This is the second half of my conversation with Rian Doris & Conor Murphy of the Flow Research Collective. We discuss Flow, which is defined as an optimal state of consciousness and is considered to be the optimal experience of life.
This episode helps you to understand and increase your time in flow, so you can get the most out of every aspect of your life. Flow dramatically increases every measure of performance you can imagine, as well as your subjective quality of life experience.
You may want to listen to part one of the conversation first, but this second half also is quite actionable and can stand on its own.
In this conversation we discuss:
- Clear goals
- Levels of goals
- Convergent & divergent tasks
- Context switch
- Can we actually multitask?
- Strategic thinking vs. Convergent thinking
- Flow is a game of attention
- Flow triggers
- The golden rule of flow
- Mindfulness, gratitude, and flow
- How to gain autonomy
- Vital engagement
- Passion & purpose
- Deliberate practice and flow
- The challenge/skills balance
- How to create an environment that is more conducive to flow
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Transcripts may contain typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Rian 00:01:37 Another one I think that’s worth touching on is clear goals and it’s super helpful, I think for knowledge work specifically. So, um, I mean, it’s, it’s basic, but essentially clear goals is just having a very clear, specific goal for whatever task that it is you’re engaging with or doing at the moments when the goal is clear, the mind doesn’t kind of wander you don’t go into high level analytical mode of kind of being concerned about exactly what it is that you’re supposed to be doing and what the purpose of it is. But you’re able to just kind of focus, hone in and drop straight into whatever it is that you’re doing. So making a very intentional effort to always have extremely, extremely clear goals with respect to anything you’re doing. I think
Andrew 00:02:21 Can you give a concrete example? Because I’ve heard you talk about this elsewhere. And one of the things there’s two, two things I’d like you to go deeper on as it relates to the clear goals. But one was the distinction between, I think this is in a recent newsletter y’all did between sort of high level hard goals and like clear goals because I think people hear clear goals and I can imagine 10 people having 10 different interpretations of what that means. So if you could make that distinction there and then give, if you give a concrete example, when you say clear goal, what does that actually look like versus what somebody’s thinking?
Rian 00:02:49 Yeah, so obviously there’s different kinds of levels of girls and we, um, within the flow research collective started with what Steven calls your massively transformative purpose, which is your, you know, your overall overarching life vision mission that is essentially endless. It’s kind of like a infinite game type thing. Then you’ve got your high hard goals. They may be 10 year goals, five year goals, one year goals. And then it just kind of cascades down to usually the immediate task level of, okay, I want to spend two hours doing X and then within that you need clear goals. And I think most people go wrong with clear goals by not making them clear enough, they need to be hyper kind of freakishly clear down to an insanely detailed level and a good proxy for knowing whether your goals are clear enough is whether you feel a sense of resistance to doing the tasks.
Rian 00:03:38 If you feel resistance, if you feel this kind of desire to procrastinate, or if you feel like you, can’t just kind of effortlessly slip and sink right into what it is that you’re doing, you probably haven’t set enough time getting crystal clear on the goals of the task, the exact first thing you need to do to start the sub components of the task. So let’s take an example like writing rather than saying, you know, I’m going to write for two hours, you say, okay, I’m going to write 700 words. And the first step is going to be writing the six outlines. The second step is going to be researching the material I need to populate. Each of those outlines. The third step is going to be doing an additive, outline one, the fourth step, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And it’s just all locked out. And so all of that, again, high level kind of analytical work is done and separated out. And then you can just drop into the actual execution of what it is. So another way I like to think about it as separating strategy and execution, and that’s super helpful to get all that stuff done on a boom, just mindlessly hands flow, drop into the actual execution of the thing. Right?
Conor 00:04:40 My simple rule of thumb is, um, if at the end of that task, like in a, if I’m asking myself, you know, I’m looking at my to do list, like, did I complete this task? If I’m sitting there wondering if I completed the task, the goal wasn’t clear enough, oftentimes like, you know, if, if the goal is like, okay, I need to do research on this. Right? Like I need to like, do like research on like this subject matter in order to be able to do the next step of this project. Um, for that, like, I always need to time box that I’m always like, okay, I’m going to do one hour research. I’m going to cap it at that. And so that way I’m not sitting here being like, Oh, did I actually complete that goal? Right. Like, so that’s like the general rule of thumb that makes it really, really helpful for me.
Conor 00:05:19 Um, but I think the other thing that’s like really helpful to talk about it. And I don’t think enough people talk about this in the flow community, um, which is like entropy versus flow. So we talked a little bit about, um, like flow is a spectrum from micro flow to macro flow and macro flow are, you know, these, you know, incredibly intense States that oftentimes, you know, like a lot of people describe them resembling some sort of mystical state, right? So like macro flow is qualitatively different from micro flow, but what’s the opposite of flow. Um, in, I think that’s like a really important question to ask. And, and so what chick sent me high talks about in some of the original researches, you know, it’s about entropy versus flow. And so if you think about like a, like, like cognitive entropy, as you know, your mind is like kind of scattered between a number of different things, right?
Conor 00:06:05 Your mind is a goal directed system, right? So it’s looking for goals and maybe you’re scattered between a number of different goals. You don’t know what, like you actually want to spend time on, like, if you think about like your, like how entropic your like mental state is and apologize if I’m being too esoteric, is that like, did you mean sort of like scattered? Exactly, exactly. Cause like you waste so many resources worrying about things that you shouldn’t be worrying about or thinking about things that you shouldn’t be thinking about in flow is to a certain extent, the opposite of that, right? Because in flow, like, you know, flow is a game of attention. That’s when your attention is completely focused on the present. And when your attention is completely focused on the present, you’re not worrying about the past. You’re not worrying about the future. Like you’re, you’re, you’re not wasting all of these cognitive resources, just burning calories on, you know, static and entropy basic. Right. And so it’s though like the, the, the mechanism of clear goals is designed to leverage that goal directed system and get you as focused as possible on one given thing. Um, so that, you know, you’re not burning too many calories on the North.
Rian 00:07:04 Yeah. You want to sort of proactively facilitate the presence or flow by getting that like entropic worth work out of the way in advance, constantly systematically as just part of your process rather than, you know, the first half of your Workday involving doing that, you should have a process in place that gets that stuff done separately consistently. So that again, you can just drop straight in. So how do you to do that? Like, what’s your process for doing that on a regular basis? I, every night I’m pretty extreme with it. I hate to the foot, the point you made earlier, like people underestimate the power of taking simple things to extreme levels. And it’s a good point. I mean, a lot of this stuff, a lot of our training, you know, I think when we talk about flow, we go into the neuroscience of it.
Rian 00:07:50 People assume that the training is going to involve all of these really complex, mysterious, you know, in depth, bizarre hacks and tools and tips. But a lot of it is extremely simple stuff that oftentimes it’s so simple, people underestimate it’s a fact or advocacy. Um, so what I do, I’ve kind of to have a weekly, well, I have a monthly process as well for Paul. I have a weekly process for basically mapping out my entire week in blocks. And I call that like my kind of strategy session. I usually do that on a Sunday morning. And so I’ll map out the week at a high level, all of what I need to do all of my goals and try and block it all straight onto my calendar. And that means I can hit Monday morning without wondering anything really. And obviously there’s movement there. You know, I need to be able to adapt to what’s actually happening during the week, but it gets all of that stuff out of the way in advance of the week so that I can get in and just execute and forget about, you know, where I’m going or what I’m doing or what path I need to take.
