Remember the last time you were so locked into what you’re doing that you literally lost track of time? How about a five-hour study, coding, or video-editing session that felt like only five minutes had passed? Well, that state of effortless effort and total attention you were able to achieve is what’s called a flow state.

Can’t seem to get into the flow lately? Here are some of the best flow state triggers to help you reach peak performance and productivity.

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Table of Contents

Flow State Trigger Categories

Knowing what helps you get in the zone is key to getting into the flow. Fortunately, Steven Kotler, founder of the Flow Research Collective, and other researchers have identified at least 22 “flow triggers” — conditions or factors scientifically proven to prepare your brain to enter a flow state.

Though challenging at first, finding the right triggers for you along with a little practice will help you get into the flow much quicker.

Before we get into practical flow state trigger examples below, here are the different broad categories of flow state triggers:

Internal Triggers

Internal triggers come from within us — our mindset, attitudes, and emotions — and can spontaneously bring us into the flow. Since it’s all in our heads, these are powerful triggers that we can easily access in our daily lives.

  1. Autonomy
  2. Complete concentration
  3. Passion, purpose, and curiosity
  4. Immediate feedback
  5. Clear goals
  6. Challenge-skill ratio

External Triggers

On the other hand, external triggers are flow state triggers that focus more on the conditions surrounding the task or situation we’re dealing with. This includes intentionally manipulating our environment to make the task more appealing for us to dive into and eventually get in the flow.

  1. Novelty
  2. Risk
  3. Complexity
  4. Unpredictability
  5. Deep embodiment

Creative Triggers

Artists, musicians, and writers are no strangers to the power of entering a flow state through creative triggers. These triggers help us fully immerse ourselves in the creative process — think of working on an original idea or using an art medium you’ve never tried before.

  1. Creativity and pattern recognition

Group Flow Triggers

If you work with others or lead a team, make sure to maximize group triggers to bring everyone into a collective flow state. This makes it easier for everyone to become productive and get things done efficiently.

  1. Shared goals
  2. Close listening
  3. Yes, and…
  4. Sense of control
  5. Blending egos
  6. Equal participation
  7. Familiarity
  8. Constant communication
  9. Shared risk

Considered as a “bonus trigger,” spite or the desire to prove someone who doubted you wrong can be an effective flow state trigger when used correctly. However, make sure not to confuse this with negativity, as it’s merely a mindset you can use to get into the zone.

How to Trigger Flow State: Examples

So, how can we make the most out of these flow state triggers in our day-to-day life? Here are some practical examples or strategies that you can do to transition into a flow state seamlessly.

Internal Triggers

Have clear goals

Before even attempting to get into a flow state, you need to have a solid idea of what you want to achieve. Giving 100% of your attention, energy, and time becomes much easier if you have a clear understanding of your goals.

Set a time limit

Whether we like it or not, we function better under pressure. This is why setting a strict time limit comes in handy for getting stuff done. Open an aesthetic Pomodoro timer, start the timer, and watch yourself finish your work in no time.

Learn to stay focused

Laser-sharp focus makes entering a flow state effortless. Put in your favorite focus earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, let all your worries disappear temporarily, and concentrate intensely on the task at hand.

For starters, check out some of the best focus and concentration hacks to help you in your next flow session.

Find the right challenge-skill balance

Getting into the flow is much easier when the task at hand is neither too easy nor too challenging.

If something feels too easy, try to make it more challenging by beating your own record — like trying to finish a task that’ll usually take you more than an hour in just under 30 minutes. On the flip side, if something feels too overwhelming, break it into more manageable subtasks you can work on and focus on one at a time.

External Triggers

Optimize your environment

If you’ve been finding it difficult to find your flow, then your study or work environment might be to blame. From finding the right aesthetic, to decor, lighting, background music, and even scent — taking the time to make these tiny tweaks and finishes in your space makes all the difference.

Step out of your comfort zone

The enemy of growth is comfort. By staying in the same gear we’ve been operating in, we can’t expect to get better at what we need to do. Don’t be afraid to take those advanced academic classes, apply for that competitive scholarship, or take on new job responsibilities. These calculated risks can give you just the right amount of pressure to slip into the flow effortlessly each time.

Practice mindfulness and meditation

A painter feeling as if a brush is an extension of their arm, or a surfer feeling one with the ocean are common tales from those who’ve achieved a flow state. Strategies like breath control or grounding techniques prime our minds and bodies before a task — making it easier to find our footing once we start actually doing it.

Here are some of the best online meditation timers that you can use to find your flow during your next recharge session.

Creative Triggers

Seek inspiration

Struggling with a creative block? Get a fresh perspective by going out in nature, visiting art galleries, or engaging in activities that spark your imagination. By surrounding yourself with different sources of inspiration, it’s easier to slip into a creative flow state and work on your ideas.

Try something new

If things get too predictable, switch it up! Study in a different space, work on a different project, or try a different approach to solve a problem you’ve been stuck on.

Group Flow Triggers

Initiate brainstorming sessions

Have you ever been in a group meeting so engaging that it didn’t even feel like one? Working with others that are just as passionate about the task at hand as you are makes a daunting project, less daunting. Brainstorming is an excellent way to break the ice, get everyone into the flow, and ending team meetings more productively.

Create a safe space

One of the biggest obstacles to a team’s success is a lack of collaboration. Creating a trusting and safe space where everyone can voice their thoughts is key to achieving a collective flow state. Ask everyone to speak up, actively listen to each other, and offer constructive feedback for everyone to perform at their best!

Each of us has different flow state triggers, so what might be effective for someone else might not necessarily be effective for you. That’s why it’s important to keep an open mind and experiment with these different flow state triggers to see what resonates!

What are your go-to flow state triggers? Any that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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