FLOW: If you want to be effective don’t answer to others’ emergencies. Unless you are an M.D.

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I was finally inside the flow! I was able to write, focused, inspired and engaged to my new article, despite all the busy-ness happening around me.

Flow is this state of mind, where you intentionally focus on the intellectual or physical task you are doing. You perform it while ignoring the environmental or mental distractions or stimuli, which are totally irrelevant from ensuring the completion of the task. While you are in this awesome state of flow, you have no sense of the time passing, but you aren’t interested in that at all. For more about flow check my article: “How to be in the Zone and Succeed”.

So, I admit that I revere flow, though it needs special conditions to activate it, because it is very fragile. The moment this happens, say goodbye to your flow.

Once something or someone interrupts it, it’s not possible to immediately return back to it as if nothing has happened. You have to spend time again in the preparation of this flow.

Just because flow is very sensitive, I have long ago started to protect mine. Every time I want to reach that state of cognitive hype, I set what I call my own radio-silence around me. I deactivate notifications for social media, I avoid email checking, I set the air-plane mode for my cell phone, silence mode on my landline, I don’t even answer the door-bell nada!

When I first started applying this radio-silence, I was receiving complaints by people that this is not a good attitude, because they couldn’t reach me in case of an emergency. I was feeling bad about it. On the one hand, I could see the necessity of respecting my flow, but I was still feeling guilty about whether my decision was correct, or the voices about emergencies weighed more.

It took me quite some time or a trial-and-error chain of events to understand that a) without my flow, it was super difficult, if not impossible, to produce the written material I wanted to; b) there were no actual emergencies worthy of my attention. Not a fire, not a war, not a health issue ever occurred while I was in my flow bubble. I soon realized that what the others call “emergency” is translated in “I want to be able to ask you to assist me or run a service for me and my own interests, whenever I want to; I am not interested whether I interrupt you from something important for you.”

The more I have being understanding those two points, a) and b), the more determined I have become to protect my flow zone. By doing that, flow actually offers me its gifts: high-quality productivity, performance and effectiveness.

 So, there I was, inside my flow zone, writing and working on my new article about the importance of self-regulation in the success process. This is actually a difficult matter that demands lots of my time, bibliographic research and focused attention.

I was about to finish my morning writing session and after a short snack break I realized that my personal cellphone had about a dozen of phone-calls from an unknown number, as well as two written messages from the same number. What the h@ll?!? I read the messages; they were from a person that I don’t know, who has been referred to me by a distant acquaintance of mine.

The first message mentioned that the person needed my services as a psychologist. The messenger was having a rather urgent problem of panic attack. The second message arrived half an hour after the first one emphasizing on the urgent character of the first one.

That incident has happened two years after I had completed the phase of my career as a psychotherapist. I had already built my success coaching business. Of course, maybe the caller didn’t know that.

Funny thing, half of the calls took place late in the afternoon (4pm). Why is that important? Because in Greek culture, unless you are calling to an office or a company, 4pm is an hour considered as quiet hours. It is NOT recommended to call people, especially those you don’t know, during these hours.

So, if I hadn’t protected my flow zone, what would have happened? My work would have been interrupted by someone I didn’t know, who was asking me about my services that I was no longer providing, about something they called an emergency, but which in psychology isn’t treated as such. If you have a panic attack and you seek for an urgent treatment, you ask for a psychiatric emergency treatment by the psychiatric hospitals in duty at the time of the emergency. Psychological therapy, or psychotherapy doesn’t work as an emergency, because it can’t be effective as such. It’s a long process that requires stable planning of recurrent meetings in order to provide positive results.

This is just one of the many similar incidents I have dealt with while defending my zone. Every time one of them occurs again, I feel even more certain about my choice to protect it.

Why? Because if any distractor invades my space of production and creativity, I will jeopardise my goal’s making.

This doesn’t mean that protecting your flow makes you become a John Hughes recluse so that  you respond to no-one (unless you really want to do that, I am not going to be the judge of your choices). It means that you create a healthy balance between the frame that favors your effectiveness and your productivity for your goals, and the frame where you socially communicate with other people in a way that makes you feel respected and respectful all at once.

So how about your own flow? How are you doing with it? Have you used it so far? Is it easy for you to get to it, or you fear that it’s not so obvious? What are your ready to do in order to protect it from distractors?

I would love to hear about your own flow-bubble experiences or even struggles. If you want to share them with me, send me an email at info@uplifepsychology.com !

Last modified: June 12, 2021

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