In an entry in our own blog last month, Fiona talked about how the variety of projects she's working on contributed to flow. Krista, in her recent blog entry, spoke of the joys and challenges of working on virtual teams. As I reflect on my own work, the time races by when I'm teaching in a classroom, but minutes seem like hours when I'm grading a mountain of papers according to detailed criteria. As a consultant and manager, I love seeing "aha" moments; I hate wasting time.
Csikszentmihaly found that flow occurs more often at work than in any other life roles. He observed that balancing the degree of challenge to the level of one's skills contributes to flow (i.e., if you take on too much of a challenge for your current skill level, you'll likely be worried or anxious; however, too little challenge may result in boredom instead of flow).
I believe that it's not just about skills; rather the resources available to you (i.e., your overall capacity to get the task done) make a difference as well. Sometimes a job can be highly enjoyable until a co-worker calls in sick, leaving you with double the work with the same amount of resources. Your skills haven't changed, but it may no longer be a flow experience if you were already challenged by the work to be done. On the other hand, a job could be boring until an emergency arises - the unexpected challenge bumps you back into flow.
As you reflect on your own career, when do you find yourself in flow?
- What types of activities, under which specific circumstances, do you find particularly engaging?
- How can you create more of them at work?
- How can you adjust the activities that drag you down so that they'll be more meaningful? Less tedious?
- Why are you doing what you do?
- What difference does it make?
- Who needs the product or service you provide?
- Is the demand growing or declining?
- What other meaningful projects can you contribute to?