Rian 00:08:43 I’m just running down a path for the entire week. Um, and then I do a smaller micro version of that every night I get, I call it like a paradine ritual kind of thing, where basically I’ll finish Workday review. What I’ve done, look at the weekly objectives, mapped them all out. And then in pretty extreme detail calendar the next day. Um, usually by the hour, depending on the task and I’ll set clear goals for each task that evening as well and line up everything that’s needed to begin those tasks again, a huge part of procrastination and a huge part of people’s challenge actually getting into work is that they’ve got all this like clutter they need to deal with before they can start the thing they’re actually supposed to be doing. So you wanna get all that stuff done. I do the evening before I, and you want to get clear on what it is that you’re doing, and then you wake up in the morning, all of that, your previous self has taken care of all of that high level work and you can just drop straight in and execute. And it makes a huge difference. I find for flow. And then also, I mean, outside of flow, it’s very helpful for just, you know, generally working on the right things, kind of picking or defining or identifying the unlocking moves that are going to be more effective for your overall longterm goals. So flow is conducive to just better decision-making anyway, even though you’re, you know, you’re doing that decision making, not necessarily in a flow state the night before or on your Sunday morning session, right?
Conor 00:10:04 Yeah. And, um, yeah, so, so my, um, the, the process that I use closely mimics a Rand, but for me, like it’s a really helpful to differentiate convergent and divergent tasks. And I think like that, that distinction is so important. And so for instance, uh, for divergent task where you’re, you know, creatively trying to think of, you know, what am I going to do? Like, you’re like, you know, creative problem solving for that. Like when people are, you know, you follow these circadian rhythms right day after day, um, and people are systematically better at doing one or the other in the morning or the evening. And so generally speaking people tend to be better at divergent tasks, right? Creative problem solving, strategizing that sort of thing in the afternoon. Um, and they tend to be better at convergent tasks where right where they drill down into a given domain with some, you know, narrowly defined, clear goals in advance in the morning.
Conor 00:10:54 And so like, that’s the strategy that I use, which is, you know, you need some sort of block of uninterrupted time. Like first thing in the morning, those clear goals should always be determined the night before. So similar to what Rihanna saying, you’re not just spinning your wheels, trying to figure out what you should focus on. Cause that’s the worst use of time possible. And so like, like drilling down into that first thing in the morning, and then in the afternoon, taking that for your like strategizing, figuring out what you’re gonna do in the next day, that sort of thing is just so crucial.
Rian 00:11:21 Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I mean, yeah. Strategy is, is, um, divergent execution is convergent is another way to think about it. There’s a lot of people who don’t have the language of flow talk about and advise you to do very similar things. Like I think it’s Paul Graham has an amazing article called, um, maker versus manager schedule. And he advises you to do basically a very, very similar thing, which is that in your, in your, during your morning block, you really protect your time. You protect your attention, you do all your proactive long term high work, and then you switch modes into a more divergent mode for your manager schedule for the second half of the day. And you do more of the reactive busy work that, you know, requires less kind of attentional depth and more just, you know, kind of immediate rapid fire.
Rian 00:12:11 Yeah. I think another, another, um, resource for people that I’m pretty sure we’ve either all read or are fans of is Cal Newport’s deep work. Yeah, exactly. Phenomenal. As you’re talking, I’m like, I’m pretty sure we all work at the church account. Exactly. That. So it’s so good that I think actually he doesn’t, he literally, he did not put the word flow in at once. I’ve done it control the workflow is not in there once, which is, which is funny, but it’s an amazing manual for hacking flow for knowledge workers. I think it’s like one of the best go to resources. So definitely people want to get the same when you’re talking about your, your kind of your weekly daily cycle there, I’m like, this sounds really familiar. You’ve taken his stuff and supercharged it with flow.
Conor 00:12:54 Yeah. Just one more thing to add to that. So I’m going to completely miss a tribute and, and, uh, like bastardize this quote. Um, but it was about formulaic writing. Um, and so like I forget who actually, uh, this quote originates from, but the idea was that, um, you know, like somebody was being very critical of formulaic writers and the response was like, well, what’s wrong with a good formula. Right. I thought that was like such a good response. Um, and so when it comes to setting clear goals and it comes to the habit formation, right? Like it seems dry to be doing the same thing day after day after day, but like, what’s wrong with a good formula. Right? And then once you get that formula down correctly, and you just look for all of these subtleties and differences, like in that formula, it’s an incredibly satisfying place to be.
Conor 00:13:42 And from a productivity perspective, from like a goal orientation perspective, right? Like one of the biggest questions is like, am I focusing on the right thing? And like, if you wake up first thing in the morning and like you start doing something and you’re like, Oh shit, wait, am I focusing on the right thing? That is the wrong question to be asking, because then you’re just spending too many of your cognitive resources wondering that. Yeah. And so, I mean, I come from, you know, background in software tech development and like where, you know, agile methodology is King and you see the way that these agile projects are managed and a good manager of an agile project will use pure agile. Right. And so you set up a sprint and advance a sprint can be an arbitrary length of time, but let’s say you have a one week long sprint.
Conor 00:14:21 So you set all of the expectations for that week of time in advance. Um, and then you go and you like execute on that and have a retrospective at the end of it. And so like the good project managers are the ones who like come in and they’re like, okay, we’re going to like, you know, set the expectations. And we’re going to go through this week. Um, in the bad project, managers are the ones who don’t stick to that methodology and halfway through. They’re like, Oh, but by the way, we need to change this expectation over here. And like, th the impact that that has is all of a sudden, you have to do context, switch and context switches are so expensive. And if you don’t set the preconditions right. And commit to those free conditions, and you have to spend time trying to figure out, Oh, am I doing the right thing? Oh, shit. Maybe I should be doing this thing over here. Like, you’re just going to be wasting time. Um, and so like that, like that structure of like, absolutely knowing that when you’re working on a thing you’re working on the right thing, just save so much of that cognitive entropy that we’re talking about a moment ago,
Rian 00:15:15 But one of the things that’s occurring to me as I’m listening to you, it’s like, Oh man, that’s interesting. Maybe someone at one of the upsides when people sort of push back on like, well, why do we have to do this in advance? Like, well, think about how much more fun your week is going to be when you don’t have to context switch. Yeah, exactly. We just drop in and you just get to execute that zone for the week.
Conor 00:15:30 It’s the context, which is so expensive, right? Like, like all the psychology research supports the fact that like, if we have to switch between contexts, like, you know, we drastically reduce like the amount of, you know, effort we’re able to like actually put into the tasks that we want to complete. And like, you know, the, the, the, like, so there’s a lot of back and forth on what multitasking is, right? Like, can we actually multitask, like technically yes, we can write, you know, there there’s something about like what we can pay attention to something without giving it our full attention. However, like a lot of multitasking is actually quickly switching back and forth between like a task in a short period of time. And like, that’s just an expensive, expensive operation.
