With a significant increase in the number of people working from home, it is now more crucial than ever that employees understand how to make the most of their time. Most importantly, leaders need to communicate this without applying unnecessary pressure.
When employees feel motivated to work, they will inherently become more productive. The good news is, it is possible to create both a desire to achieve goals and immersion in a task. In this article, we explore what your team can do to improve their motivation to boost productivity.
While it may seem like a random occurrence, we can create moments of complete immersion and motivation. In the 1970s, psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihályi referred to this experience as ‘flow state.’
Csíkszentmihályi defines ‘flow state’ as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”
He adds that the experience involves “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away—time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
In a McKinsey study, executives reported being five times more productive when in flow. However, most of us spend around five percent of our working life in this state. According to the study, if leaders could increase this number to twenty percent, overall productivity would double.
So how do we get into a flow state and boost productivity? Here are our top tips to help your employees get in the zone:
1. Keep procrastination in check
When left unchecked, procrastination can become a chronic problem. When we don’t feel like completing a task, we are unable to see the impact of avoiding it long term, or how failing to do the work will stop us from reaching our goals. This thought pattern can create a negative downward spiral, which becomes difficult to reset.
When you don’t enjoy a particular task and find yourself putting it off, it can be helpful to find a way to motivate yourself to do it extrinsically. To do this, start by building in a reward for completing the task, or a section of it. The reward then becomes the motivation, and you have created an incentive for getting the work done. Getting started is often the hardest part.
2. Challenge yourself
Csíkszentmihályi explains that “flow also happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable, so it acts as a magnet for learning new skills and increasing challenges. If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills.”
There are some tasks we are not interested in doing. Some are too easy and some too challenging. The most common problem is that they just aren’t that interesting, or they have become repetitive.
If this applies to a task you are trying to complete, think about how you could make it more challenging. Find out if there is something additional you could be doing, or set yourself a personal goal within the task. If the task is too difficult, you could break it down into more manageable steps or ask for further clarification.
3. Become more self-aware
If you do find yourself drifting into a distracted state, it can be helpful to work on self-awareness. If you can identify the moment you start getting lost in thought, you have a far better chance of rescuing yourself when you need to return to the task at hand.
Distraction could also signal that it’s time for a break. Continuing to work when your brain needs a rest is about the most unproductive thing you can do. Even if you take five minutes away from your desk to walk around, this can quickly replenish your energy and ability to focus.
Meditation can also help with awareness. The fundamental aim of the practice is to notice when you are getting distracted, and this can help you to know when you are no longer engaged in your work.
4. Understand your strengths and weaknesses
If you already know what you are good at, you can use this information to reach flow. For example, if you are completing a writing task and you find writing fairly easy, you’ll need to find a way to challenge yourself to become fully immersed in the task. There is always something you can work on. Find out what you need to do to improve, and focus on that.
Equally, if you know the areas you struggle with, you can decide whether it is easier to delegate the task and more efficient to avoid it altogether. Alternatively, you could break the task down into smaller parts to become more engaged with it.
5. Make tasks manageable
Thinking about the enormity of a task before starting it can also trigger procrastination and anxiety. These thoughts are the enemy of flow. To avoid overthinking, break the task down into smaller chunks.
For example, if you have to write a report, aim to write the first 100 words and then have a short break. It might also be helpful to plan out the task first, with headings and bullet points to guide you through each step.
Take a look at our Go1 Optimising Productivity pathway. You'll find a wide range of courses to help you boost motivation and stay productive when working remotely.
Sophia is a freelance writer who specialises in thought leadership, opinion pieces and content creation for learning publications. Her work focuses on the latest research in learning theory and practice. She regularly contributes articles on workplace learning and personal development to the Go1 blog. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.