Once we identify the things that get us in a flow state, not only can we take steps to engage in them more often, but also we can work on inserting the essence of those things whenever we are doing other, seemingly nonflow activities. If you lose track of time when making art, think about how to integrate more art into your daily life. Can you add doodles on the envelopes when you pay your bills or write haikus in your head while you do the dishes? If spending time in nature gets you in the flow state, perhaps you could leave your office to take your lunch break in the outdoors or volunteer in a community garden.
Finding flow in everyday life is all about discovering ways to fill more and more of your time with the things that matter most to you, the things that fill you with curiosity, joy, wonder, and awe. As your life becomes more filled with meaning, inevitably you find that time as a theme in your life matters less and less and the richness of each present moment matters more and more.
Another way to find flow in daily life is to bring a sense of flowing time into all time. One way to do this is to align yourself with a circular rather than a linear sense of time. Simply imagine time flowing in a circle and your daily activities flowing right along with it, like toy boats in a whirlpool. In circular time, there is less rushing, less pressure, less anxiety. When we see time as circularly flowing, we realize that time constantly renews itself and we truly do have all the time in the world. Anything that doesn't happen in this moment can happen in another moment. In circular time, time never runs out.
The idea of circular flowing time can also be applied to the way we move through our daily activities. One popular time-saving technique is to think of your tasks as if they are on circuits and plan according to the tasks' locations for example, tidying your house by working through adjacent rooms or running errands that are near one another on the same day. This is helpful, but in terms of establishing flow, I find that it's even more helpful to embody a circuitous approach for internal proximities, such as energy, creativity, intensity, or attention. To simplify this idea, let's say that there are two kinds of tasks in which you engage during the day: mindless tasks and mind-intensive tasks. If your day consists of regularly alternating between mindless tasks and highly creative tasks, you will likely lose a lot of time simply by having to change modes so many times. You'll lose time psyching yourself up for the highly creative tasks, and you'll lose time shaking off the intensity when it's time to stop being creative and move to the mindless things.
On the other hand, if you group the mindless tasks together and the mind-intensive tasks together, your brain is working much more efficiently. Even if variety is very important to you, as it is to me, by grouping tasks in logical categories, you can get much more done than you think. For example: group tasks together that require precision and accuracy; when that group is complete, move to a group of tasks that require a lot of outgoing energy and personality (such as phone calls or correspondence). This will be much easier on your brain and imagination, and you will notice the shift very quickly, as you find yourself moving in the circular nature of flowing time. As TiCo, an ACT graduate, said, "That bridge between right and left brain can get exhausting if you do activities that make you cross it over and over and over!"
People are always looking for time-saving tips, but it's important to remember that saving time isn't like saving money. Karen Karsten, a prosperity coach and teacher, shared her thoughts on the poverty consciousness of time: "With money, you have it somewhere in a bank, in your pocket, on the dresser, and if you save it, you can see it, touch it, give it away. Not so with saved time it just sort of disappears. I ask my clients all the time, 'How much money is enough? What would that look like?' and I think the same questions apply to time. Time is a big part of one's total prosperity."
When I'm living in the flow, I'm never trying to "save" time. Instead, I'm aiming to conserve the energy that can be lost rubbing against the frictional constraints of modern time while also looking to gain energy in time by releasing myself to more moments of timelessness. I have a very full life, and my time is filled with many things. Yet I notice that I feel pressured and stressed only when I'm thinking about the linear clock. When I allow more flow to come into my life not only in the freestanding, time-stopping peak experiences but also in the everyday movement of time I feel like I am partnering with time instead of working against it, and I realize how much time there really is.
Even when we are fortunate enough to have these rich, timeless experiences of flow, we do have to come back into "real life." Much has been written about the importance of retreating from the modern world, but not enough has been written to instruct us on how to come back from our retreats. Whether you're returning from a meaningful vacation or from an hour of gardening or making art, I think it's helpful to recognize that coming out of flow can be a bit jarring. As with any challenge, anticipation can be a helpful tool, so plan ahead for things that might make your post-flow moments a bit easier. It is especially helpful to design ways that can help keep the experience alive. Small mementos, meaningful symbols, and talismans can serve as grounding reminders of your flow feelings and experiences, no matter where you are or what you are doing.
Excerpted from Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life ©2012 Marney Makridakis. Published with permission from NewWorldLibrary.com.
Marney K. Makridakis is the author of Creating Time and Hop, Skip, Jump and founder of the online community Artella Land. More.
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