A few good links and snippets on Flow -- a topic that's come a couple times before here and on the group, but which seems more germane than ever given a lot of what [the royal] we have been talking about lately. More deets on buying the book at the end, although there seem to be plenty of chewy resources on the web if you just want an introduction.
"Flow" is a mental state of deep concentration. It typically takes about 15 minutes of uninterrupted study to get into a state of "flow", and the constant interruptions and distractions of a typical office environment will force you out of "flow" and make productivity impossible to achieve.
As Csikszentmihalyi sees it, there are components of an experience of flow that can be specifically enumerated; he presents eight:
- Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernable).
- Concentrating and focusing, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
- A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
- Distorted sense of time - our subjective experience of time is altered.
- Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
- Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is not too easy or too difficult).
- A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
- The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.
Not all of these components are needed for flow to be experienced.
From The Man Who Found the Flow:
Of the eight elements, one in particular emerged as the most telling aspect of optimal experience: the merging of action and awareness. In Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence sounded a similar theme, when he wrote that "happiness is absorption." As the thirteen-century Zen master Dogen pointed out, in those moments when the world is experienced with the whole of one's body and mind, the senses are joined, the self is opened, and life discloses an intrinsic richness and joy in being. For Csikszentmihalyi, this complex harmony of a unified consciousness is the mode of being toward which our own deepest inclination always points us.
From Interfaces for Staying in the Flow:
In summary, interfaces that are targeted at improving user's ability to stay in the flow shouldn't underestimate the importance of speed in supporting creativity, quality, and enjoyment. Every time there is an interruption, literal or conceptual that gets in the way of users concentrating on their tasks, flow is lost. Slow interfaces, which I define as any that get in the way of users acting on their work as quickly as they can think about it, are problematic.
Online places to pick up a copy of Csikszentmihalyi's book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience: