How To Find Your Peak Writing State In 3 Simple Steps
Do you struggle to come up with “words” when you sit down to write?
Sadly, this is something that happens to most authors. We schedule a session, get our butt in the chair, but then end up feeling frustrated because we can’t think of what to write.
Fortunately, there is a quick fix to this.
All you have to is identify your perfect flow state and make sure you’re writing during this optimal time.
In this article, I will go over three simple steps you can use to find this peak writing time.
Flow State: A Definition
You’ve probably had those moments where you feel in the zone. This could be while writing, exercising, or working on a fun project. These are the times when you experience a period of intense motivation and time flies by. This is commonly known as flow state.
Flow state was first popularized by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, who wrote extensively about it in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Csíkszentmihályi makes the point that flow is a state that melds creativity with happiness and occurs when you become deeply immersed in any creative process. This state not only blocks out negative feelings and self-doubt, it also creates a feeling of contentment that lasts after the state ends.
Flow state commonly occurs when you:
- Become 100 percent focused on a task.
- Lose track of what is going on around you. It’s difficult to become distracted by the outside world.
- Know exactly what needs to be accomplished and how to do it.
- Lose some of your sense of self and become “one” with the process you are working on.
- Eliminate worries and doubts about your abilities; you forget about your self-limiting beliefs.
- Feel increased happiness and contentment from completing the thing you love.
Put simply, flow state is a magical moment when you experience peak performance and nothing stops you from doing great things.
The downside is that flow state can’t be switched on like a light. Some days flow won’t come—no matter how hard you try. While you cannot force a state of flow, you can open yourself up to this state of heightened creativity and focus.
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Using the lessons learned from Csíkszentmihályi’s book, I recommend a simple three-step process that will increase the likelihood of achieving peak performance on a consistent basis:
Step 1: Work on Fun Writing Projects
First, the bulk of your writing should focus on genres or niches that you enjoy. Sure, there will be times when you write to pay the bills, but spend most of your days on exciting projects.
To illustrate this point, let me talk about a principle that I teach to students in my Authority Pub Academy. I call it the 3Ps:
- Passion—A personal interest, one that you would enjoy talking about even if you weren’t writing about it.
- Personal Experience—You have some level of expertise or at least an ability to interview knowledgeable experts and share their experiences.
- Profitability—Something that sells well on eBook platforms like iTunes, Amazon, and Kobo.
I recommend that you write about topics where you have passion and personal experience (if you’re writing nonfiction). Profitability is important, but it should be the final consideration after picking a topic that strongly connects to an interest.
With passion, it’s easier to come up with good ideas and maintain that long-term interest in this market. Also your subconscious mind will come up with references and anecdotes that will make their way into the copy.
Step 2: Create the perfect flow-state environment
I already covered this in the previous section, but the best way to achieve flow state is remove distractions from your environment. So do these things:
- Never multitask. Unless you’re listening to soothing background music, distractions only lead to a cluttered, stressed-out mindset. (According to a recent study out of Stanford, people who multitask are less productive than individuals who focus on one task at a time.)
- Avoid distractions. Shut the door to prevent people from interrupting you. Turn off email and any app notifications. Every distraction could prevent a state of flow. So be mindful about these interruptions and look for ways to prevent them from happening.
- Focus on the moment. Your attention should be on the current project and nothing else. Try to empty your mind of thoughts like bills, other projects, or what you saw on television last night. Just think about what you are working on currently.
I’ve already talked about preventing distractions in this chapter, so I won’t list the steps again. The important thing to remember is that your flow state is a fragile thing, so do everything you can to make sure you won’t get interrupted.
Step 3: Write in time blocks
Good writers use time to their advantage by knowing how to ignore distractions while they’re on the clock. If you’re someone who has trouble focusing, then try condensing your writing into short sprints and track them with a timer. A system for doing this is called the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique is a popular time blocking system created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo that has been embraced by entrepreneurs and work efficiency experts.
Cirillo recognized that humans can focus only for a limited amount of time before becoming distracted. He found that it’s better to create a system where people focus for a condensed period of time and then proactively take a rest break before beginning the next sprint.
Cirillo named his technique after a popular kitchen timer that looks like a tomato (hence the name pomodoro, which is Italian for tomato). The timer was used like any old kitchen timer, but Cirillo experimented with time blocking until he discovered the most effective usage of time blocks (for efficiency in work production).
When using the technique, you
- Choose a task (e.g., writing).
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Work for 25 minutes without succumbing to any
- Take a five-minute break by getting up and walking around.
- Go back to work for another 25 minutes.
- After every four time blocks take a 15–30 minute break.
So to put it all together, if you set aside 120 minutes for writing with the Pomorodo Technique every day, you would write for a total of 100 minutes, with three, five-minute breaks between the sessions.
You might assume that this technique is not as effective as writing without breaks. But think back to those times when you tried to do a task for an extended period of time. In all likelihood, you were energized at first, and then you reached a point when your concentration dropped off, and finally you felt the urge to do anything besides writing.
The Pomodoro Technique prevents these distractions because it keeps your mind fresh and focused. With the scheduled rest breaks, you have an opportunity to take a few minutes off to relax. So even though you’re writing for less time, the quality of the content will be better than what’s normally created at the tail end of a marathon writing session.
If you’re interested in the Pomodoro Technique, you might want to download one of the following programs to start tracking your words.
- Team Viz (a program that syncs between your computer and mobile phone.)
- Rapid Rabbit (iPhone and iPad apps)
- Flowkeeper (PC users)
- Pomodoro (Mac users)
- Pomodoro (Android users)
When it comes to time blocking, the amount of time you choose really depends on your personal preference.
I like the Pomodoro Technique because it has a nice symmetry. The 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off is 30 minutes. Four of these fit into two hours, which I consider to be a good day of writing.
Some people prefer short, five- or eight-minute sprints, while others like to write for a solid hour without a break. My advice is to play around with different amounts until you find a routine where you frequently write in an energized, flow state without feeling distracted.
When is YOUR Peak Writing State?
Well, those are three steps you can use to discover your optimal writing moments. So to recap, you should:
- Work on fun writing projects
- Create the perfect flow-state environment
- Write in time blocks
Do these steps every day and it won’t be hard to craft quality content on a consistent basis.
So as we close things out, what do YOU do find your perfect writing flow state?
In the comments section below, let us know what works for you.