Rian 00:16:04 Yeah. Cal Newport actually, funnily enough, in deep work talks about attention residue. I can’t remember that Sophie Leroy is the researcher. I can’t remember where she’s at, but she kind of coined the term and it, she refers to context switching, you know, so let’s say you start work on task a and then you go to task B even just five minutes, and then you go back to task a, a certain residue or percentage of your attention is going to be fractured and left hanging on task B that you switched into. So even if they’re both high priority, super productive, important tasks, you want to knock them out sequentially. So you don’t kind of rack up attention residue throughout and then constantly kind of, you know, trickle away your attention as you’re is sort of like the science behind the well-worn and good advice to like a single task, like do one thing, finish it. Then this is why
Conor 00:16:57 Further to your comment about like tech personalities and, you know, strategic thinking versus, you know, convergent thinking. Like, um, one thing that I think a lot about is there was a Harvard business review, um, study that was looking at what are the best core let’s to longterm business success. And like what they found was the best, uh, correlates longterm business success is cognitive flexibility, right? It’s, it’s, it’s like, it’s the ability to deal with, uh, gray areas effectively in like that, like one thing that I think is a true Mark of maturity. And, you know, if you, if you work in tech, you’re used to working with younger personalities, right? Like at least when you’re working in the Bay, because, you know, the average age there is so young, um, and like the, the Mark of kind of that, that, that youth, and like that lack of fully developed maturity is, uh, optimizing for, you know, one metric or two metrics, a narrow number of metrics, right?
Conor 00:17:51 Whether that’s, you know, career success or their financial situation or whatever else. And I see this like across the board time and time again, and like, as you grow in maturity, you’re optimizing for more and more things over time. And so your ability to kind of deal with gray areas and deal with a more complex optimization strategy where they can now, I’m not just optimizing for my career, but I’m optimizing for my career, plus my relationships, plus my physical health plus whatever else. Like, you’ll see that come over time. But that takes a lot of willingness to work with gray areas. And like, I’ve been on, you know, a number of different hiring panels, you know, over the course of my career. Um, just because I really enjoy it. Like, I really enjoy doing interviews of candidates and getting a sense for how they might work in an organization.
Conor 00:18:32 Um, and when you’re on, like in those conversations and you see the way all of these managers think a lot of them are like, really, like, don’t use this language specifically most of the time, but they’re looking for that cognitive flexibility of like, okay, this person is great. You know, they did their PhD in physics, but can they switch contexts from doing like, you know, having had like this incredible success in academia to being an industry or being an industry in this specific domain. And like, that’s a huge thing that you need to be able to cultivate over time.
Rian 00:18:59 Right. Exactly. And it goes back to meta skills on the primary competencies. You know, if you have those, like those base foundational things at play, like the ability to use your cognition effectively, the ability ability to be creative, drive yourself into flow, it’s going to facilitate and enhance your ability to do well. Or, you know, when, even as a matter of scale, across different domains, different areas, different tasks, et cetera.
Andrew Totally. Yeah. So, so I wanna, um, I wanna kinda do make an ultra concrete, right? Cause I, this is one of those things where it can, if not handled, right. I feel I can go, you can go in the fuzzy direction and people won’t really like grab it and run with it. And that’s really what I want for people and for, for all of us as well. So let’s do a quick case study and let’s imagine I want to give you guys a case and we’ll just throw it at you and let you just imagine how you would go. So let’s take the tech example because there’s a lot of people like in that world who listened to this, the show let’s take a product manager, right? So this is someone who has to basically interface between many groups of stakeholders, many people they work with, from engineers to business people, to internal and external to customers. So they are just very, there’s a lot of scattered newness there. Uh, how would you remake that person’s day? So to speak?
Conor 00:20:14 I mean, I can respond for my own personal experience. Cause, cause this is pretty challenging, right? So like first off is like, like notifications are by definition, you know, the opposite of what you should be doing if you’re looking to leverage attention to the present, right. Because it’s just going to pull you out of any state that you’re in. Um, and it takes you a while to get back into flow if you can’t even find flow again, once you’ve been interrupted.
Rian 00:20:37 So is it fair to say, just as a quick, just a precondition kind of thing here, I know you guys have said flow falls focus a bunch of times here. So it seems like the overarching principle is that this is a game of attention and whatever it is you end up doing, whether it’s on the list of published for flow triggers or not like this is all a game of driving your attention fully into the present moment.
Conor 00:20:55 Oh, the triggers do, are they help you drive that attention? And so like, if you’re using risk as a flow trigger, you know, it’s like risk is one of the most potent ones you can use, right. Risky as we discussed earlier. But like it’s one of the most potent ones that you can use. And so like all of these things are just designed to allow you to improve the amount of focus or the amount of attention that you’re spending on the present moment. Um, and so like when it comes to like notifications first off, you know, like obviously all of those notifications should be silent as much as possible. Um, but one thing that I found in my own experience, because I do, um, I’ve managed a number of different data science projects. I do a lot of different consulting, uh, or I’m in a lot of different consulting environments.
Conor 00:21:35 And oftentimes you’re on client sites, you’re interacting with all different stakeholder groups. You’re not able to control your environment in the same way that you can if you’re, you know, we’re, uh, if you’re a programmer who’s working remotely, who is able to, you know, deep dive into things for an extended period of time, um, and the, the heuristics are the rules of thumb that I’ve found to be most effective in those cases is, uh, still to, you know, silence all those notifications for anybody that you’re interacting with. You know, you give them your undivided attention, um, and you have to be very good at boundary setting as well. Um, and so like, like boundary setting when you’re dealing with new clients is like challenging to do. Um, but you just have to get very good at, you know, setting aside time that allows you to actually do the thing that you do.
Conor 00:22:21 Um, but part of it, I think is, you know, if, if you get into that mindset of when I do this thing and it is trying to scatter me because, you know, you walk into an office of, you know, one of your clients and then this person sees you as an expert in this field. And so they try and pull your attention to this way. And then somebody else is trying to pull your attention this way and they’re trying to change the scope of work. And so like, you have to do this thing rather than that thing. Um, like just like making sure that you’re giving things, your undivided attention, um, is challenging to do. But I think like I I’ve been able to find flow in those projects, um, by kind of celebrating the novelty behind it and celebrating the fact that, you know, all of these things are constantly changing.
Conor 00:23:02 It’s a for instance like, like one analogy I really like to use is, um, you know, I’m a longterm meditator. I’ve been meditating for over half a decade at this point. And, uh, when I first started meditating, um, I was living in Chicago. And so I, the, one of the few periods of time that I would have was on the train on my way to work in the morning. And so I would try and meditate in that environment and it’s loud and there’s chaotic and there’s all sorts of stuff going on, but it’s the same underlying problem, right? Like how do you be present in this, in the context of all of these changing variables around you? Um, and one of the quotes that came to mind, uh, when I was in that state, uh, or when I was in that, um, period of my life was, uh, the world is your singing bowl, right?
