How to Find the Right “Flow” at a Difficult Job

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How to Find the Right “Flow” at Work While at work people experience flow when their daily tasks are both challenging and they feel confident that they can overcome those challenges. It happens when the right balance is struck between enough work that you aren’t overburdened and a feeling that you have the right skill-sets to accomplish those task(s). An interesting thing happens when you are in a “flow” groove at work; you completely lose track of time. Of course, the opposite is also true: When people are bored at work they start watching the clock until 5 pm roles around. “Boredom” is being in a state of either too much challenge and lack of interest, or too little challenge that leads to lack of interest. The Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced “chik-sent-me-hi”) was the first to explore the construct of flow. In his research, he noted the phenomenon of “flow” at work among people that loved what they did for a living. These people often had creative tendencies too. In fact, when studying a group of creative participants, he noted that every single one of them loved what they did. He interviewed chemist, engineers, writers, musicians, business persons, carpenters, physicians. In each case he noted that each person changed how they did their work in order to make it interesting for themselves. And that seems to be the key in either finding the right career or making the best of one you aren’t happy with. You might not be able to change the culture, systems, or people -these are often hardened -but you can change how you do your job. Discover ways to add your own personal twist to your daily work flow (no pun intended). At worst you might break something, at best you might redefine your job and make it a better one. When I first joined the U.S Navy one of my first revolving tasks was to sand down a teak deck on the Admirals boat all Summer long in the blistering heat. It was the lowest and most thankless job in the Navy, but probably second worst to sponging the oil out of the hot engine room. One day after work, all dirty and tired, I complained to a much older friend of mine about the drudgery I was enduring at work. He looked at me and said “when you are asked to do menial jobs in life, do them better than they’ve ever been done. If they ask you to mop the floors, mop it in a way that’s its never been done before”. So I put to test his exact advice. I asked my Chief if I could wear headphones on deck while scrubbing out years of salt & grime from the deck. He said yes. So now I’ve made a small change to how I did my job. The next step I took was to stand up to the difficult challenge of scrubbing the deck inch-by-inch. I worked harder than ever while listening to audio books and music all summer. At eh end, what I discovered was that changing the way I did my job made it considerably more interesting; and working harder helped me feel like I had control of what I was doing. I had applied the theory of “flow” and it had turned a menial job into an awesome one. I highly recommend trying this at your job. For additional reading pick up Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s wonderful book: Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention.
Chris Ortega
Chris Ortega
Chris is founder and CEO of Nuvola Staffing. He brings extensive experience partnering with clients and helping them achieve workforce planning and hiring strategies. Chris served honorably in the U.S Navy for 8 years; he was deployed overseas during 9/11 and was highly decorated during his enlistment. He has been a top recruiter for some of the most technologically advanced organizations such as Google and Cloudera. Chris is ambitious about matching great people with dream jobs -especially his fellow veterans!

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