Using the Flow State to Help You Work Less and Sleep More [Infograph]

I’m at the halfway point of this 10 Day Blog challenge, and frankly, I’m wiped. I thought I could write and publish yesterday’s post during my second creative wind after dinner. It usually comes around 7 or 8 pm.

Well, it didn’t arrive until 11 pm.  And I’d been trying to write since 8:30 pm.

When I finished my post, I was wide awake afterwards and didn’t fall asleep until around 3:30 am. I lost almost 5 hours on something that should have taken at least half that amount.

I’m not a fan of making the same mistake twice. So, starting today, I’m changing things up. Obviously, writing and publishing a blog post in one pass will not work for me. At least not until I learn to write and publish faster.

So, I am merging two approaches: 1) The Pomodoro technique, and 2) Energy management centered around my psychological “flow state.”

The Pomodoro Technique

The technique: work for 25-minutes, then take a 5-minute break.

Simply put, the short work segments minimize the excuse to procrastinate, and the breaks (which should involve a physical activity) gives your brain a break.

I hope this helps me take more breaks. Sometimes when I’m in the zone I forget about time. It’s not until my neck or back hurts that I realize I need to move.  Like waiting until I’m thirsty to drink water, that’s far too late.

Energy Management

We each have a “creative tank” that is depleted throughout the day. It’s refilled in bits by certain activities while we”re awake, but for the most part, the major refill happens while we sleep.

We’re all wired differently, so the rate at which the tank empties is dependent upon the person and the specific activity.

I’ve noticed the following states throughout the day:

Morning Flow State

My Best Time for Creativity or Intense Focus 

Over time, I’ve learned to schedule creative or intensive work first thing in the morning when my tank is full. There’s an efficiency to this, because I can easily slip into flow and, in a very relaxed and focused state, produce my best work in the least amount of time.

To really leverage this period, I’ve found that when I keep my focus on the upcoming activity, without allowing email or social networking to distract me, I produce my best work in record time.

When I worked in an office, I rarely had the opportunity to use this peak time to my advantage. Mornings were taken up by meetings, conference calls, and crisis emails. By the time I could work on creative or intensive projects, it was midday and I was suffering from decision fatigue. Thus, work took twice as long and likely, was of a lessor quality had I leveraged the morning flow.

Now that I can set my own schedule, I know that the creative or important work (including making tough decisions) needs to happen early in the day.


Midday Mindlessness

Time to Shake Things Up and Have Fun

My creative energy begins to subside towards the middle of the day. When possible, I shift gears and work on projects that don’t require lots of decisions or creativity (e.g., accounting). Or, I’ll have a refreshing snack and then have a meeting with a client. Either way, I know it’s time to do something different.

I’ve found that trying to do anything creative during this time is equivalent to pushing a dead horse up a hill. Ideally, I’ll get some fresh air and exercise rather than stay in my chair and surf the internet.

Studies have shown that getting away from technology and doing something physical  is the best way to recharge our brains each day. Sorry, Facebook.


A Second Wind Before Winding Down

At day’s end, after dinner and chores, I have an open slot that can be used for anything. Sometimes meetings with folks overseas, sometimes being a soccer mom.  I notice that if I get a creative second wind, I need to keep it short in order to get to bed at a reasonable time.

And, at the close of each day, I wind down with my gratitude journal and light reading.


Infographic: Leveraging the Flow State

Below is a diagram of how I’ll schedule my actions to optimize my creative phases. By combining the Pomodoro technique and energy management, I hope to fall into a regular groove that helps me easily integrate blogging with my regular activities, and sleep more.

Note: I’m a night owl, and more inclined to exercise midday or in the evenings. Question for you morning types: do your flow states occur at different times?






This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 5



Categories: Success


  • Karen says:

    Awesome article Ruth! I can echo the sentiment on keeping up and creative juices at night! I gave up writing my version of this challenge at about 8pm, knowing it wasn’t going to happen. No ideas on how to integrate the ideas into my blog theme…come 3:00am, mind you, my brain was hopping with ideas. So, lack of sleep on the other side, haha! But got it done this morning! Next…

  • Ruth says:

    Congrats on getting your post done, Karen. Yes, sometimes it’s only after we give up that the ideas start to flow. Somehow, giving up easily seems to be a challenge in and of itself 😉

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