Conor 00:23:42 And so if you think of like meditation, right, like you a singing bowl, right? Like, you know, at the end of a meditation period at the beginning of meditation period, whatever it might be. Um, and that is a tool, that’s a mechanism that’s designed to kind of indicate that the meditation session is started or it’s ended. And so it’s designed to focus your attention. Um, and so that quote like the world is your singing bowl is a way of saying that, you know, even amongst all of those distractions, you can use that as a focusing agent in order to be able to tune your ability, to still focus, still maintain flow in a chaotic environment. Because a lot of what we’re doing is we’re teaching people to be more anti-fragile right. We’re teaching people how to retain their integrity in really challenging chaotic environments. And so if you’re an executive working in that environment, you have to deal with a tremendous amount of chaos, right. Um, and so maintaining your integrity in the face of that is something that you build over time, but changing, reframing the situation as like these distractions are actually designed as a practice that allows me to refocus my attention, um, rather than a distraction, I think that reframing exercise alone is one way that you can make these, uh, these concepts a lot more concrete, even if you’re not able to control every aspect of your environment in the way that say that programmer who works from home is able to do.
Rian 00:25:05 Yeah, well, at one point I would actually add, funnily enough is literally just that in the same way that certain activities are more rich and flow triggers, some professional situations or setups or roles are actually just literally just more challenging to get into flow in. You know, so it’s as simple as that, but once you know, the triggers, once you know how you can drive yourself into flow, you can actually begin to like select for a certain roles based on how they’re going to help and facilitate you dropping into flow. Like I often used to, for whatever reason, use the example of a property developer with an activity or a, or a job, maybe I’m totally wrong on this because I’ve never done it, but that I imagine would be less, um, conducive to flow in that you’re kind of on the phone for five minutes.
Rian 00:25:48 And then you’re in the car for a little bit going to, you know, visit a site and then you’re talking to another person you’re on a deal. So I just, I think there’s just less room or scope for being able to drop into flow in certain roles. And obviously everything Connor’s pointed to, I think will help and assist no matter what the situation is, but it is also important to be aware of that fact. And then another thing I would add that can make a difference regardless of, of how conducive to flow your specific role or situation is, is the idea of flow proneness and basic flow hygiene. So we’re evolutionarily wired for flow. At least that’s what we hypothesize your, your system wants to drive itself into flow. But a lot of people’s basic habits and ways of living and lifestyles make that extremely difficult to constantly fight in their biology rather than leveraging their body to drive themselves into flow.
Rian 00:26:39 So for example, you know, maybe they just did they sleep terribly and you know, if you’re massively under slept massively over-caffeinated and you can’t even hold focus on something for a few minutes, because you’re just exhausted. You’re less likely to get into flow if you’ve got really severe back pain, because you sit all the time and you don’t use a standing desk and you don’t do any kind of physical mobility work that back pain is going to be knowing at you fracturing your attention and making it less likely that you can drop into flow. You know, if you eat a sugary donut or whatever at 11 o’clock at lunch, then you get a splitting headache an hour and a half later, the chances are that you’re less likely to get in the flow. So you want to be aware of all these like systemic holistic habits and behaviors that I think can heighten your flow proneness in general. So they’re almost like a backdrop to the flow triggers. Um, and the more on point you get with all of those, again, basic like peak performance habits, the more likely you are to get into flow. And the more your system is kind of wired and set up and primed to be able to get in flow. Right.
Conor 00:27:41 Just to add one more thing. So we talked about the challenge, skill balance as being the golden rule of flow. If you’re in a chaotic environment like that, where, you know, you’re dealing with tons of different stakeholders, colleagues, you know, managers, whatever it might be, um, you need to leverage a lot of the strategies from group flow instead, which operates a little bit differently. And so, um, so group flow, so just as individual flow, let challenge go balances, you know, the golden rule rule for group flow, which is, you know, a flow that a, a group of people get into and probably the best example of this as surgeons, right? We’ve surgical teams, they’re all so focused on a shared goal. Um, that those teams just get into flow like nobody else, because they have a shared level of expertise, right. They all know exactly what’s happening.
Conor 00:28:26 They have a shared goal, right. Which is to complete that surgery. Um, they have a common vocabulary. Um, and so like leveraging those sets of triggers is very important. Um, but the, the let’s say the golden rule of group flow is, uh, the so-called yes. And principle. And so this comes straight out of improv. Right. And so like in improv, any conversation you have is always additive. And so like, um, you know, if, if say you’re the set up for your improv game is, you know, uh, you have an old man who’s sitting on a bench and somebody walks up to them and make some sort of comment, right. Like the old man, can’t just sit there and be like, Oh no, I’m impervious to everything. Like, I’m not going to respond to that. Right. Um, like your conversations that you have when you’re trying to maximize for group flow are always additive.
Conor 00:29:15 And so you’re always saying yes, and you’re contributing something to that conversation. And so like, you can see this in a number of different ways. I mean, you can literally say yes, and to somebody it’s crazy how like, infectious that becomes in conversations when you do that, um, you can use language of like, Oh, I agree with you. And I would add, right. Like, like all of that language, like it makes other people feel validated. It makes them feel like you’re understanding what they’re saying. If you’re mimicking their gestures or if you’re a, you know, summarizing what they said back to them, it gives them a sense of like, Oh yeah, you understood what I said, and you’re adding something to it. And so like being able to leverage that of like always kind of saying yes, and then adding something to it just allows you to tap into flow when you’re in more of those dynamic environments.
Rian 00:29:59 I did, it did an improv class actually, funnily enough, last week for the first time. And he was talking about yes. And we were doing these like live a two person improv stories. And I noticed myself constantly not, yes, sanding electronic, cut the deck. And I realized, I was interested to realize that it’s actually like being Irish and the whole kind of banter that is literally the opposite of yes. That, wow. I was like, I noticed my mind being like, hi, can I take the piss out of this dude? I got to cut them down rather than how could I yes. Add them. So it’s actually to notice as well, like there’s obviously these cultural influences for all of this stuff too. So that’s fascinating. That’s so interesting. Yeah. So it seems like to your point, Randy made a minute ago, like there’s kind of the like table stakes sort of flow hygiene, so to speak.
Rian 00:30:48 Right. And it seems like it would sort of fall into like the buckets of like, you know, body, mind and attention, which is sort of mine, but let’s split it on its own bodies, like sleep, exercise, nutrition. Are you in pain? Have you moved today? A mind is, you know, um, we’ve talked a lot about distractions and attention, but one thing I’ve heard, um, heard or seen crop up in the research was around things like more, some of the positive psychology practices around like gratitude and mindfulness and actually having social contact and things like that. Um, do those actually play a role in, in flow as well? Oh, I would love to take this one.
Conor 00:31:24 So, uh, so first off, yes, absolutely. Um, yes. Uh, yes. And
Rian 00:31:32 So I can take those
Conor 00:31:36 Well, listen in separately. Um, and so, uh, gratitude is something that we’re currently actively studying. And so have you think about what gratitude is? Um, you can think about gratitude in two different dimensions. You know, one is gratitude as a personality trait. And so we know certain people, generally speaking are more grateful. Um, and you can also view this as a habit, right? Some people, you know, go home at night and they, you know, have a gratitude journal that they keep. And so, uh, we’re currently doing research with the university of Southern California on this issue. And so the idea is, are people who are more grateful, more prone to flow and part of this, like one of the motivating narratives that we found within this that is fueling this research, um, is first, we know a lot of these things in positive psychology are correlated, right?
