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Flow I hated doing the washing up!

Meet Marco: he is 13 years old, now is 4 PM, and his best friend has just called him because he has free tickets for the most awaited soccer match of the year. The match starts at 5 PM. Unfortunately, Marco has a lot of dishes to clean before his mum allows him to go out. Anger is mounting by the minute “Mum is Evil!!”, then an idea struck him: “ I could do the washing up faster, If I use more hot water and I move my hands quickly, I should be able to clean up everything in time for the match. Let’s get started!” [Washing up takes place…]. “I made it! It was not that bad after all; actually I even enjoyed it a bit…”

…and that was my first step in the direction of enjoying the previously boring activity of washing up. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was on my way to experience Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.

You have probably tried a state of total absorption: your sense of self is temporarily suspended, all of the usual worries disappear, and your concentration goes fully to the task at hand.

Is Flow only possible in activities usually regarded as pleasant? No, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi has abundantly documented that Flow is reported in a wide variety of situations: you can learn to enjoy an activity which you currently experience as boring.

Flow enhancing techniques:
1- Clarify goals and ways to get feedback.
In order to experience Flow you need to know what your goal is and if you are getting closer to it or not. In the washing up example, my goal was to finish the activity faster. It was easy to get feedback, just by looking at the clock I knew if I was performing as I wanted or not.

2- Remove distractions
Sometimes to make a boring activity more bearable we add pleasant distractions, for example listening to loud music whilst doing the washing up. Flow needs concentration, so remove all of the distractions.

3- Select an appropriate level of challenge for you skill.
If I had wanted to complete the washing up in one-third of the usual time, I would have probably experienced stress and failure. I almost got Flow instead, because the challenge was both realistic and appropriate to my level of skill. Engagement is found between the boredom of an easy task and the anxiety of an impossible one.

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Interesting: next time I do the washing up, I will concentrate on using less water!

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