FINDING YOUR FLOW TOOLKIT
SETTING AND ORGANIZING THE STAGE
In last few week's of the Finding Your Flow Toolkit we spoke of the importance of your Extended Environment (EE)—or your forest. And your Immediate Environment (IE)—or your trees. Becoming aware of how these environments serve you (or hinder you) is an important step to finding your flow.
After some personal reflection I’m hopeful that your current city, town, organization, university, or neighborhood provides you with the environment you need to be at your best. If this is not the case, it will interfere with your focus and your ability to be fully engaged.
This rings true with your immediate physical environments: your office, your home, any arena where you spend the bulk of your time—especially the arenas where you need to fully engage.
If your big and small environments are set for a time, the question now is: what can you do within your immediate environments to make them more conducive to flow—to support your best work? Recognizing that you cannot change everything about an environment, what are some of the things you can change?
I once interviewed a very successful attorney who specialized in divorce mediation. I asked her what made her practice so successful. She said: my environment. Turns out she did all of her mediation in her own living room—not a stuffy and sterile office. She reminded me that the environment in such cases is everything. She explained how she would arrange the furniture to make the place more conducive to positive communication. In addition she softened the colors in this room to make them more relaxed. Other factors she modified were the lighting and the heat. Interesting.
With the right elements present, she was able to focus her clients and help them find their common ground within a truly comfortable and conducive environment—making the process more positive for both parties.
The best example if setting and organizing the stage to the extreme is the surgical theater. In this environment EVERYTHING is organized to maximize focus. Surgical staff members, machines, and tools are placed in exactly the order needed given the demands and contingencies of every surgical procedure. Lighting, temperature, and all other sterility factors have been addressed to focus everyone's attention on a very small space that is the focal point at any one time. When you think of your performance environments, how does your preparation compare?
Through further research, I came to understand the value of inserting aesthetic elements such as artwork, plants, music, inspirational messages, and others that help support a focused environment.
Consider the opposite environment for a moment. Have you ever been in a dingy, poorly lit, hot or cold, unappealing physical space? Do you remember what you thought and how you felt? Were any of your senses, thoughts or feelings inviting the best in you to emerge. Did you find flow there?
With the right elements present, consider taking a closer look at how they are organized:
Organizing the Stage
Once the elements are present, order and placement should enter your awareness.
If we are speaking about an office space:
- Is your desk or workstation in an optimal place?
- Are the tools you need to do your work in proximity to your work?
- Are your reference and storage spaces clearly planned out and labeled?
- Do you have other furniture items (pictures, decorations, plants...) placed where they produce the right look and feel?
- Does your immediate environment provide a sense of order, peace and with limited distractions?
Remember the story about the man who boasted to the local vicar after transforming his property from a jungle to a beautiful garden? “Don’t forget,” admonished the cleric, “God had some part to play in the process.” “Well,” said the man, “you should have seen it when God had it all to himself.” A nice way to remind ourselves that wherever the building blocks of life come from, how we use and arrange them is up to each of us. To find flow it is important that you tend to your garden.
Have you ever had neighbor who treated the backyard as a junkyard? Ever been in a formal Japanese garden? Enough said.
This does not mean that you cannot find flow in a chaotic environment. Some people thrive in chaos—but clutter, junk, and poor design are not usually the staples of the peak performer.
Consider for a moment your most important environments. Are they serving you? Are they distracting you? Is there anything that you can do to set and organize this stage more adequately? If you could do anything to make this environment or place more conductive deeper levels of focus and engagement, what might you do?
Consider a few simple questions in this week’s exercises and make those minor adjustments. Notice the difference you can make with just a few simple changes.
EXERCISE AND PRACTICE:
- Review the questions in: Setting and Organizing Your Stage exercise sheet
- Consider the small things you can add to or take away from your environment.
- With the right elements present look for small ways to make adjustments. This could be as radical as re-arranging the furniture and as small as lining up your books. With each small change, notice its impact on you. Keep adjusting until you've got it just right.