’re in the zone. Your mind now will be focussed. Just let it do its thing. This is the work that you were born to do well. Thrive!

4. Recovery

This can feel like a come-down. You need to rest, you need to recharge. High-performance flow is transient. If you don’t fully recover before going through this cycle again you will not be able to handle the struggle at the start. Rehydrate.  Go outside into nature. Walk slowly. Breathe deeply.

I like to aim for 25 min intense bursts of ‘flow’. Usually no more than 3 in a day.

3 things to note

1. Reduce distractions

2. Choose a clear and challenging task

3. Don’t stop for 25 mins


Why not try this now?

  • Try breathing with your Do Breathe app to get you in the zone.

  • Put your headphones on, put your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ and Do Breathe for 2 minutes.

  • Then put on a music playlist you are familiar with that keeps you going.

  • Set yourself a challenging task that will get an important project moving forwards.

  • Set a timer for 25 minutes on your phone, and start!

  • When you feel like giving up, reconnect to your breath, and keep going till the alarm goes!

  • Notice how you managed your feelings.

Open Do Breathe App

“Coherence is, in essence, the biological under-pinning of what elite performers call ‘the flow state’: a state of maximum efficiency and super- effectiveness where body and mind are one.”
Dr Alan Watkins


What's next ?

On Friday, we'll look at how we can use breathing to stimulate our creativity.

Breathe well. Be well. Do well.


@dobreathe | #dobreathe | |

Watch Michael's talk at The Do Lectures in 2014.

Buy Do Breathe, the book.