Whether you spent the summer building a new terrace for your summer house or played 300 rounds of Chinese checkers with the kids, your holiday flow can make a positive difference when you go back to work.
We work best when a task is challenging enough to demand our focus - but not so challenging that it requires a ton of thinking breaks.
When we lose track of time because we are absorbed in the task at hand, we get in the flow. During the holidays, you have likely spent time on activities that got you in the flow. And this holiday flow can be particularly beneficial for your daily work if you take it along when you return to your workplace after the holidays, explains career counsellor at IDA, Kenneth Carstensen.
“During the summer holidays, you probably challenged yourself in different ways. Whether you picked up a guitar, learned to sail or began renovating your holiday home is not so important. You got into the flow to find solutions, a process you can also make use of at your workplace. It's about recreating the commitment you made in the summer holiday activities when you return to work,” he explains.
Take the initiative and boost your flow
Bring your holiday flow to work by thinking of a holiday activity or task which put you in a positive and focused state. Where the hours just disappeared while all your attention was focused on the activity. Think about what made the activity so immersive and what external conditions helped you get in the flow.
"Typically, a flow activity is challenging and demanding so you have to use several kinds of mental resources to solve it, but not so difficult that you do not know how to approach it," explains Kenneth Carstensen.
You can use that insight to analyse your work tasks. What is missing for you to get in the flow? Do you find it easier to get in the flow when you are alone and not distracted by your surroundings? Then you may have to maintain a homework day or two each week, even after you are able to return to the office.
Tasks can be both too easy and too difficult
One thing that can prevent you from getting into the flow is if a task is unmanageable. If you cannot immediately determine how to solve it, or if you actually feel that you are challenged above your level of competence.
“In this case it can help to divide the task into smaller chunks, for which you will find solutions. By dealing with them one at a time, you prevent the feeling that a big task is unmanageable. If it is difficult to divide up the task, ask a colleague with experience in the field or your manager to help you make the task more accessible,” advises Kenneth Carstensen.
But it also happens that a task simply does not get you in the flow because it is too easy. Too boring. If you are not challenged, it is difficult to hit the right concentration level.
“You cannot always avoid these kinds of tasks, but you have to take care that they do not take up too much space in everyday life. You need to be aware of what activities - both in your free time and at work - engage you and give you energy. Life should not be filled with passive activities, even if they look easy, because they does not give us energy and joy in the long run,” explains Kenneth Carstensen.
Use your energy on both leisure and work
If you set a goal of bringing the flow of the holiday back to work, you might also like to do the same to your spare time. Because, while autumn is creeping in, you can take much better care of your positive energy by aiming for good and challenging experiences both at work and in your free time.
“In our free time, we often go for the easy solutions and do not work with specific goals for development or well-being, as we do in our working life. But that is a shame, because hobby and sports activities, along with socializing, are at the top of situations that trigger flow. We just do not use them for that purpose,” says Kenneth Carstensen.
But in our leisure time we can also advantageously set the bar high. Imagine home life and work life not as two opposites, where we always prefer to relax at home and perform at work:
“For most people, work and family life are inextricably linked. And because both private life and working life can be less fun from time to time, it is smart that we can use flow activities from one world to spread to the other,” says Kenneth Carstensen.