FLOW – a productivity hack for life

FlowFlow. The true state of productivity. When all that you do has one purpose. One focus.

The goal is to GET STUFF DONE. And with Flow you can do it better.

Call it a ‘hack’. A ‘bio-hack’. A ‘life-hack’. But don’t call it ‘planning’. A plan is not as strong as Flow.

So think FLOW. Stick to the word – Flow – Go for it. Harvest the benefits of using Flow. Spread the concept of Flow to the world. If we all Flow, we all Flow better.

But what is it? How to get into it? Where can it be applied? Let’s Flow into it together, and reveal the secrets of this productivity technique.

1- What is Flow?

DeveloperFlow was revealed to me as a concept by a young master developer at quintly who happens to also be my friend, Mr. Marc Scholten. He brought to me this idea in the form of a post in his blog, and immediately it sparked a series of connections with other concepts in my mind.

Focused on productivity for the developer role, Marc approaches the Flow in a very specific way, covering several key-points of productivity as a developer.

While I invite you to also dive into what Marc speaks of in his article, I expand the concept into other areas. I am not a developer myself, but many aspects of my life will benefit from the concept of Flow.


5 keypointsa) Preparation – get ready to Flow.

b) Time – don’t waste it.

c) Process – optimise.

d) Fast Feedback – if you need to validate, do it fast (or automated if you can).

e) Make it Final – don’t draft, don’t fix things later, make it the final version from the start.

But how to truly Flow? what aspects of Mind, Body and Soul need to come together for the Flow to happen? Let’s take the Flow concept for a ride and crunch into it.

2- How to get into the Flow?

Each one of us will need more or less time to Flow. When Flow is broken, each will take more or less time to get back into it. Like most things in life, Flow gets better with practice.

2.1- MIND : free your mind (from trash) and the rest will follow

Free-your-mindThe mind is a complex thing. It hides from you what it stores and will deliver things upon request. In theory, this is a good thing, because the mind is then ready to be set free. Imagine if we had all our memories and cognitive information in action at once. So the mind knows its place. The mind understands the Flow.

The problem then will lie in the ‘triggers’. The sparks that will ignite the mind into pursuit of certain information or command of certain body activity. We can control the triggers. We cannot control the mind. 

When involved in complex tasks, with many different variables and creativity needs, focus (or any similar concept) is limiting. The Flow is more than any of that.

To have the mind in a state of Flow is to be able to very quickly prioritise tasks and activities towards an objective. To Flow we must learn to say ‘no’ to everything that will pull us out of it. Say ‘NO’ to emotional calls (family, loved ones, funny friends). Say ‘NO’ to random impulses (checking the internet, cleaning your desk). Say ‘NO’ to biological calls as much as possible. It is discipline. It is a pillar of the Flow.

The triggers, after a few sessions of Flow, will learn to stay out of the way. They will stop activating when you are in the Flow. You will look at the time and notice hours have gone by and you just got an amazing number of things done. You will feel that you controlled your mind. But you really haven’t, you have just understood the triggers and worked on controlling that.

2.2- BODY : treat your body well, listen to the calling

Good FoodWe all have our ways with our bodies. There IS NO RULE here EXCEPT FOR ONE: Listen to the calling.

It is harder than it seems. The calling is not that late night craving for sugar. Nor it is about sleeping early and drinking tea either. It can be any of these things or none. The calling is between you and your body, but the key here is that your body must have the louder voice.

So LISTEN. Check for signs that things are good or not. Energy levels. Digestion process. Sickness cycles. Take your body seriously. If you don’t sleep well, look into it. If you feel lazy and sleepy all day, look into it. If very few things in life give you joy for no apparent reason, look into it. If you are constantly in a bad mood, look into it.

When you find the optimal body metabolism, you will Flow much better.

We rarely relate ourselves to our body. We don’t think that our mood has any connection to what we eat. We try to find facts external to our body that will explain everything. It is easy to find explanations for anything, especially when we don’t have to prove them. But when it comes to our own life, and our own body, be real about it.

The worse lies are those we tell to ourselves.

2.3- SOUL : passion, ambition, love, belonging, success, failure, regret, forgiveness…

Soul ShaolinIt all adds up. There is no keeping things under the carpet here. Emotions are the strongest triggers. Whatever touches our soul will have great power over us so we must face these things head on.

Give things the value and attention they deserve so that when you need to tune into the Flow, and away from all these things, they will not come back as triggers against you.

Many of us are more affected by one specific kind of emotion above others. Some of us can withstand stress a little better. Others can deal with high levels of ambition. Others are passionate about absolutely everything. The balance will be different for each of us. But as long as we detect these triggers and deal with them in a definitive way, we will build into a stronger Flow.

3- Where can Flow be applied? and How?

Flow is aimed at productivity. Any instance of high productivity will welcome the state of Flow. Independent of what you do, if it is a high output you are looking for, apply the Flow.

3.1- Flow everywhere – Flow does not change

Long ListThis is the key concept of Flow. It does not change. Despite where it is applied it will always be the same. The state of Flow will be a constant. Once you reach it you know it and your productivity is increased. It is up to you then to apply Flow where you need it, and to learn how to stay in Flow. Staying in Flow is not an easy task, and possibly even harder than finding Flow. But once you got it, where exactly can you Flow?


a) Development

b) Design

c) Blogging

d) Social Media marketing

e) Analytics

f) Presentation preparation

g) Sales

h) Interviews

i) Strategic planing

j) Reporting

k) Artistic sprints

l) …you name it…

The most important is NOT WHERE, BUT HOW?

3.2- Catalysts for Flow

Quoting my friend Marc here, “When you are already in Flow the biggest issue you are having is to stay in Flow. Once you get interrupted you have to waste 15 minutes again to get back in Flow. So make sure you will not get interrupted when you want to get something done. This includes putting the internet and your smartphone on stand-by. Also make sure email is turned off.”

Headphones catalystMUSIC is a great catalyst for Flow. Get your headphones on and zone out from the noisy world around.

BIG CHUNKS OF TIME work better than many smaller ones. “Three one-hour sessions are not as effective as a single 3 hour session” says Marc, mentioning programming time and productivity.

Allocate meetings cleverly around your Flow sessions. Don’t let a meeting break your Flow and make it hard to get back into it.

Find points of enjoyment. Even if no one else around you (friends, family, co-workers…) enjoy what you are doing, for you to Flow, points of enjoyment in what you do will also help. Like a game of “connecting the dots”, as you touch each point you strengthen ‘the current’ of Flow.

4- Share the concept of Flow

Spread the word. Let the world know you are into Flow and how it works.

If we all Flow, we all Flow better.

Flow Flow

Alex Gonçalves

Born some time ago, close to the sea and a huge statue of Christ upon a mountain, in explainable ways yours truly has built a love for the understanding of the world around us. This constant 'groove' of curiosity has branched in a love for all things business and marketing related, touching into the arts and a lot of what happens in between.


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