Conor 00:32:21 Mindfulness practice and gratitude are obviously to correlate things. Um, but when it comes to one story that we heard, which was, I believe it was an ex game snowboarder who was feeling incredibly overwhelmed before dropping into this massive half-pipe, um, and you know, through and, you know, competing against her, um, uh, her, um, uh, um, uh, competitors. And so she like her story of this was that, you know, she was sitting up here there on this graph, um, uh, half by feeling completely overwhelmed. And then looking out over the crowd and seeing how much support that she was getting from this crowd and just feeling an incredible amount of gratitude for it. Um, and she went on to win this competition. And so the idea being that, you know, gratitude, whether it’s a personality trait that you have, or whether it’s an in situation way that you deal with stress could be one way of reducing the amount of stress that you have and allowing you to tap into flow. And so like, so this is, you know,
Rian 00:33:23 Reducing where you are, where you are on that Y axis
Conor 00:33:26 Challenge skills balance. Exactly. Right? Like if you’re like, so like one reason why, like, if you’re on like the anxiety side of the challenge skill balance, right. If you’re feeling really anxious about something I’m in a, you’re too anxious, you have too much either adrenaline or cortisol or stress hormones in your system. Um, if you have too much of that in your system, it’s going to block your ability to access flow. And so one way of reducing the amount of stress that you have is by increasing your sense of social support, right? So how supported am I from the people around me? And so like, if you imagine this woman, like sitting out there, looking out over this half flight before, like this competition in feeling that sense of gratitude for all of the support that she’s receiving, all of a sudden, all of her psychological safety needs are met because she has this incredible amount of support.
Conor 00:34:11 And so she is able to deal with a more stressful environment because she has that. Um, and so this is our hypothesis, right? Like we, we have yet to like fully validate it. Um, but that’s where we’re kind of going with this. And we know that generally speaking, you know, positive psychology basics means that having a gratitude practice is really, really important for general wellbeing. And so that’s one half of the question. The other half of the question is in terms of mindfulness. And so generally we say that, you know, mindfulness is also, you know, a absolute necessity. And so we, we generally say that either a, um, rigorous, uh, exercise regimen or mindfulness is a necessity, you have to have at least one of the two, ideally you have both of them. And the reason for that is, um, to increase your ability to self regulate. Um, and so it’s a, you know, making your emotions, um, have a little bit less control over you. Um, and so people who have a rigorous exercise routine and people who have a mindfulness routine are able to increase their level of self, um, uh, self-awareness increase their level of emotional regulation, which is allowing them to tune the amount of stress that they have when they’re in a stressful situation and remain, retain their sense of integrity and goal directedness while they’re under that level
Rian 00:35:23 Mindful source of trains focused attention as well. So it’s helpful in directly in that respect, in that mindfulness trains focus. And just one thing I was going to mention a nice book on this whole topic is called the happiness advantage by Shawn Achor is a psychologist at Harvard. He had, I think the most popular class in Harvard for a couple of years on this whole, all of this stuff and on positive psychology. And the premise of that book essentially is just that positive effect or positive emotion or happiness is a competitive advantage. And it heightens and improves various cognitive faculties like divergent thinking and things like that. So doing a gratitude practice, doing things that help you self-regulate and facilitate positive emotion, also improve performance. Yeah.
Rian 00:36:08 So we talked a lot about, um, someone working in a chaotic environment, right? So someone were, let’s just say, the environment is not ideal for, for, it’s not that flow conducive. How would you advise someone who maybe doesn’t have that much control of their schedule, whether that’s someone else’s controlling their strategy and the tasks that they do, or literally like even someone working in a factory where they, you know, they have very regimented, uh, what they have to do at certain times.
Rian 00:36:34 So, one way I like to think about autonomy is that I think we were talking about this at dinner is that you can gain autonomy by, um, being able to do things you want to do. And then you can gain autonomy also through cognitive reframing, by wanting to do things you have to do. So if you can’t change the actual thing, the thing you can change that you do have control over is your own individual desire. And there’s different ways that you can manipulate or influence your own desire to do something, but that is an immediate and pretty instant way to gain more autonomy is to actually decide for yourself. No, actually I do want to do this one way that I think is very helpful to do that is to have some kind of North star or massively transformative purpose or overarching goal or longterm plan.
Rian 00:37:21 And then even if the job you’re doing right now is Schiff and you hate it and you can’t stand any of the tasks that you have to do, you know, that you’ve chosen the North star, you’ve chosen the thing that you’re ultimately working towards. And so then it brings the thing that previously felt like you didn’t have autonomy within, under your own volition and gives you a Tonomy in it through cognitive reframing. So I think that’s a helpful immediate way. And then obviously overall, you want to be working towards getting more actual, you know, like literal autonomy as well.
Rian 00:37:53 I’m riffing on that. You know, we, we were talking about this at dinner. Um, there’s this idea that chick sent me, I had of, I think it was him of like vital engagement right. Of that sort of. So, so I was hoping you could do two things one, and maybe they come together. Like they seem to, in my mind, we’ll see if they, if they actually do one, what does that idea? And two, um, I don’t know if you two have talked about this together before, but I know you have, Ray is if you could talk a little bit about the way you frame passion and purpose and make a distinction between the two, I found it to be quite useful the first time I heard it. So maybe you could explain that.
Rian 00:38:24 Sure. But I love the notion of vital engagement. A chick sent me, I wrote about it in God. I think it’s beyond where my anxiety, I can’t remember which one it is. Um, but he doesn’t talk about it that much elsewhere. Um, but essentially it’s just this effect that seems to happen when you’re having lots of individual flow state experiences, but they’re all under the rubric of some overarching mission or vision or goal that you’ve set for yourself, that North star, that North star. Exactly. So what happens, let’s say you’ve got like, I dunno, like a 30 year ultimate objective and you’re getting into flow on a Monday afternoon. And then again on a Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, outside of the acute or specific flow experiences, the rest of your life, even when you’re not technically in a flow state gets infused with the sense of meaning, because it’s all entangled and wrapped up and packaged against this overarching North star that you’re ultimately aiming at. And I’ve experienced this even like extremely strongly myself. People often refer to it as momentum feeling like they’ve gained, they’re gaining momentum or they’re in like a state of momentum. And all of a sudden, you know, getting your bank account set up for your company that you’re building is like exciting as hell paperwork form.
Rian 00:39:42 Obviously not in flow state where they’re filling out the form, but it’s tied onto the narrative that is immensely meaningful. And that has lots of flow States populated throughout it. That is, um, yeah, that just adds and drives, meaning creates that sense of what he calls vital engagement or what a lot of people call momentum. And then as far as passion and purpose, I think Steven has a cleaner way of defining or distinguishing between them that I forgotten. But essentially passion is you loving the thing or enjoying whatever the thing is, like the activity, the activity. Yeah, exactly. So being passionate about, I don’t know, whatever it is writing and then purpose is that thing, having some kind of impact externally or on others. So then when you take passion and you add it to purpose, it sorta turbocharges the whole process. So you’re not just loving writing, but you’re loving writing. And you’re simultaneously knowing that it’s going to positively impact the lives of others or whatever purpose it may have for you.
