Are you in your flow?

Varberg // own photo
Varberg // own photo

 

Time flies when you’re having fun.

I am sure that every once in a while each of us experiences a time when we are so engaged in an activity that the surrounding world does not seem to exist. We are enjoying what we are doing so much that we forget about the passing time and hours feel like seconds. This is how being in flow feels like.

What is flow?

Flow is a state of total immersion in an activity. It is also referred to as ‘being in one’s element’ or ‘being in the zone’. Flow occurs in different situations for different people. Some of us experience flow when we practise sports, some – when we use our creativity to produce a work of art, and others – when we try to solve mathematical problems. But what all these moments have in common is that we use our skills and our energy to the utmost.

When we are in a state of flow our thoughts are focused only on the current activity and we do not waste our energy on thinking about anything else. We don’t think about everyday matters and problems, and can raise above our everyday worries. What is more, we might even forget about our physiological needs; we don’t feel hunger or thirst, and going to the bathroom seems like a waste of time.

How to experience flow?

According to Mihail Csikszentmihalyi*, a psychologist who recognised and named the concept of flow, it is impossible to reach this state without putting any effort. Flow is a reward for taking initiative and for engagement. We experience flow more often when we are actively engaged, not when we spend time on passive activities. So instead of watching sports on TV we should start practising them, or instead of watching adventure films we should search for excitement in real life.

Csikszentmihalyi also thinks that there needs to be the right balance between skills and challenge. Challenge needs to be achievable yet not too easily. If there is too little challenge we soon start to feel bored and unmotivated. For example, some of us might find answering work e-mails extremely unchallenging and therefore will never be ‘in element’ when writing e-mail responses. On the other hand, if there is too much challenge, we feel anxious, frustrated and even defeated. This is how I feel when I try to solve a higher level of sudoku puzzles.

The challenge also needs to involve our skills. We might use the skills that we already have and concentrate all our knowledge and energy on a given task. Or we might expand our existing knowledge and reach another level of know-how.

Examples of flow

I am ‘in the zone’ when I write my blog posts. I really stop paying attention to time and to my needs, and am often surprised when I look at the clock. The other time when I experience flow is when I coach. I love meeting my clients, love the conversations we have, and it happens that we go overtime without even realising it. I can also totally ‘zoom out’ when preparing to coaching sessions; designing activities for my clients, searching for new coaching tools, reading articles or researching put me in my element.

People can experience flow not only when engaged in activities requiring highly developed skills but also when engaged in everyday activities. Some of us will be happiest when cooking, gardening, meeting friends or spending time with a family. Others will be in their element when writing a philosophical essay, giving a presentation at work or preparing a sales report.

What to do to be in flow more often?

If you, like me, would like to experience being in your element more often, try to engage more in activities that you are skilled for and that offer a pleasant outcome. Stay curious and be open to new experiences. Remember that flow is a reward for your engagement, creativity and attention.

If you unsure which activities give you greatest pleasure, start observing yourself. Identify the activities that make you feel accomplished and fulfilled and which give you a lot of energy. Then make sure to assign some time every day for these activities. The more often we experience moments of flow, the happier we feel. No one wants to fall into apathy.

 

When was the last time you experienced flow? What did you do? How did it feel?

 

*To find out more about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his concept of flow refer to this TED talk:

https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?

 

Time management and the importance of prioritising

time
Sunset // own photo

 

My friends ask me sometimes how I manage my time and am able to do everything I do. This question puzzles me because I don’t think I do anything exceptional.

Yes, I do consider myself organised. I work four days a week, I take care of our child, and I take care of the house. Nothing unusual, right? On top of this, I try to establish myself as a coach. This means that I run this blog and am currently working on improving my website. I constantly want to learn new things that can help me with my career; I took three courses in the past 1.5 years and now am looking for a course in writing. To me, what I do isn’t anything unusual. I believe that a lot of us could make similar lists, couldn’t we?

Having a goal

In my opinion, the key to time management is having a clarified goal. Knowing what you want helps you focus on the activities that will get you there. It can be one of those big life goals, like starting a family, building a house, moving to a new country or completely changing a career path. Or it can be a smaller goal; something that you want to achieve in the coming months or years. Once you realise what is really important to you, you can start planning your days by choosing the right activities and resigning from the ones that present little or no value to you.

Prioritising and planning

Do you know which of your activities are important and which aren’t? Have you ever had a proper look at your everyday routines and analysed their usefulness? Is what you doing every day bringing you closer to reaching your goals? I have, and such analysis astounded me and gave me great insights.

Let’s have a look at the four quadrants of time management. This approach to time organisation was presented by Stephen Covey in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’*. Covey recommends focusing on important things before they become urgent, and emphasises the necessity of planning. By following this advice we should be able to limit or even avoid stressful situations because we take time to predict, plan and prepare.

