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  • Writer's pictureChuck Cusumano

A Productivity Hack to Enter a Flow State

By Jillian Broaddus and Chuck Cusumano

It’s Monday morning – or, if you’re reading this blog a bit later, maybe it’s Wednesday afternoon or the weekend! No matter what time it is, the fact that you’re reading our blog probably means one of a few things: you’re procrastiworking, and/or you’re taking a break from other tasks on your to-do list, and/or you’re looking for some inspiration before returning to your work.

Well, you’re in luck! This week’s blog is aimed to help you overcome the sluggishness we’re all routinely plagued with when we begin our work week, work day, or even a simple work task. The same sentiment is true for undertakings outside of work, too: runners know the first mile typically feels like the toughest, writers know putting pen to paper is often the hardest step in the writing process, and employees know the drag of a Monday morning that can’t be overcome with even a second – or third, or fourth – cup of coffee.

Are sluggish Mondays just an inevitability we must accept? The expected uphill we must start our weeks with? The price to pay before productivity can take over?

We think not – and scientists agree. In fact, one simple psychological trick could be the ultimate answer to your slothful woes. It could be the key to unlock unforeseen potential. It could unleash your greatest levels of effectiveness and be the answer to the book you haven’t yet written, the race you haven’t yet run, and the goal you haven’t yet accomplished. And the answer may seem counterintuitive to all of your natural tendencies…

Listen up: stop before you’re finished.

Adam Grant – organizational psychologist, Wharton professor, and author of Give and Take – describes it as “parking on a downhill slope.” It’s also often called the “Hemingway Trick,” since Ernest Hemingway once said, “When you are going good, stop writing[CC1] .”

As an article on the topic in Fast Company describes, “Not only does finishing halfway through a task give us momentum, it has the added benefit of keeping the information in our brain… Our brain is primed to easily pick up where it left off.” This is due to an effect named after psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, who noted our natural tendency to remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed ones.

Whether this means finishing a writing task mid-paragraph as opposed to leaving a blank page to greet you the following day or shutting down your computer in the middle of a project rather than an acceptable “stopping point,” you might just find yourself more easily “in the groove” as soon as you pick back up.

We know it can be hard to stop once our flywheels are turning with momentum. And, ultimately, we all know the almost indescribable feeling of this “groove.” It’s the feeling where ideas seem to flow naturally, progress seems to come almost effortlessly, and time seems to fly. It’s what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi popularized by calling “flow” in his research to determine “what made life worth living.” But, as hard as it may seem to stop a flow, we think it could be the answer as to how can you more easily catapult yourself into a flow state – especially when feeling bogged down and uninspired.

By stopping yourself at a strategic point, you can give your future self a boost and essentially springboard yourself into the flow state!

That’s it! It’s as simple as… stopping!

Give the Hemingway Trick / Zeigarnik Effect a shot and let us know how it works at!

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