Conor 00:40:39 And I think one way to balance this out is so, so there’s a lot of talk of like passion and motivation versus discipline. Um, and so in the high performance space, it seems like people are kind of split down the middle, right? Where like, you know, the people who are like passion motivation tend to be a little bit critical of the discipline people and the people that the discipline people are like, why are you doing passion motivation? Because these things, you know, are not longterm sustainable. And so if you’re like wake up one day and you’re not passionate, then like you’re screwed, where are you going to do it? And so, like, I think what you’re seeing in this space and, um, there’s a lot of interest in the Stoics on the one hand. And so like, you know, Tim Ferriss is really interested in the Stoics.
Conor 00:41:15 Um, Ryan, holiday’s really interested in the Stoics, like, especially in tech, you see a lot of this interest in the Stoics, which is about, you know, discipline and rationality over time. Um, and then on the other side, you see, um, people who are a little bit more interested in flow, people were interested in that this autotelic personality that we’re talking about. Um, and you know, sometimes we refer to this as like the hedonic, uh, way of doing something similar because you know, flow, leverage has all sorts of, you know, intrinsic motivators. Um, and so I think like there’s no right answer, right? Like if you think of like these two different camps, one is looking at, you know, motivation and passion, um, and flow and Auditel personality and the other campus looking for discipline, um, and stoicism and willpower. Exactly. Um, and you know, regimen like doing the same regimented thing day after day.
Conor 00:42:02 I think these are, should be viewed as, you know, two different arrows in your quiver and you should be able to leverage both of them. Um, but like right now it seems like, you know, uh, I feel like people are way too one sided when they approach this and say like, Oh, it’s either this thing. Or it’s like the other thing, right? Like it’s either the discipline or it’s the passion. And like, you know, the discipline people just hate the passion people, right? Like for some reason, like Ryan holiday’s books and like, it’s just like, you know, like really critical of it. Or you read like, you know, Tim Ferriss quoting like Marcus Aurelius. And like, you know, they’re like these really heavy hitting quotes about like the need for like, you know, repetition and like discipline, um, which I think is essentially stupid, right? Like you should be able to navigate both one, like both sides of that territory. Well, in like when you run out of passion, when you run out of motivation, you know, that’s when like the discipline comes in of like, Oh, I’m going to continue to do this thing. I’m going to continue to drive productive value for my time on this planet. Um, and I’m going to expect over time that motivation and passion
Rian 00:42:59 Related to that is the idea of grit, right? Like, like Angela Duckworth has talked so prominently about that in her. I love her book. Right. It’s that idea of passion and perseverance. Right? You need them both, right. It’s a long run. And what actually related to that one question that I was wondering about is, um, I think, uh, speaking about another, another sort of luminary in the, in the space of peak performance and human potential in like someone who’s on the cutting edge of exploring, like, how far can we take this, this, this human thing is, um, Anders, Ericsson, right? So, you know, the godfather of deliberate practice. And, um, one of the things I was wondering about is, is the relationship between deliberate practice and flow. And the reason this, this just came to mind was, um, I th they seem to be related, but not the same thing in the sense that, like, when I think of deliberate practice in a very Orthodox definition of that, of what that is, it’s sort of this hyper aware level of like feedback.
Rian 00:43:52 And I think they share a lot of commonalities, but the level of intensity with which you’re like self analyzing and getting feedback in, in a deliberate practice setting, which is exhausting, um, seems kind of contradictory to the, the arising of flow, whereas, and flow maybe is a different experience. I’m just curious what you’ve seen or your, your thoughts on the relationship between those two things. The way I conceptualize that at least is that, again, the way I kind of view it again, is that like flow is sits underneath all of this stuff. And then you’ve got like deliberate practice, or again, as we were talking about earlier, you know, the specific skill or implementation of whatever it is that you’re doing on top of that, sometimes you’re going to be in flow when you’re that sometimes you’re not going to be in flow when you’re doing it.
Rian 00:44:33 The point Anders, Ericsson is great at making is that you should just show up and do it anyway. And the, you need a hell of a lot of hours probably to get good at the thing. So I think that they are definitely like synergistic and complimentary, and it’s definitely not like one way or the other. Um, the one thing I’m critical of is the whole 10th has Dyer’s notion of is totally and utterly arbitrary. Yeah. Um, yeah, but I know that’s kind of been debunked, but, um, I love actually, I love the notion of deliberate practice and the idea of very intentionally getting better at a thing and figuring out how it is that you can improve systematically and constantly out of thing. And then that kind of intersects or relates to clear goals also. Um, so I think that they are separate, but interrelated and definitely complimentary.
Rian 00:45:21 Yeah, one way I think the way I heard it put, I think actually this might’ve been in Angela Duckworth’s book, grit was that, um, deliberate practice was for preparation and flow is for performance. In the sense of like deliberate practices is very, very intense, deliberate to use the word a thing you do as you’re practicing and preparing. But then, um, flow is, is far more likely to be an experience that arises in a performance context where you’re not actually doing that self analysis. Cause like that’s what our self critical nature is a little bit, it seems to me a little bit antithetical to flow to the rising of flow. And that’s very much what you’re doing. And deliberate practice setting is you’re deliberately looking at that, you know, that critical nature, but then in a performance context, you know, it’s a difference between like, you know, somebody on a football team runs a play and then they’re looking at the film and analyzing it versus like it’s game time. Right. And I think you’ve probably hit it more in the game,
Conor 00:46:14 But even when you’re in like that period of practice, like I would argue that you’re still trying to tap into flow when you’re sure period practice, because like when you tap into flow, your sense of self is starting to dilate. Right? And so your, your sense of, um, self-awareness acts differently, right? Like your sense of ego, it gets pulled out of the equation. Um, and so you don’t want to be rigorously self-critical at the point that you’re doing that. However, you know, you want to be able to, you know, go and do whatever your activity of, you know, choices, right. If it’s downhill skiing, you want to be able to, you know, ski that run without any sense of, you know, self criticism self-awareness drop into that state. And then when you’re on the lift back up, then you’re analyzing what you did and analyzing what you could’ve done better. And so even within that, like, you don’t want to promote this idea that you need to be, I don’t know, like overly logically aware of what you’re doing while you’re doing that. Like you, you want a degree of presence, but you don’t want nuclear a sense of being outside of yourself per se, because then you’re too focused on, you know, how it is that you’re appearing from an outside perspective. And when you do that, you’re losing your ability to actually be, you know, in that moment navigating that situation
Rian 00:47:27 Know actually, as I’m listening to you that a lot of sense, because it seems like, I think I had just combined two different ideas. One was the sort of, uh, rational, analytical, like post-game analysis. Right? That’s what I was going to say, go watch the film, right? That’s what the film sessions for the next or that afternoon or whatever. And then you take the lessons and go back to the field the next day and practice. Um, I think I had combined that idea with the idea of clear goals in a deliberate practice sense of like, you know, I’m thinking of a musician, right? He’s trying to like, let’s imagine a guitar player. Who’s trying to like nail a really hard pattern lick on the, on the fretboard and in a way that is a clear goal, right? You are trying to do this one thing and you’re busting your ass trying to do it.
Rian 00:48:06 And I think what I confused was the type of feedback loop you’re getting into there where you’re okay, I’m not there yet. You’re tweaking. And you’re adjusting, trying to get there with that sort of analytical feedback loop and they do seem different. I think you want to separate them sort of similarly to the strategy and execution thing. Like the post-game analysis analogy is perfect. And most of the sports psychologists that I know would say as well, that you want there to be as little difference as possible between practice and performance. But I think the reason that you’re more likely potentially to get into flow while actually performing is again, actually comes into the triggers risk, for example, is heightened significantly when actually performing. But I don’t think you want to do anything inherently different apart from being more conscious of how you can improve. But again, that usually takes place after the fact of the practice whilst, you know, going throughout the practice phase. Yeah.
