The first 3 months of my work life as an independent consultant have been chaotic, to say the least.
- Random work routine.
- Wearing shorts throughout the day.
- Feeling burned out from working till midnight because I procrastinated during day time.
- Using a laptop in bed.
Initially, I thought I am just experimenting with this lifestyle.
So, I can go easy.
I justified to myself that I deserve to enjoy working like this after slogging for 5 years in a full-time work environment where 10 am morning meetings and evening all-hands served as anchors to start and end the day.
Little did I know then the power of such routines and rituals, even if they were boring.
However, then came the mental sluggishness and lack of interest in the work itself. It was closely followed by a slow, dreadful neck pain and stiff back. Having turned 30 recently, these physical conditions were my first wake-up call to stop taking it easy.
This is when I began to consciously pay attention to certain things.
These have helped me a lot in getting back to a flow state while working. Right now, that is the most important part for me to sustain and survive as a freelancer.
5 things that help me get into the flow state
Getting into the flow state on a regular basis is tricky as a freelancer.
However, doing certain small changes has helped me focus and do the work needed without waiting for the deadline.
1. Dressing up in the morning
I used to do this while working remotely during my full-time job. But it took me more than 2 months to adopt this in my independent lifestyle.
Just putting on the clothes I used to wear at the office, wearing shoes, and getting ready as if going to work helps me get in the right physical and mental zone.
The moment I tie down my shoelaces act as a trigger that it is time to get things done.
2. Writing down the top priorities of the day
Next, before opening my laptop, I write down my top 3 priorities followed by 6 more tasks in my notepad.
I check the entries from the last day and carry forward the things that were pending.
Sometimes when I feel I am overestimating (which happens frequently!), I put down the approximate time I want to spend on each item. Depending on the complexity of the task and energy levels, I also schedule them (timeboxing)- all in the notepad.
No fancy scheduling or second-brain apps (even though I do use Obsidian as my second brain) yet. I might graduate from them eventually making use of my learnings as a former BASB student. 😀
3. Noise-cancelling headphones + Brain.fm
Noise-canceling headphones are a no-brainer. I am surprised how I survived a packed office space without them.
But brain.fm has been a game-changer. I recently discovered it and am currently on its free trial.
And what an impact it has made along!
It has different tracks for deep work, learning, and creativity. I usually switch to the Deep work mode straightaway and tackle the first priority of my day.
They claim that all soundtracks are scientifically researched to produce the ideal brain waves suitable for a particular kind of work.
I don’t know if it is the placebo effect or the pressure of making things work in the independent lifestyle.
But it does work!!
4. Working in 45-minute cycles
Brain.fm also comes with an interval timer. I have used the Pomodoro technique before so I am not new to the idea.
But what I discovered was that instead of the typical 25 minutes, I operate the best in 45-minute cycles. It is just the right amount of time where I can work without getting distracted.
This is especially true for the first half of the day. In the second half, it comes down to 40-30 minute periods.
Combined with brain.fm soundtracks, working in cycles has helped me engage in long work sprints without getting burned out at the end of the day.
5. No laptop on bed policy
Well, this is the habit I was most guilty of committing in my initial days. It not only impacted my mood but also had a bad impact on my physical health.
Not anymore. I never take my laptop to bed except on weekends when I want to watch something entertaining.
The habit of dressing up (with shoes) has also helped me commit to this policy. It forces me to sit on a chair and work only at my desk. Initially, it was tough as I had repeated urges to get up but that struggle lasted for just a couple of days.
Now it feels unnatural if I work in bed.
The above activities have played an important role in the last few days for me to get into flow states on a consistent basis. They have helped me get back on track where I am working as hard for myself (if not harder, yet) as I used to work for somebody else.
Do you resonate with any of them?
What do you do to get into the flow state?
Share in the comments below! 👇