How smoothly we work and how productive we are depends on several things, such as how well we prioritise our tasks, what environment we're in, how much pressure or accountability we feel regarding our to-do list, to name a few.
But most of all, I find that the way we FEEL, our internal state, is super important if we want to be productive, and feel good, as we work.
I'm a big proponent of balance in life, so just pushing on and being productive whilst exhausting ourselves in the process doesn't work for me. It's not sustainable. I want to feel good as I work, and I know that way I'll also produce the best quality work and be most productive.
That's why I focus on one key thing in this post - how to bring yourself into the right state, mentally and emotionally.
Your state is what you feel internally. It consists of your state of mind, such as the flow or absence of thought, mental pictures, and the feelings and sensations in your body.
The state to be in, needs to be appropriate for the task you're doing, and for most of us when working this will be states like focused, creative, calm, in flow.
It is very important to be in the right state, because our actions and behaviour are influenced by the state we're in.
If you're feeling CONFIDENT you'll behave differently than if you're anxious, and when you're FOCUSED you'll act differently than when your mind feels scattered.
We switch between different states unconsciously throughout the day.
For example, if you look at a picture of someone you love you'll feel warm and fuzzy inside, whereas you may feel very differently when you open your bills or your bank statement.
Similarly, if you're feeling distracted and restless, you will less likely produce very compelling work, and more likely stray from your task. Or if you're too anxious about a deadline, your creative flow may feel blocked, you'll be blanking for words, your head filled with projections of what might happen if you mess up, and your creative mind instead of supplying you with a fresh flow of ideas and solutions, could respond by freezing up (deer-in-headlights situation).
These are all internal states, and what's exciting here is that we have more influence over them than we often realise.
You've probably experienced those blissful moments, when you're fully present and enjoying the task, you feel on fire, the words keep flowing (if you're engaged in any kind of writing) and the progress is mounting. You feel good, in flow and truly productive, and at the end of a working session you have results to show for it.
Who doesn't want more of that! It's the productive's holy grail.
But as you may also have noticed, sometimes it isn't that easy to get into that state. Or when you're in a state like that, and you interrupt it, by taking a break, or being interrupted/called away by somebody, it can take a while before you're fully back in that productive flow again.
Unless.... you know how to bring up the desired state at will.
So how does this work? By managing your state with anchoring, a core NLP technique.
To anchor a state means to connect a specific internal state to a trigger (or anchor) of your choice. Then once you've anchored the state to that trigger, you can fire off the anchor and bring up the desired state at will.
For example, if you want to have a state of calm, or confidence, or any other positive state available to you for specific occasions, you can anchor those and then bring them up when you feel you need them (that's one of the things I do with my clients). So you can feel confident/calm/focused/etc right before you need to give that presentation, or have a client call, or do well in a job interview.
Anchor can be a physical gesture or a point you trigger on your body, a picture you imagine in your mind, or something you hear, externally or internally. Anything that brings up the specific state for you consistently.
So let's say you want to feel that focused, productive, creative state that you're in when working in flow. That would be your desired state.
To anchor it, you need to feel it intensely for a short while and be conscious of it, so you imprint it into your mind and body. This is best done when you are already in the state. Otherwise you need to bring yourself into the state by remembering a time when you last felt that way, and make it alive as if it was happening in that moment.
Points to follow when anchoring a state:
1. Feel yourself in your desired state - notice how you are feeling in your body, what pictures are formed in your head in that moment, what are you hearing or saying to yourself.
2. Intensify that feeling and internal pictures/sounds, let them infuse your whole being, let the feeling get really intense.
3. And then give your mind a mental command that every time you'll be in that position ready to work, you will be back in that state. You can say this in the 1st person, in your mind, like this: "Every time I'm here ready to work I will be back in this state".
You can also choose a word or two that correspond to that state for you, for example "calm focus" or "creative flow" and then give yourself a mental command to be back in "calm focus"/"creative flow" whenever you're there ready to work.
4. Optional but useful, choose a point on your body (knuckles are good for this) and press it firmly for 3-4 seconds while you're at the peak intensity of your desired state. This is at the same time you're giving yourself the mental command. (Because you're linking the state to touching a physical part of your body, this is called a kinaesthetic anchor.)
Then let go, and come back to your normal awareness.
[Note: I find that when anchoring a complex state right when you are in it, it's better to use just the feeling of that state and the mental command. If you're bringing yourself into a desired state from your memory though, then a word/phrase is useful.]
The anchor has now been created.
You then need to go away from the task and the space for a few moments and then come back and practise bringing yourself back to the state again.
How to do this:
Think of the mental command you gave yourself before (optionally, also press the physical anchor on your body, e.g. a knuckle) and feel that state come up in your body and mind - feel how it felt, allow any words, sounds, and mental pictures that came up before come up again and land you in that desired state.
The more you practise firing off your anchor (which means bringing yourself into the state you anchored for yourself), the stronger the connection between anchor and state gets, and the quicker and stronger it will work.
Et voila! That's one of the ways you can help yourself be more productive, and not waste too much time getting into a good state to do your best work.
I hope this helps you be more focused, creative and in flow when you need it most.