Why is Flow important for us, our 3-6 year olds and our teams at work?

Last week I did a talk on the concept of Flow. Here’s what I talked about, Part 1

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In positive psychology, flow is the mental state in which a person is fully immersed and enjoying the activity in a feeling of energised focus. 

I’m writing this with two hats on, one as a coach & ExecEd Programme Director in Leadership & Strategy. The other, as a parent of a child who attends a Montessori school. I’ve liked the Montessori approach so much that I recently attended course on how to extend Montessori approaches into the home. It is amazing how much discussion this has generated with my other parent friends!

For me these two hats are extremely linked. Research shows that the more unstructured time 3-6 year olds have, the better their executive function. It is important for children to have that experience of losing themselves in activity and mastering the challenge at hand - i.e. to be in Flow.

And as adults, those of you with kids in a Montessori school are probably aware of the way you walk in on a Monday morning and the kids are all happily - and so quietly! -  absorbed in their own activities. Yesterday I asked my daughter what her favourite part of the day was at school. She said, ‘work time’. What a nice answer from a 3 year old! Work time is when they sit quietly, undisturbed working at an activity of their choice like sewing, painting, or building. They are encouraged not to disturb each other as their concentration is seen as precious. Seeing 3-year-olds so naturally comfortable in a state of Flow, shows that this is an intrinsic state in us, we just need to access it.

So why bother? In an era where mental health is increasingly on the agenda, words like ‘stressed’ and ‘overwhelmed’ are frequently used and digital distraction depletes concentration, flow is the perfect antidote and something we can choose to do every day. Instead of worrying that we are on our devices too much, we can engage in work or play in a more focused, relaxed and happy way. Flow at home also creates ‘active rest’ so it will help you fully switch off from work and return refreshed and energised. 

And as business people, motivating others and leading teams, imagine how much more focused and energised and effective your teams could be if you can find ways to protect flow at work. You’ve probably heard the research about it taking 23 minutes to resume concentration at work after being interrupted. Not only this, but regular interruptions prevent workers from ever accessing the ‘deep thinking’ work in the first place - this affects innovation, depth and quality of work too.

There are so many different ways to access Flow. In Part 2, I will talk through how to chose activities, and how to make many of your normal activities flow activities.

Maya Gudka, Executive Coach, London Business School

Executive Coach & Facilitator; Positive Psychology Practitioner & Researcher; , YourPlate; London Business School

I use evidence-based Positive Psychology approaches, as well as years of Economics Consulting experience to access the right level of breadth and depth for each client on their personal and professional journey. I am one half of YourPlate, which uses strengths and personality based approaches to make lasting shifts in Nutrition and Health behaviours, with a fortnightly podcast where Nutrition meets Positive Psychology. I coach and facilitate on Leadership Programmes for London Business School Executives and am currently researching Leader Development.