What happens if you track flow states?
Business, teamwork

What happens if you track flow states?

When Poe and I started OHNO last year, we wanted one of our values to be around focus. This has been really important to Poe and I for the last ten years, so we wanted to formalise it into the culture.

We both hated wasting time in meetings and liked to be as productive as possible, so we could spend the remaining parts of our day enjoying life more broadly.

When we talk about focus, what we’re really trying to manufacture at OHNO is an environment where we can spend the bulk of our working day in what is known as a flow state.

Flow states are a term in positive psychology, and refers to the emotional state of being in ‘the zone’.

The concept was coined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975 but the understanding that this type of mental state is valuable, has been around for thousands of years, dating back to buddhist texts.

The reason flow states are important is because they make people incredibly productive. In a world that is more distracting than ever, being able to zone out and do long stretches of deep work, are more important than ever. The more flow states you have, the better you off your business will be.

There is also a huge correlation between the volume of deep work an individual experiences in the day, and how engaged they are at the workplace. So why is it then that companies don’t think to track these flow states, with the goal of creating more of them?

Here at OHNO, we’ve tried to remove as many distractions as possible to create more opportunities for flow states. We have as much quiet time as we can create during the day, booking out sections of our calendar for a period of work known as Deep work.

We avoid messaging people endlessly, but even if we did, we try and talk about ways of switching off notifications and other distracting things that would pull us out of the flow state, and we’ve resorted to trying to use the phone, instead of messaging, for when things need an immediate answer.

So it was interesting to see a concept recently where a company was trying to re-think the way timesheets were done.

Timesheets are fairly old fashioned, and their presence is usually an indication management is looking to measure outputs (doing anything) rather than outcomes (doing the things that matter).

This thought experiment proposed that timesheets exist to ensure people are working productively. But they don’t really do that. We’ve all been into the office one day, where we sit at a desk, maybe for 7 hours, and get nothing done. So recording that I worked for 7 hours doesn’t really measure productivity, it just measures attendance.

So the idea was to instead, start asking people how many hours each day they spent in a flow state. You wouldn’t reward or penalise people who spent more time in flow states, it was purely a data capturing exercise. The promise from management was that those who didn’t get time to zone out, would be helped. In practice, it would be difficult to measure accurately, but any attempt might be worthwhile.

By being able to measure which teams are in flow states more often, and for how long, it might help you isolate which teams need some help. Maybe they are placed in an office environment that’s too distracting? Maybe their manager can’t stop bugging them with small questions.

It would be fascinating to measure flow-state time-sheets instead of attendance ones. It wouldn’t be a big effort to try it with a team, (We might do it here soon) and if nothing else, it may remind teams of the importance of trying to get things done distraction free, and circumvent interruptions from others.


Try upgrading your teams culture by using OHNO. It’ll uncover the things slowing you down, and make your teams vastly more awesome. Try it. We wouldn’t lie.

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