Conor 00:48:59 There’s also something about you that knows like when it’s game time, which is really interesting. And I see this like, like in skydiving, like this always happens even with somebody who’s doing their very first skydive, you know, a tandem skydive strapped to an instructor, um, where it’s like, you’re nervous, you’re nervous, you’re nervous. But as soon as you’re out of that plane, it’s like, well, what the fuck are you going to do now? Right. Like you’re not going, you’re not going back up. Right. You can’t flap your wings and go back up. Um, and so like, as soon as you’re actually in that moment, then you have a tendency to drop into it. Um, and so I think that’s one part about performance that, you know, really differentiates it from practice where, you know, practice you’re, you’re allowing yourself to, you know, practice that guitar lick and then like, Oh, you messed up that note until you’re gonna stop and you’re gonna redo it.
Conor 00:49:40 Right. Like you never do that when you’re actually doing that performance. And so there’s something about the commitment that’s associated with that act that allows you to, I think, optimized for actually tapping into flow because you know that, you know, that, that game, John, exactly, exactly. There’s no alternative. Like you hit this point of no return and this happens, you know, every skydive, every base jump, like you hit that point of no return. And then like something magical happens where like, you know, the bat, like the external chatter starts to cease. And then all of a sudden you’re like, Oh, I’m in like the situation you might have, you know, a perilous situation where, you know, you open up your parachute and like, all of your lines are wrapped up and you have to do something about it, but you’re not sitting there, you know, overly worrying about it. You’re solving the situation because you know, you’re past this point in amendment. Yeah.
Rian 00:50:24 Yeah. Yeah. So we’re gonna start to wrap up here a couple, a couple more, um, there’ll be some rapid fire questions, but I want to actually ask one last question. That’s specifically about the work environment for people. And maybe I’m actually sneaking in two questions here. So we’ll do them one at a time. Um, the first one was going back to that challenge skill balance. If you, if you have people who let’s say they’re the role that they’re playing in a particular job or company or whatever, isn’t, uh, doesn’t have that isn’t that stimulating to them, right. Um, maybe it’s, it’s something where they’re doing sort of a little bit more of rote work, things like that. And just, they’re not lit up by the fundamental activity they’re they’re doing. What, what can someone in that type of situation do to make their experience better?
Rian 00:51:04 You know, aside from just leaving, get a different job. Like if it looks bad, for whatever reason they’re in that job, what can they do to make that job better? I mean, you can, you can choose the challenge skills balance, or you can play with it, play with it through manipulating or tweaking, whatever situation you’re in. So for example, I mean, a ultra simple example is you’ve got to bang out a project by one o’clock or by lunchtime, just make it that you’ve got to finish it by 11 o’clock. And then you’ve artificially raised the challenge level by putting a time constraint on getting whatever that thing is done. And there’s all sorts of different ways that you can do that. You know, you can artificially induce heightened challenge by doing tons of different things within the work environment. And you can just try and double your target for yourself. Personally, you could try and again, like complete all your work by lunchtime every day. If it’s Monday and a boring as hell, I think there’s lots of ways you can get creative to make thing harder, like making a thing harder. You gotta dial exactly. If you’re bored, if you’re bored, it’s under stimulating, find fun ways to make it harder and pose challenges for yourself within the situation.
Conor 00:52:12 Yeah. I think one tool that’s really effective is like, imagine the instruction that I think every parent gives to kids, right. With like they’re bored and it’s like, no, like you figure out a way to make this thing interesting. Right. And I think it’s a lesson that, you know, you have to learn at it. Like a lot of kids learn at an early age, a lot of people don’t and you, you have to learn as an adult if you didn’t learn as a kid. Um, which is, you know, if I’m in the situation and it’s not sufficiently challenging, I need to find a way to make it interesting and challenging for myself. And so you do need to reframe that situation. Um, and so I, I remember being inspired by four hour work week many, many years ago. Um, and so I was working a job that I wasn’t hugely, you know, interested in or like it was, you know, a lot of, you know, admin work that, you know, at the moment I thought that it was, you know, beneath me and it was boring.
Conor 00:52:59 And so my goal was to, you know, take the four hour work week pretty literally, and try and complete my work in four hours and then, you know, spend the rest of, you know, the day, um, I still had to be in the office, but I wanted to, you know, study this, you know, like a side project that I was working on. Um, and so that’s exactly what I did. Like it actually worked really well would be like, I literally got my work week down to four hours and then I would spend the rest of the time, uh, doing either freelancing on the side or studying like that, that allowed me to do that. But like being able to reframe your situation and just being able to, I don’t know, like find complexity and interest in like situations that might not be intrinsically as stimulating, I think is, is really important because if you don’t learn that skill, you’re going to be on the hedonic treadmill. Right. You’re always going to be looking for more and more like, you know, interesting environments and like that isn’t necessarily the best mindset. Like, you know, being able to manipulate by reframing is, you know,
Rian 00:53:52 A crucial life lesson. Yeah. Talk to me, let’s pop up from the individual level and actually even above the group level. And I want to talk very briefly about the environment itself. Like what, how, how, how does one create an environment that is more conducive to flow? Like just imagine an office environment. Um, yeah, obviously ultimately it comes down to practices and policies and there’s lots of different specifics. One big thing is encouraging a synchronous communication. I think so that you’re not breaking, people’s focus on whatever it is they’re doing by forcing them to both come in and sit in a meeting at the same time. Um, so that’s a big one. I know a lot of, you know, tech companies do that, uh, emphasis emphasizing and building a culture and focus and deep work is a big one. I think in many respects offices, at least during certain periods of the day should be more like libraries, um, in terms of silence and in terms of just people who are actually focusing on, you know, executing, getting things done, and then related to that, obviously batching communication into certain set periods at base camp and Jason fried Friel fried, fried.
Rian 00:55:02 Yeah. He’s great. All of this stuff he’s amazing on there. They’re phenomenal, phenomenal overall library rules. Yeah, exactly. They’re like a phenomenal case study on flow actually and what we would recommend a company to do. Awesome. Um, yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s great. Um, and he does a lot of that stuff yet. Asynchronous communication batching and like sprints, you know, because that minimizes the amount of communication that needs to happen throughout the actual week. You can let people execute, stand ups are good too. You, you know, you knock out the sink at the start of the day and then you get into it for the rest of the day being very conscious and cognizant of timing meetings, setting things up from a high level structurally. So that constant back and forth communication is minimized. And isn’t that much requirement, not having policies around, you know, needing people to have like turnaround times for email or Slack messages and things like that.
Rian 00:55:52 Obviously giving workers as much autonomy as possible, holding them to performance standards rather than to, you know, process standards. So, you know, delegating outcomes rather than delegating tasks, I think is a big one that enhances autonomy and allows people to be creative as far as how to get them done. Um, yeah. So I think there’s all sorts of different ways to deploy it specifically. And once you understand the fundamental triggers and what’s required to be able to get into flow, you can creatively think about how you can deploy this stuff within your own work environment as effectively as possible.
