How To Find The Flow – Habits And Expectations

Habits and flow are fundamental in my life to get anything done.

Whether it’s blogging, photography, reading, exercise, walking, it just works best for me when I have a habit I just do without thinking too much about the when, where and how.

I recall a quote from one of the most powerful men in the world (at the time), who was asked why he always wore the same two suits (or copies of them). He replied that when he had so many important decisions to make each day, any way he can simplify or eliminate other, lesser decisions, like which colour suit to buy and wear, he seizes.

Of course I’m not in such a position of international power, but the point remains that my mind also only has so much processing capacity.

“Cognitive load” is how some express this, the amount of thinking your brain is being asked to carry out at any one moment.

Again, if we can simplify and eliminate certain thinking processes, we can redirect that cognitive energy to other perhaps more worthwhile areas.

With cameras the example is obvious too.

In the past I’ve spend way too much time thinking about which camera to choose and use, instead of the more fundamental decisions of photography, like where to stand and when to release the shutter.

Which ties in with flow.

I find it easier to find a long term, ongoing flow with certain practices if I have them automatically plugged into my day to days.

With blogging, after a period of blogging hand to mouth, scrapping for 30 minutes here and there, I’ve found a more steady rhythm again.

Part of this has been about making a few adjustments so I can have a good chunk of blogging time every Wednesday afternoon while my son is in his trampoline class.

But another part has been about subtly reducing my expectations.

Put simply, I’ve adjusted publishing from every two days, to every three days.

And within just a few weeks I’m back up to having at least four posts queued up ready to publish, rather than often rushing to write a new post the night before.

In fact, strangely, this shift in expectation has meant I probably could still maintain a 48 hour publishing schedule with the amount I’m now writing again. But I don’t plan to change anything as it’s working very well right now.

So what are the secrets to finding the flow?

For me, a regular habit, that is frequent enough to feel like you’re maintaining that flow, but not so often you’re struggling to keep up.

This sweet spot is of course different for different activities and from person to person.

With yoga, spending 25 minutes each morning just works, and has done for a decade in some form or other. But yoga once a week probably wouldn’t work for me, it’s too infrequent to maintain that flow.

Conversely, blogging every day I feel would be too much.

Doing most of it in one session each week, then a couple of other smaller sessions (Saturday mornings, again whilst waiting for a child in class is such an example) is working well.

The key is to start somewhere, start a habit, then see how it goes, adjusting as needed.

As with much of life, it’s a personal experiment to find what works best for each of us.

How about you? What activities do you have as regular habits, ones that help you find and maintain a steady flow? What activities do you feel are too erratic and you’d like to have more of a structured habit with?

As always, please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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8 thoughts on “How To Find The Flow – Habits And Expectations”

  1. Nice post Dan. I don’t have set times as per say to do something but I do have some little habits like:
    – love photo organising/editing with background music and a coffee
    – blog reading late afternoon or at the weekend
    – blog writing only if I feel I want something shared. Try not to force it

    So some things I guess I do as a habit but I like to switch it up every now and then. Don’t really want to fall into the monotone routine and although it has a lot of positives, I do like spontaneity.

    1. Thanks Yuri. I think with blog writing I got into habits years ago with gathering ideas, so I never feel short of something to write about and develop, and don’t feel I need to force or conjure an idea from nowhere as I always have a draft post to expand.

  2. There’s two parts to this question…
    The first one which is keeping things simple to avoid too much decision making, is easier. In photography I shoot with one system, have no point and shoots anymore, and pretty much know what lens is needed for what job.
    With music, I’m down to only a few instruments – and I don’t have the time to use a lot of what I do have…
    The second part, getting habits for maximum productivity… that is where I have been struggling all my life. I’m a spontaneous creature, when things fall too much into a routine, it seems to sap my enthusiasm.
    Which is probably why I’m not a blogger….
    Having said that – I’m seriously toying with the idea of starting to shoot with film again next year – starting with 24×36 film and if it works out, maybe even get myself into a medium format piece of gear – a Pentax 67 with the 105mm f/2.4 would be ideal…
    I’m finding my photography a bit stale nowadays and I think film might provide me with a much needed kick…

    1. Chris I think we all go with cycles in the things we love, I doubt anyone shoots with the same camera, same lens, same places etc as they did three or five or 10 years ago. We’re always evolving, even if in very subtle ways.

      That said, it is good to set ourselves a project or force ourselves to try a new direction now and then to mix it up!

  3. I’m now doing photography every single day. Some little thing. Every day. it feels great. Everything else is kind of like five little red balls juggling in the air that I don’t know when they come down. oftentimes they hit me in the head. not very balanced at all.

    1. Only five balls? Ha, I know what you mean, sometimes it feels more. I find that certain routines help me feel grounded and sane, like my yoga practice, writing, photography.

  4. In March, I started a habit of photo blogging every day. I made it 189 days before the daily regimen created anxiety, the opposite of what I wanted. Photography is supposed to be my stress reliever.

    1. Yeh this sounds a bit like when I used to take a camera to work, to use on lunchtime walks. But rather than wandering around relaxed, I was constantly watching the time, trying to scrape together enough pictures to make it worthwhile. So I stopped and now only really photograph when I have a decent amount of time and no pressure either to finish quickly, or to make a minimum number of shots.

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