Have you ever thought about your flow state? How you get into it? And even more importantly — why you get thrown out of it?
These kind of questions are the ones I pondered over when exploring how and why I was in a consistent flow state for over 2 weeks in the beginning of 2021. Everything seemingly fell into place. I was inspired, motivated and progressing at a speed I never had before. Why was this the case? I struggled to find out why. And of course the internet was not of much help either. I couldn’t find a map. No instructions to guide me…
This is about to change.
Before we go any deeper, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Julian Paul. I build useful things for those who want more from life. I do this through problem-centric thinking, branding & product.
My background and skills give me a unique perspective on creative thinking and structured workflows — culminating in mental models and visual communication. The Infinity Flow State is the way I live my personal & professional life on a daily basis.
Making sense of flow states
There are plenty of resources that try to quantify getting into the flow state that I have had the pleasure to consume. One example is Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey, a fascinating book that entirely changed the way I manage my time. But it fell short on three key principles:
- Getting into a flow state is not the problem for most. It’s usually the easiest part that comes as a result of surpassing any initial mental resistance.
- Getting knocked out of the flow state is never addressed.
- Maintaining a consistent flow state is the pain point.
In light of these three insights from my own flow state and countless conversations with people in my closest vicinity, I took it upon myself to quantify my experience. So you can also feel The Infinity Flow State.
But what even is the flow state? And why should you care?
Here’s a great definition:
“The flow state is a feeling where, under the right conditions, you become fully immersed in whatever you are doing.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Mihaly is a brilliant thinker, but he’s still missing something… Another interesting resource is a video by Brett Wingeier, who outlines the flow state or zone as ‘relaxed high performance’:
The points Brett makes in this video are true to any flow state, as it all boils down to propelling yourself into executing without even having to think about what or how. But Brett, just like many others leaves out important aspects I have noticed are vital to maintaining the flow state.
This realisation urged me to create a tangible model that allows me to assess where I am in my flow state and why I fall out of it.
The Infinity Flow State represents an infinity sign in a rectangular shape that is separated into two halves: the right side being external (DETACH & COLLIDE) and the left side being internal (REFLECT & RELY):
But where to start?
- Always start from the centre: with DOING.
- Proceed towards the right, by assessing the external factors through DETACH & COLLIDE (in order).
- Complete the first (right) halve by flowing back into the DO/REST switch (choose either).
- Assess the internal factors through REFLECT & RELY (in order).
- Return to the DO/REST switch (choose either) and start over.
Here is the model in one sentence. Short and sweet:
The Infinity Flow State is a mindset that balances your internal and external influences to hyperdrive your quantity of output through serendipity.
Expanding on this, I frame the flow state with three guidelines:
- Practice immediacy.
- Measure by the quantity of output. Not the quality of output.
- Maintain a consistent flow state through inspiration and execution.
With these three guidelines in mind, let’s get into the nit and grit of it all, shall we? I have given each stage in-depth thought. Here we go:
Step 1: DO
All progression in life starts with something very simple. To DO. If you are living in a flow state, you will become synonymous with DOING or acting as a whole. It is the absolute key to unlocking your flow state, since not doing will result in nothing at all… That is because life’s point of origin is in itself DOING. The aim is consistent motion and progress, which can only come from inspiration and a clear vision. The key to it all? Practice Immediacy. I am currently working on a tool for this stage. In the meantime ask yourself:
Am I doing enough of the right things to propel me into The Infinity Flow State?
Is what I am doing contributing to where I want to be in 5 or 10 years?
Step 2: DETACH
Attachment is one of the most dangerous things for not progressing in life. It means not being able to let go of an idea, a thought, a trauma etc.:. Stephen King says this best: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
I use this a lot in entrepreneurship. Because the second I get married to a way of doing something, I fail. Building products and services means constantly evolving and adapting to changing markets and the customer segments within them. This means DOING at the highest level possible. But that can only come from practicing recurring detachment in order to separate yourself from getting stuck within a constant. Ask yourself:
Am I emotionally or physically attached to the thing I just DID? If yes, how can I decrease this attachment to allow for more and perhaps better perspectives?
Step 3: COLLIDE
This stage might sound odd. But there are also stark reasons here... Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos coined this term in regards to the human interactions required to create highly effective organisations and teams. He literally said: “create the opportunity for meaningful collisions.” For Tony, this was purely people focused, but it can also revolve around receiving perspective. In his honour, The Infinity Flow State aims continue this vision of maximised collisions. Because at the end of the day we are all just humans that are stronger together. Ask yourself:
After detaching myself from doing, who or what do I need to collide with in order to receive ideas or perspectives I could never think of myself?
