How To Optimize Entrepreneurial Life with Flow-state
By Clare Hefferren
Some say I am disciplined, others rigid. Some admire the structure and others prefer chaos. I’ve found freedom in structure and I believe you can too.
This is the 3rd blog in a series of 3 about Entrepreneurship and Flow State. If you are just joining the series today, go back to read Blog #1 to understand why I entered burnout and Blog #2 to see the comparison of life in burnout vs. a healthy lifestyle due to flow-state.
Series Synopsis: We all have arcs - business and personal. While mine began separate and distinct, over a span of two decades they converged in (and on) purpose. This blog series follows my path - an entrepreneurial startup story and how it evolved to outdoor purpose through flow-state. I invite you to come along and join me on my journey and bring snacks and plenty of hydration, as it’s an adventure after all.
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When in flow, the world melts away - even forgetting hunger and bladder needs, with a state of utter focus and ease. It’s a neurological cocktail of 5 chemicals and the best natural caffeine one can consume. When in flow you perform exponentially - what used to take 8 hours, now takes 3-4.
“Flow,” a term first coined in the '70s and often associated with athletes, is “an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best,” according to peak performance expert Steven Kotler.
As I watch citizen zombies cycle the day, I think, there is another way. It’s not about time, it’s about choices. Here are my favorite takeaways from my journey as a startup entrepreneur to burnout-proof your life and encourage flow.
- Positive Psychology: Prioritize your health with the 7 building blocks - sleep (8 hours), nutrition/hydration, social connection (engage 30 minutes a day), gratitude (journal 3 per day), exercise (30 minutes minimum), breathwork (I recommend 12 minutes minimum of box breathing), and nature (eyes on the horizon/sky.) Touch on a minimum of one of these per day until each becomes a daily habit.
- Massive Transformational Purpose (MTP): Mull over your legacy. What is it that you’d like people to remember that you created which serves humanity? When clear on your purpose, your goals will hold greater meaning, allowing you to prune tasks and people that are not in alignment. Looking for inspiration? I recommend Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman.
My MTP is: To daringly advocate for access to nature for inspiration and healing.
- Outsource / Eliminate: We make hundreds of decisions daily. Think of it this way - your brain has 1 gas tank of focus per day. Each time you make a decision it requires brainpower and gas usage. By reducing cognitive load on unimportant tasks you save gas for the important decisions that will move your company forward.
Eliminate time spent on tasks that you do not enjoy. Outsourcing things such as housecleaning, grocery shopping, dog poop duty, weeding, etc.
Distractions are the death of flow. Make your cell phone work for you rather than you for it. Turn off all notifications and schedule set times to check your phone. I do it at 8am, 1pm, 4pm, 8pm. (Note: with children, this may not be viable, yet know that your world will adjust to your new way of being.) You may miss out on a silly group text, but in exchange, you gain much more by focusing on your purpose. Optimize your desk and computer desktop by filing paperwork, reduce loading dock apps to a lean 5 or 6 used daily.
- Dial your day: Your brain loves a challenge. Planning your week ahead early poises the brain to begin working on it over the weekend. Prepare for your week by spending <2 hours at Friday’s end or early Saturday to prioritize your upcoming week in a strategic plan. Pick 3 big tasks for the week and 3 important tasks per day. Chart this visually. Leave the small tasks for your CRM to remind you, rather than clog your brain with details.
Plan sprint work blocks of 90 minutes each. Ideally, 3 focus blocks then the remainder of the day for emails, meetings, and small tasks. Between blocks calm the nervous system with a 10-minute break - go for a walk, stare at the wall, look at the sky, box breathe (Stay out of your email and off your cell.) Do your own work first. Delay email/cell/social as you’re helping others get their work done and neglecting your own! Cap the week at 35 hours.
Remove rushing to create a culture of ease. Look for the pinch points in your day and schedule in more transition time. I am always rushing to the gym - a counterproductive move.
Before bed, check the weather and lay out your outfit (Steve Jobs of Apple wore the same outfit for decades). Pack your gym bag and lunch. Set the coffee and prep your smoothie.
- Recover: Just like our body needs to recover after exercise, our brain needs to recover after work. Foremost, work is ON or OFF, don’t let it bleed into your personal life. Schedule your recovery time on your calendar - ask a buddy for accountability. Do something which stimulates the brain and soothes the body to recover - watch a documentary, read a book, meditate, or go for a walk - each evening and add a large chunk on the weekend. (See blog #2 for ideas.)
You will slide back into your old ways and that’s ok. Now that you have the awareness, you will also have the desire to reset. How do you know if you’ve made progress? When you go to bed, ask yourself, “Was today worth it? Am I pleased with how I spent my time? Did I move business forward? Did I do at least one of the 5 positive psychology blocks?” If no, pick up the earbuds and tune into a Yoga Nidra bedtime meditation.
If you found yourself enjoying this series, I welcome the continued conversations about startup entrepreneurship and flow-state. Drop a comment below or email me.
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Clare Hefferren is a sophisticated tomboy, passionate people’s champion, and CEO/Founder of Callosum, a purpose-driven strategic firm that guides outdoor & mountain destination brands. Based in Vail, CO, and working with clients nationwide she’s committed to doing business for good - people, planet, profit. Equally comfortable in the backcountry and boardroom, she has proven successful in understanding the brand life cycle in the outdoor and mountain lifestyle industries.
Away from the desk, she’s a lifelong outdoor enthusiast: Alpine & telemark skier, snowshoer, trail and road runner, road & mountain cyclist, hiker, backpacker, and river & reservoir stand-up paddler.