November 6, 2012

GSD: Achieving Flow

Lately, one of my favorite acronyms has become GSD, or “Get ‘Stuff’ Done.” Throughout the day, I go through bursts of superproductivity where everything is going my way and I am just knocking off to do list tasks left and right. Those times, I proudly announce that I am in “GSD mode.”

Yesterday, unfortunately, was not one of those days. Last week I worked from home due to Hurricane Sandy – and while email is great, a lot of stuff at my job gets accomplished during meetings. People really like to discuss things in person here in order to reach consensus, and since I was the only person who was affected by Sandy and not at the office, a lot of things went on without me. As a result, I spent a lot of yesterday just trying to mentally process all the new developments – and not really GSDing.

Today, in contrast, I am on fire. I got all my ducks in a row yesterday, so now I’m able to knock them out pretty quickly. It feels great! And of course, my mood is further boosted by getting back to Flywheel Dallas this morning – where I not only made it through a class that I thought I was too tired to complete, but also finished the mid-class “race” in first place on the Torqboard. Woo hoo!

All this was kind of in the back of my mind when I came across Eric Barker’s article on The Secret to Enjoying Your Work. In it, he examines Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s famous concept of flow, which I first learned about when I read Daniel Pink’s excellent book Drive two years ago. In short, flow is when you are fully focused and immersed in what you’re doing, and experience an inner peace/happiness as a result. When I am in GSD mode, either at work or at home, I definitely feel like I am experiencing flow; however, I didn’t know exactly why.

Since consultants love nerdy 2x2s and other quantifying pictures, I was thrilled to see Barker’s graphic that defined flow by two dimensions: skill level and challenge level. When you are not good at what you do but your task is pretty easy, you experience apathy. When you suck at a task and it’s also very hard, you experience anxiety. When you rock at your job but you’re given easy tasks, you experience boredom. And when you rock at your job and are continually challenged, you experience flow.

There have definitely been times in my job when I’ve experienced apathy, boredom, and even (yikes) anxiety. But after reading Barker’s article, I realize that there are a lot of times in my current role where I am experiencing flow – and I love it. My current role involves a lot of organization and project management, which are my strengths, but it’s also giving me a huge level of responsibility that makes me feel challenged.

When I think about things in my personal life that I really enjoy, they’re similarly things that help me to achieve flow. I love that when I run a marathon, it’s something that I now do fairly well – but each race has its challenges, and there is always a faster time goal to strive to achieve. On the other hand, I really like that when I go to Flywheel, I kind of suck at it (low skill level) but I feel extremely challenged and I know that I’ll get better soon. So while I might be in the top left quadrant now, I can definitely see myself moving up to flow someday, and that helps me stick with it.

What activities help you flow?


2 thoughts on “GSD: Achieving Flow”

  1. The Barker’s graphic is so interesting… I’ve never heard of that 2×2 representation of job satisfaction before. Is there a third dimension on some of these graphics to take into account whether or not you like what you do? I’m so glad you’re finding the flow! It seems like that’s a tough thing for a lot of people to do nowadays.

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