Whose perspectives and opinions do I value and trust? Who can challenge me to go even further after every collision?
Step 4: DO/REST
This stage is vital. It is essentially a boolean statement. You can go either of two ways. Continue to DO or REST. The Infinity Flow State literally requires deliberate action and thoughtful time off. Because DOING is a paradox at the end of the day… it requires resting in order to produce the desired effect: quantity over quality of output.
REST can take the following formats: meditation, sleep, entertainment, music, sports, cleaning and so on. That said, REST is meant to shift your mindset away from even thinking about DOING and towards gaining perspective through other calming or energising activities. All with the aim of discovering the inspiration you need to acquire a broader viewpoint. Ask yourself in regards to whatever you want to accomplish:
What does my mission and vision need in order for me to continue staying in The Infinity Flow State? Is it more DOING? Or is it RESTING?
What does my future self need? Am I edging towards burnout? Or am I just getting started ..?
Step 5: REFLECT
Reflection is one of the most important things in life. It allows us to internalise learnings that would otherwise go unnoticed. During my time at Hyper Island I had the pleasure to work with many teams and dive deep into personal development. We often used this Reflection Loop: Do → Reflect → Generalise → Apply. It is hugely useful when it comes to making sense of this stage, but it’s not good enough. So, I am currently creating my own reflection tool, which is on the horizon soon... In the meantime ask yourself:
Have I spent enough time to internalise all of the learnings from what I was DOING or RESTING?
What is the 1 thing I want to take away from this reflection?
Step 6: RELY
Relying is all about solidifying what you have reflected over in order to close the first cycle of The Infinity Flow State. It ultimately means finding the confidence about what you have learnt in your reflection. Because trusting that your mind has covered all the necessary ground (good or bad) with any given situation is difficult. Personally, I do this through positive affirmations. Taking the one thing (or more) I learnt from my reflection and turning that into the change I want to see in my life. I then say: ‘I am…THAT CHANGE’.
The more you reflect, the better you will be able to rely. So ask yourself:
How can I assure myself of the things I learnt about in my reflection? What do I need to rely most on in order to have a clear mind to DO more?
Step 7: DO/REST
This is where The Infinity Flow State starts over again. There’s one rule of thumb: getting into a flow state is and always must be to start with DOING — FIRST. But with every other crossing over the centre, ask yourself:
What do I need right now? Is it to DO or REST?
How often do I use it?
I use The Infinity Flow State multiple times per day. But it depends on the project. Sometimes the cycle stretches over multiple days and weeks. Depending on how involved I am. From a MICRO perspective, my cycles can happen multiple times a day. From a MACRO perspective, over no more than 3–4 days — you will know how this can fit into your life best... Keep in mind:
Once you hit inspiration, don’t miss the chance to capture it. Simply DO.
Going full circle (or infinity)
Phew! That was a lot. I have been tinkering with this model for months. And throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, I received a lot of comments about my work ethic and structure. But it was not until 2021, that I could quantify what I was doing into The Infinity Flow State. And I know that making it relatable is vital. So, here are three use cases I apply it to:
- Personal development. For me, writing is meditative. It’s a tool to reflect and rely on the the ideas and realisations I have on a daily basis. Writing helps me grow and get into flow. I capture this in my article. HERE.
- Side-hustle or business tasks. I have a ton of ideas, but in order to do another I need to progress with one first. And fast. It helps me to stay on task and not get distracted as I build HUSLTLE OS.
- Relationships: friends or loved ones. Especially with my girlfriend. We both use this model to grow individually and towards each other. It reminds us of not overthinking, but going with the flow.
The Infinity Flow State is especially useful when you are struggling to feel the flow state or are edging out of it. Try to identify where you are on the model and move through the motions. I would love for you to try it! Start simple and small. At the end of the day it’s all about directing your mind to stay in flow.
The goal of The Infinity Flow State is to achieve heightened awareness of self and other — because awareness always brings together the two elements of internal and external influences on life itself.
Stay in The Infinity Loop
I will be expanding each stage of The Infinity Flow State with their own in depth models and/or worksheets, so that maintaining your flow state will become a breeze. Signup to my email list to get my weekly newsletter, free tools, iPhone wallpapers for The Infinity Flow State and more HERE.
I’ve tried to quantify the way my flow state works in the best way possible. But it’s by no means perfect. So, I would love to hear your thoughts! Please reach out to me via @itsjulianpaul for feedback or anything else.