The four quadrants of time management:

URGENT

NOT URGENT

 IMPORTANT

I

 

II

 NOT IMPORTANT

III

 

IV

Below is the same grid completed with examples of activities:

URGENT

NOT URGENT

 IMPORTANT

I

crises

deadlines

problems

II

planning

prevention

recreation

 NOT IMPORTANT

III

interruptions

some calls

some mail

IV

trivia

time-wasters

some calls

Analysis of your time management skills

Now it is time for you to complete this chart with your everyday activities (download).

After you have completed the grid, take a while to thouroughly analyse activities in each of the quadrants. Here are some thoughts and questions to help you with the analysis:

Quadrant 1: These activities are urgent and important, and need to be dealt with immediately. They can be a result of your poor planning. What can you do to avoid ending up in situations requiring you to make important decisions under pressure?

Quadrant 2: These activities are important but do not need imediate action. The items that you listed here require time, preperation and attention. What can you do to improve your planning and to start every task having an end result in mind? What can you do to shift your daily activities to this quadrant?

Quadrant 3: Here we have activities that are urgent but unimportant. They might be a result of the lack of planning and/or motivation. What can you do to eliminate unnecessary emergencies and to minimise the number of items in this quadrant?

Quadrant 4: In this quadrant you listed unimportant and non-urgent activities. These items bring little or no value. What can you do to minimise or eliminate time-wasters?

Once you have done the analysis and sifted through your daily activities, you should be able to start planning your days and managing your time more efficiently. And remember that your goal is to stay in the second quadrant. This means that you should focus on making plans, building relationships with people, looking for new opportunities, relaxing in order to stay balanced, etc.

 

What are your reflections after doing this analysis? Feel free to share in the comments.

 

*This model is sometimes also referred to as ‘Eisenhower Box’ or ‘Eisenhower Matrix’ because it was developed by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the USA, served as a general in the United States Army, and also became NATO’s first Supreme Commander. He lived a very productive and organised life.

 

Inspiration #5

Stockholm // own photo
Stockholm // own photo

 

A handful of inspirational articles:

  • I really like the three pieces of advice shared by Rachel Thomas, the co-founder and president of Lean In Foundation. The best one: you have zero chances of being successful if you don’t try! By the way, check the LeanIn website for many more inspiring articles.
  • If you wonder how to become a high achiever, I recommend that you read ‘It Only Takes 6 Steps to Plan Your Success’ written by Jim Rohn. Jim Rohn was an American entrepreneur, mentor and speaker who influenced many motivational authors popular today. According to him, success is ‘a few simple disciplines practised every day’. I like this definition!
  • How to build a child’s self-confidence? One small change in how you talk to a kid can make a tremendous difference. It is called ‘a growth mindset’ and you can read more about it and the research behind it here.

Do not forget to check my previous posts with inspiration:

 

What inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments.

 

Inspiration #4

inspiration
Vrångo // own photo

 

A handful of inspirational articles:

  • Here are some interesting thoughts on using technology when on vacation. I agree that technology might be disruptive and I rather spend my summer holidays without it.
  • I am a bit too old to call myself a ‘millennial’ but am totally into living a simpler life with less stuff. Here is a Washington Post article explaining why a younger generation might be loosing sentimental attachment to things.
  • A story on how becoming a minimalist can change your life for the better.

Do not forget to check my previous posts with inspiration:

 

What inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments.

 

How to fill every day of your life with more purpose

purpose
Öresund Bridge // own photo

 

How often do you feel that you don’t have time for anything? That the life you live everyday has little focus or little purpose? That all you do is wake up, go to work, come back, do some chores, go to bed, wake up, go to work and so on? That all weekends are spent on catching up with some housework and not even on catching up with friends or spending time relaxing?

And how often, when you complain to your friends about not having the time, they would advise you, ‘Well, you just need to MAKE the time’. Easier said than done, right?

At times we all experience the feeling that the real life is happening somewhere next to us. The good thing is that such situation can be improved by introducing some changes. Some of these changes could be so small that they might seem insignificant at first, but when introduced on everyday basis, with determination and consistency, they can have a huge positive impact on our lives. And, obviously, no change can happen without thorough reflection that allows you to identify what and how could be improved.

If you would like to fill your everyday life with more purpose, do the following exercise. I am going to guide you through the process of redesigning your day using the GROW model (you can read more about this method in my previous post here).

Redesigning your day using the GROW model

I suggest that you assign some time, find a quiet place and give yourself the luxury of reflecting on your life. Take a piece of paper and answer the questions below in writing. You don’t have to answer all the questions, and you can mix their order within each category. However, it is important not to mix the order of categories.

Goal

  • How do you want your ideal day to look like? Write everything down, and be as specific as you can.
  • How do you want to feel in the morning after waking up?
  • How do you want to feel when you are at work?
  • What do you want to do when you come back from work?
  • What would your favourite activity after coming back from work be?
  • How do you want to spend your weekends? With whom?
  • How would you feel if could live every day close the your idea of a perfect day? What would it mean to you?
  • What everyday activities would make your life more meaningful and make you feel that you are getting closer to reaching your goals?