Conor 00:56:26 Exactly. And just add to that, um, obviously no open air work environments, you know, like, you know, obviously there are real estate considerations to this and the reason why, you know, people put a bunch of desks side by side is, you know, more financial reasons than anything else. Um, but that just kills productivity. Right? Exactly, exactly.
Rian 00:56:45 The amount of people who have to go to coffee shops to actually get work done, or like say they can’t come in for a day a week so that they can actually hit the deadlines that they’ve been delegated. You know, like offices, at least in my experience are often a months, the most unproductive places to be. So, you know, you wind your office to be somewhere where people can actually get work done. And I know it sounds incredibly basic, but Mo most aren’t, you know, like I know so many offices where it’s six people sitting around a table facing each other kind of thing and talking every minute or two or, you know, they just check in on something. And like, it’s just so weird when you’re talking about the, uh, you know, minimize all that back and forth communication that would interrupt people from their focus.
Rian 00:57:26 Right. But then I was just looking at scanning my notes really quick and looking at, um, some of the flow triggers and, and I, one of the ones on group flow was constant communication. So how is that different? Well, so you see, when I say batching communication, when you have specific a specific chunk of time dedicated to communication, then you want to try and make that time could use, have to group flow and ideally facilitate a group flow state within a specific brainstorming session. But the situation we’re talking about where it’s back and forth, constant bits of communication, and you’re not going to get individual flow, you’re just getting fractured attention and no real solid group flow or good communication and no real individual flow or actual focus. So you’re kind of like you’re caught between two ends of the spectrum. Yeah. Is there, is there such a thing as like group flow in a normal meeting, or like it’s like the weekly staff meeting, just, just a waste or w what would you, is there ,
Conor 00:58:24 I think there’s a lot of value to that because, you know, everybody’s speaking, uh, uh, like the same language they have similar expertise. And so a lot of people get into group flow when they’re in that sort of meeting. Um, but I think it’s really, you know, helpful to have everybody engaged, not just one person dictating the schedule. Um, and so like, say agile stand up meetings I think are really, really effective because everybody’s bringing, you know, their tasks to the floor, they’re bringing their blockers and, you know, they’re all speaking a common language. So I, I think there is a lot of value to that. And then, um, I guess, like two things to add to what Rihanna saying, like, I just want to echo the autonomy piece. I think the, the, the much of the progress that you get much of the benefits you get is out of giving your employees a high degree of autonomy.
Conor 00:59:06 And if you can’t trust your employees and why did you hire him to begin with right. And so like, like, like micromanagement just absolutely kills flow. Um, and then the other piece is when it comes to immediate feedback. And so like feedback on a weekly clip or a daily clip is ideal, not none of this quarterly or yearly review cycles, by the time you get a yearly review, you have no idea what it refers to. Like, none of that stuff’s actionable refers to like a version of yourself that existed six months ago. Right. Yeah. Remember it. Exactly. And so being able to do this, like, um, like using weekly, um, like cycles, and so for instance, 15 five is a fantastic tool for this. Um, and so, uh, for those of you who are unfamiliar, right? So at the end of you, you fill this out once a week.
Conor 00:59:48 And so it’s supposed to take you about 15 minutes to fill out and your manager about five minutes to go through it, which is hence then in 15 five, but it goes through what the goal is, where that you define the previous week. Um, you give an update on those, you define goals for the next week, and you talk about your challenges and your successes, and you can add arbitrary, you know, high five set their people. And what else on top of that, I find that to be so effective because it keeps everybody goal-driven, it gets, it’s a really good way of upward reporting as well at a very high level. Um, but that level of feedback allows you to deal with blockers and challenges at a much faster clip, because like the goal was to be able to like, you know, speed up business cycles as much as possible, right. You know, the mantra in the Valley is, you know, speed up the time to failure. Um, and so like you want to be able to speed that up as much as possible and getting those immediate feedback cycles, um, in place in a way that’s helpful and relevant and actionable, um, is another fantastic way to improve
Rian 01:00:41 Workplace culture. Right? Exactly. Like having well said, okay, ours are KPIs. Accountability is an interesting one as well because accountability comes with autonomy or at least has to, if it’s being, you know, rationally given at least in any way. So giving people numbers to own, things like that. I know Sam Walton with Walmart, what they do or did, I don’t know if they still do it within their big mega stores is they’d make each department, a sub department and have it have its own set of books and have it have its own targets and then have the store manager for each sub department and like the sport, you know, the sporting goods department or whatever, run that, that department singularly, and be held accountable to hitting numbers for that specific department within the overarching store. So that that person is given much more autonomy over that, you know, sub component to the overall mega store.
Rian 01:01:29 Yeah. I love that. That ties in beautifully with some of the prior episodes of this podcast. Like a one in particular that comes to mind is the conversation with Christina Wiki about creating high performing autonomous mindful teams. And a lot of it echoes like it’s, I’m sort of seeing this, this is very interesting as a conversation, you’d be like, Oh, this is sort of the psychological side of maybe a lot of reasons why that works. And that’s a very interesting one. And just to, you’re saying thing you were saying Connor about a 15 five there actually just as it, as a shout out, they have a great podcast as well. That guy’s called that they started it sometime last year. It was called the best self management podcast. It’s excellent. Nice check for them. Big, big fan of their, of their show. So, um, first of all, I just gotta say, thank you guys.
Rian 01:02:10 This has been such a, such a fun. I’ve been in this conference group flux, how many days it’s been, what, like three hours now it’s been almost three hours before we even get like a, so you just got to be part of our group flow. So first of all, thank you guys so much for your time, for your expertise, for sharing your experience and your wisdom. And, and it’s so exciting. Um, and I’m really huge fan of, of the two of you and what’s your all what you all are up to. Um, so my last question is, um, is there anything, uh, do you have any, for people who are listening to this, is there anything you’d ask of them, any asks you wanna make of the audience and where can they engage more with you? I would say, check us out on, on flow research, collective.com. We’ve got a newsletter there. We send it out every week. It’s always super high value. At least we think with articles and content and ways to learn more, and then you can check it out, check us out on social as well. So flow research collected on Instagram, Facebook, same thing, newsletter. Yeah, exactly. All that sort of thing. Yeah. Yeah.
Conor 01:03:12 It’s like the takeaway I’d like people to leave with is like, yes, they are programmable. Yes, you can, you know, use these tools in order to get more flow in your life. Um, and there are any number of books and resources and we can link those in the show notes. Um, but usually people ask for, you know, what’s the common denominator for, um, resources to check out. Um, and I always recommend, um, a rise of Superman by Steven Kotler in the original book flow by chicks at Mihai, um, that one’s a little bit more academic. And so it depends on, you know, how much you want to work with, you know, a little bit more technical writing. And so rise of Superman is, you know, very compelling narratives about action sport athletes. And then flow was going to the book flow is going to scratch that itch if you’re more of a technical person. Um, but if you have that sort of mindset where you view yourself as you know, someone who can change given the right amount of time and effort, you can manipulate all of these knobs and leavers to get a ton of flow in your life. Don’t be in flow all the time, but
Rian 01:04:06 Health, a lot of it. Yeah, right on. Well guys, thanks so much for the time and keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you. Thanks for having us.