Ever dreamed of arriving in the office in the morning full of energy and leaving in the evening without noticing how quickly the day went by? In this article, we will go over what is called the ‘Flow Model’. How to measure it in the workplace, and how to optimize it.
If you’re not familiar with the ‘Flow Model’ and you do not want to spend 9 minutes reading this amazing article here is a brief sum up.
The ‘Flow Model’ was introduced by the positive psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi and it describes the different mental states that you can have when completing a task based on two variables: the perceived difficulty of the task at hand and your perception of your skill level to complete the task.
By crossing these two variables we get a chart that looks more or less like this:
What we want to do is go higher on the perceived skill level and challenged level. We want to be in the Flow state: that’s when you get so absorbed by what you are doing that nothing takes you out of your work, time flows by and you are truly enjoying yourself.
Quick tip: block time for your work and cut off all automatic notifications, emails, phone… they will distract you!
Here is a small Excel model (that you can download here: Flow Chart) for you to discover which activities make you experience flow and which ones bore you or give you anxiety. This is how it works :
First of all, you must start off by outlining the five areas of work. For example, ‘Business Development’, ‘Recruitment’, ‘Management’, ‘Admin tasks’. Each area is assigned to a color.
Then, define up to 10 activities per area. For example, business development can be divided into ‘defining a commercial strategy’, ‘cold acquisition’, ‘emailing’, ‘prospection meeting’ … Also, for visualisation purposes try to keep them short (‘define a commercial strategy’ = strategy)!
Next, once you have your list of activities you can grade from 0 to 100 to your two variables. (Do not hesitate to use the full spectrum from 0 to a 100 even if you feel like you are a bit exaggerating!)
- Perceived difficulty of the task at hand: can be physically or mentally…
- Perception of your skill level to complete the task: it is always hard to self–assess but you’ll get there☺️
Finally, the dots will automatically be placed on the graph and you’ll see which activities end up in a type of mental state. You can also get the average per category and your overall average (just follow the red dot). If that one ends up in Flow you are pretty much rocking the professional world ?
Visibility tip: if it gets a bit clustered somewhere, right click on the words, go to ‘Format Data Label’ and chose to put it left, above or below depending on where there is free space. Also, shorten your texts!
As you can see, on the right of the chart there are the things (you think) you’re good at, and at the top part of the chart are the challenging activities you do in your job.
Ok, do you have everything filled out? What’s next?
Look at where your dots go and check out the patterns (you can associate some of the parts of the graph!)
Apathy and Boredom: Easy to moderate tasks that you don’t master properly. They are part of every job (just like validating administrative stuff), hopefully not over 10% of your time! However, the best solution to get over it is to block some time in the calendar and get over it in one go. If you have too many of those it’s time to reassess your interest in your position.
Worry and Anxiety: WARNING: Those are big challenges that you don’t feel trained appropriately to tackle. A discussion with your line manager is needed, you may need some training to push those points to the right and hopefully start enjoying them. If it gets too cluttered here, slow down and reassess how you see yourself in this line of work.
Relaxation: Nice to have moments in the week where you master the tasks, but it doesn’t challenge you. This is your comfort zone. Push these up the chart by increasing the difficulty of the tasks, make them quicker, make them perfect and they might end up in Control.
Control: nice, you are good at a moderately difficult task. Do not let these tasks slip down to your comfort zone. Instead, study those tasks and see how you can improve them, what are the underlying skills you need to learn in order to improve, how can you use these learnings to improve the way your company runs this tasks…
Arousal: You are starting to be good at a hard task. Congrats! Here practice makes perfect, do these tasks over and over, find a mentor or coach who can help you end up in the Holy Grail section!
Flow: You nailed it with those tasks, you’re good at hard tasks! Become a leader in this area, help, and coach others! If you see colleagues struggling at this, it’s time to help them out but more importantly, enjoy these moments. For extra fun, you can isolate yourself digitally while performing these tasks: no email notifications or phone distractions in order not to disturb your flow.
Also, check where your averages are, especially the red dot, it will give you a good indication of how you feel about your job.
This exercise is very good as a self-assessment test but can also be used as a coach with your team members, it’s always interesting to be able to visually see where you stand. You can identify the areas where your teams can need training, where they’re not challenged enough, or if they’re having a blast!
Bonus: it also works outside of work, make the same exercise with how you spend your time, which activities put you in flow mode? How can you optimize your time to spend more time to do what you love?
Let us know which tasks end up in Flow, are you surprised by the results? How do you imagine using that tool for yourself or for your teams?☺️