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The power of flow: Heightened focus essential for success


IN today’s fast-paced world, busyness has become a status symbol. We often find ourselves juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, constantly striving to do more and be more. But amidst the chaos, have we lost sight of what truly matters? Are we sacrificing our wellbeing and inner peace for the sake of being busy?
I used to be a proud multitasker, believing that it was a sign of efficiency and productivity until I had a big bump in the road which forced me to introspect. I realised that simultaneous, multifaceted doing was no longer a good recipe for success. The constant state of ‘doing’ left me feeling fragmented and overwhelmed. As my roles multiplied and changed, I found myself yearning for a pause, a moment of stillness in the endless mayhem.

Advocate Neeta Joshi

That’s when I went back to basics and to practice meditation, something I had done from a very young age. It allows me to bring myself back to the present moment, cultivate mindfulness and quiet the mind.
The Power of Flow
Then I discovered its close relative, in the power of flow. Flow is a state of complete immersion in an activity, where time seems to stand still, and you are fully present in the moment. It is a state of heightened focus, creativity, and productivity. And it has the potential to transform our lives and lead us to success.
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times … The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile”.
Csíkszentmihályi, author of “In search of happiness”, coined the term “flow” and described it as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you are using your skills to the utmost.”
He articulates years of research confirming that Flow has several benefits. It is associated with increased happiness, higher intrinsic motivation, greater creativity, and better emotional regulation, among other positive effects.
Interruptions are the enemy of flow. We can’t find our way to the level of focus required for flow when we are distracted by the noise in our world. Studies prove we are interrupted as many as 90 times every day, most of which are self-inflicted. We allow our phones, colleagues, schedules, and pets to take us off task.
Multi-tasking leaves us feeling fragmented, disunified and broken into separate parts. Being in the zone or in the flow guards against depression and burn out because it can assist to refocus and remain focused on one issue at a time. This intentional focus and immersion in one uninterrupted activity and specific goal leads to satisfaction, happiness and positive energy.
What about the Switch Cost?
Not convinced? Let’s consider the switch cost. Renowned author and Computer Science Professor Carl Newport’s extensive work on productivity reveals the high cost associated with switching between tasks or distractions. What is clear is that there is a cognitive cost involved in refocusing our attention and getting back into a state of flow. Social media distractions, emails, notifications, and other interruptions hinder productivity and creativity. Rigorously blocking out these disturbances and creating uninterrupted time allows for deep work, sustained focus and productivity.
Achieving Peak Performance

Incorporating flow practices into my daily life has been a game-changer for me. I now wake up at 5 am, not to check emails or dive into work, but to lean on an old friend – meditation. Those 30 minutes of meditation bring me back to the present moment, allowing me to pause, focus, and find inner quiet. It sets the tone for the day and helps me approach my tasks with clarity and intention.
Flow and meditation are closely intertwined, as both practices involve being fully present in the moment and experiencing a state of heightened focus and awareness. While flow is often associated with engaging in activities that bring us joy and challenge our skills, meditation is a practice that cultivates mindfulness and inner stillness.
Exercise has also become a non-negotiable in my daily routine. Whether it’s hitting the gym or going for a walk, exercise boosts my serotonin levels and clears my mind, putting me in a state of flow.

Another activity that puts me in the zone, is cooking. As I prepare meals for my loved ones, I listen to podcasts, recite my mantras, or enjoy my favourite music. It’s a time when I can fully engage my senses and find joy in the process.

More than focusing on a specific activity, flow is also about setting clear goals and receiving immediate feedback, finding structure and direction in what we do, so that progress and rewards are felt, keeping us motivated and on track, and leading to a sense of accomplishment and ultimately reaching peak performance.
In a world that glamourises busyness, it’s important to redefine our relationship with it. There’s no prize for working the most hours or constantly being on the go. Instead, we should strive for excellence, not perfection. We should prioritise our wellbeing and set boundaries to protect our mental and emotional health.

As a lawyer, I am often caught in the trap of constant churn, always striving for perfection, and competing to get it right. But true excellence lies in finding a balance, embracing a growth mindset, and developing our creative problem-solving skills. It’s about being resilient and adaptable in a rapidly changing environment.

Creating opportunities for decompression and fostering a supportive team environment is crucial. As leaders, we have the responsibility to set the pace and create spaces for open and honest communication. We must promote and endorse consideration for others’ time and limit interruptions, as they can disrupt flow and hinder productivity.
Think about it: the legendary basketball player, Michael Jordan seemed to effortlessly execute incredible moves and make clutch shots, he was in a state of flow during his games.
Need more persuasion? Let’s look at Harry Potter’s multi-award-winning author J. K. Rowling, who talks about entering a state of flow while writing the series, where the words seemed to flow through her effortlessly, and she lost track of time.
Surgeon and writer Dr. Atul Gawande, describes being completely absorbed in surgical procedures, with a heightened sense of focus and efficiency explaining that he can achieve optimal performance, deep satisfaction, and a sense of being fully present in the task at hand.
Preparation of top tennis players starts well in advance of stepping onto centre court. They do not unwittingly get into the zone. They prepare their bodies; eating well, strategizing and getting their minds in the right place and the same is true of all professionals.
So, let’s take a moment to pause, to breathe, and to embrace the power of flow. Let’s prioritise our wellbeing and create the space for creativity, productivity, and success to flourish. It’s time to reclaim our lives from the clutches of busyness and find our own path to balance and fulfilment.

By Advocate Neeta Joshi

● Advocate Neeta Joshi is Company Secretary and Legal Counsel for Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe