Attaining Flow via Systems & Platforms

We complain how little time we have.  Or we complain about how long we have to wait.  Either time is too short or too long.

We lose track of time when we’re engrossed in a task.  But we use a lot of it when we distract ourselves from our jobs. 

Time is an intangible resource that we spend even if we don’t use it.  Once it’s passed, it’s gone.  We cannot get back what time we lost.

We put a lot of effort into extending our lifetimes.  We spend much time today to improve our health and earn money which we aim to use in the future. 

At the same time, we expend a lot of time today doing things that we know are not important or not urgent.  We play games, watch videos, and browse through social media for hours on our personal devices.  We eat out, go to bars or clubs, or just sit and chat with acquaintances over a few beers. 

And then we end up complaining that we don’t have enough time to finish the things we want done by deadlines we personally had set.

In the 1980’s, we marvelled how fast we can send a document from one place to the next via overnight courier.  In the 2020’s, we’d complain if our smartphone doesn’t send a scanned document in a few seconds. 

We have built machines to be faster, but we remain impatient with the platforms and systems where these machines are working in. 

If we aim to be more productive with our time, we need to do two things:

  1. Attain a state of “flow;”
  2. Build systems & platforms that would support “flow.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Me-High-Chick-Sent-Me-High) wrote the book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, which described a “state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation.”  It is a state where we are so engrossed in a task or job that we lose track of time. 

In an interview with Wired magazine, Csíkszentmihályi described flow 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’re using your skills to the utmost.

When we are in flow, we are at our most productive state.  We are focused to finish or achieve a goal and we are using just about 100% of our faculties to get it done.  Time may seem to fly but it’s time worth used, just as long as we are sure of our goal, and we end with a sense of worthy accomplishment. (Two of the most upsetting and frustrating outcomes from a flow state are [1] we realise we’ve been working on the wrong goal [2] we lose our work due to unforeseen circumstances such as a crashing computer or a dog eating our homework). 

Flow happens when we not only have the prepared state of mind but also have the right setting, tools, materials, and data available.  It happens not only when we are psyched but also when we have supportive platforms and systems.

We can’t be at the best state of flow if we are mentally ready but will only have a few minutes of privacy.  We can’t have flow if we plan to do a research paper but don’t have the resources to access data.  We can’t work to sculpt a masterpiece if we don’t have the tools and the plaster.

In the enterprises we manage, systems and platforms are very important in the attainment of flow and achievement of goals.

Car companies in North America are investing heavily in setting up charging stations along highways and roads in the United States to support the growth of electric cars and trucks.  Electric vehicle sales remain almost non-existent in Asia as corporations and nations fall behind in building a similar network.

Supply chains have become a global issue as industries and governments realised that seaports, airports, and railways have not kept up with high-capacity, deeper-draft shipping vessels, more airplanes of varying sizes, and changing train transport models (e.g. high-speed trains, railroad safety, labour standards).

Even the custodians of information technologies have found themselves at a loss as their platforms & systems are not equipped with safeguards against disinformation and cyber-crime. 

We should aim to have flow in what we do and what we work on.  Getting to flow is not only attaining a state of mind but also having the support of systems & platforms to help us get there. 

In a world where we work hardly as individuals but greatly as connected communities, systems & platforms have come to matter a lot in ensuring our productivity.      

About Ellery’s Essays

Published by Ellery

Since I started blogging in 2019, I've written personal insights about supply chains, operations management, & industrial engineering. I have also delved in topics that cover how we deal with people, property, and service providers. My mission is to boost productivity via offering solutions and ideas. If you like what I write or disagree with what I say, feel free to like, dislike, comment, or if you have a lengthy discourse, email me at ; I'm also on LinkedIn:

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