YOUR JOB IS NOT a game. But when you approach
it like a game, youll enjoy it more and youre more
likely to be successful at it.
Research at the University of Chicago shows
that games produce a condition called flow, characterized
by absorption in the activity (a lack of thoughts about anything
else), a feeling of control, and enjoyment. And one of the most
common characteristics of flow is that time seems to fly.
According to the principle researcher,
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the reasons games produce flow
is that the outcome of the game is not important. We may
really get into a game and the outcome may seem very important
at the time, but we know nothing is really at stake. We wont
lose the mortgage, nobody will die, the college scholarship for
our kids wont be jeopardized.
But at work, there is something
at stake. That means when were working, we tend to pay
attention to where the work is getting us. What this means
is that work becomes a means to an end and that means the end
of flow because a requirement of the experience of flow
is an involvement in the activity itself a lack of thoughts
about anything else. When a person is looking at the clock or
thinking about her position or promotion in the company, its
enough of a distraction to prevent flow. Even wondering if youre
enjoying yourself is a distraction. Absorption produces flow.
Of course, when most people are working,
they are working for money. So the work is done as a means to
an end. Does that mean we cant experience flow at work?
Luckily, no. Even when you do something as a means to an end,
you can learn to become absorbed in the work and forget about
where it is getting you while youre doing it.
If you want to experience more flow on
the job, then, simply learn to become more engrossed in your
work. Learn to get into it.
If your job is stressful or boring, however,
becoming absorbed is difficult. If what youve got is stress,
that means the challenge of your job, either physically or psychologically,
is greater than your skills. The answer is to find out what skill
you need to improve and work on that. Increase your skill.
Thats the answer to stress.
At the other end of the spectrum is boredom.
If your job is boring, youll have to find a way to make
the work more challenging, interesting, or creative. It may take
you a lot of thinking to figure out how to do that, but keep
at it and you can find a way.
For example, during his research, Csikszentmihalyi
found a man working on an assembly line, doing the same thing
over and over every day, who had found a way to experience flow
in a potentially boring job. He approached the task like an Olympic
athlete, carefully working out ways to trim the time it took
him to complete each task. By timing himself and shaving off
seconds, he had become the most competent man on the line, but
more important for our discussion here, he enjoyed his
work more than anyone on the line. And he wasnt focusing
on trying to get a raise or gaining the approval of his supervisor.
He was engrossed in beating his personal best.
Find a way to become absorbed. Youll
enjoy your work more. Get so engrossed in your work that you
forget about everything else, like where its getting you.
Itll get you a lot further that way.
Get so engrossed in your work
that you forget about everything else.