Reality

  • How does your average workday look like?
  • How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? Why?
  • What are your morning routines?
  • How do you spend your working day? Be specific.
  • What do you do when you get back from work?
  • How can you describe your evening routine?
  • How do you relax?
  • What do you do when you have nothing else to do?
  • What do you do, on everyday basis, to achieve your goals?

Options

  • What is stopping you from living your ideal day every day?
  • What routines have you tried to change and why?
  • Why were/weren’t you successful?
  • What could you do to improve your day at work?
  • What activities would you like to do after work?
  • Which hobbies would you like to pursue?
  • What else could you do in your free time?
  • Who could you ask to support you in improving your daily routines?

Will

  • What small changes to your daily routine could you introduce as off tomorrow?
  • What small changes would be the most effective to put you in your best mood every morning/afternoon/evening?
  • How much time are you willing to spend everyday on an activity that can help you reach your goal/goals?
  • What one improvement in your daily habits would have the biggest impact on making you feel that your day has a purpose?
  • What else?
  • When can you start implementing the changes?

I hope that after you have gone through the above questions you should be able to identify what even small changes can do for you. Congratulations, you have just made the first step into filling your days with more purpose and into living more intentionally!

The key to truly experiencing the changes lies in staying consistent. Always think this way: you make choices every day, and you know that your choices come with consequences. Do you want to live more fully and intentionally? Then make the right choices, stay focused and be consistent. And remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day; it takes a lot of time, effort and determination to improve.

 

What changes in your day are you going to make? What improvements have you already made? Please share in the comments.

 

How coaching can help you build an ideal wardrobe

coaching
Mariestad // own photo

 

There are a lot of books and articles out there offering a variety of methods on how to limit your wardrobe or change your shopping habits. I don’t think there is one perfect method that would suit everyone; we are all different and what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for the other. I find a great value in coaching, especially in the GROW model. This model can be applied in a lot of areas, so why not use it in decluttering one’s closet?

The GROW model in coaching

The GROW model was introduced by Sir John Whitmore* in 1980’s. It is a simple four-step method for finding solutions and setting-up goals. This method is widely used in both business and life coaching, and can be successfully applied to a lot of fields.

Each letter in the word GROW corresponds to one step:

G – goal

R – reality

O – options

W – will

The GROW model in achieving the perfect wardrobe

When using the word ‘perfect’ when referring to a wardrobe, I mean, of course a wardrobe ideal for you. I don’t think there is a recipe of how to build a wardrobe that would be perfect for everyone.

If you would like to use the GROW model in helping you to edit your wardrobe, take some time and answer the following questions:

Goal

  • How could you describe your ideal wardrobe?
  • What specific items of clothing should you have in your ideal closet?
  • Do you know someone who, in your opinion, has an ideal wardrobe? How do you describe it?
  • How would it make you feel to have an ideal wardrobe?
  • What does it mean to you to have a closet full of clothes ideal for you?
  • What benefits of having a perfect wardrobe can you list?
  • Once you have an ideal wardrobe, how will your perfect shopping day look like?
  • How would your life be different if you had a perfect wardrobe?

Reality

  • What words do you use to describe your wardrobe?
  • What clothes do you have in your closet?
  • What clothes are missing from your closet?
  • Which clothes do you never wear?
  • What do you do with the items that you never wear?
  • How do you feel everyday when you open your closet and choose clothes to wear?
  • How do you decide on what to wear?
  • How do you shop?
  • How long have you been thinking of editing your wardrobe?

Options

  • How do you edit your wardrobe?
  • What methods have you tried to edit your wardrobe?
  • Which of these methods were successful? Why?
  • Which of these methods were unsuccessful? Why?
  • What could you do differently?
  • What is stopping you from having an ideal wardrobe?
  • What else could you do?

Will

  • Which options work best for you?
  • What is the first step you need to take in order to achieve an ideal wardrobe?
  • What are the next steps that you should take?
  • What deadline would you set for each of the steps?
  • When are you going to start working on your ideal wardrobe?
  • How will you know that you are successful?
  • How motivated are you?

The above questions are examples and can be answered in any order. It is important to be honest with yourself and to set aside enough time to go through them. I highly recommend taking notes and writing the answers down; this helps not only to see the whole picture but also makes you feel more accountable for your actions.

 

I hope that you feel motivated to get started. Let me know in the comments how coaching helped you achieve your ideal wardrobe. Good luck!

 

*John Whitmore is apparently not the only name that appears when it comes to the authorship of the GROW model. 

 

Changes

changes
Hot air balloons over Göteborg // own photo

 

Changes are inevitable yet many fear them.

It is natural to be afraid to leave your comfort zone but if you want improvements, you have to make changes and adapt to them. It takes a while and it feels uncomfortable at first. This is how I am feeling now when writing my first post.

I considered a lot of topic for the first post and read advice from some well-established bloggers. And I was getting more and more confused so I decided to just go for it.

I started my journey with coaching over ten years ago. I have always been a good organiser and a passionate declutterer. I am not saying my life is perfectly organised but I strive to make it more enjoyable by limiting the number of things that surround me.

 

Do changes frighten you?