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7 Ways to be 5X More Productive and Happier at Work

Who wouldn't wanna perform 5x better at work and feel great while doing it?

Research from McKinsey shows that professionals who are in flow state at work are five times more productive and enjoy themselves more.

In positive psychology, a flow state, also known as being in the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

If we wanna be 5x more productive and fully enjoy our jobs and lives, there is one secret ingredient. We must develop heaps of grit! Because if we don't, we may become overrun by our fears and sit around at work in an unproductive state of fight-or-flight. These are those days where we sit around staring at our computer putting in a bunch of hours and getting nothing done. Yuck!

Steve Kotler (the world's expert in flow state) defines grit as, "Not just the energy it takes to push through a difficult task, but the energy needed to push through years of difficult tasks."

Where does all that energy come from? Flow state.

What's one of the main ingredients to flow state? Grit. 

Whatever it Takes

Here are Steve Kotler’s 7 gritty habits displayed by elite performers in business, creativity, sports, and the military.

  1. Develop this belief or mindset: No Pressure; No Diamonds….. Know that every time you have to display the qualities of grit, your skills are being honed and refined. Pressure is a beautiful thing.
  2. Create a reflex to do the hardest thing first thing….. You have the most energy and flow first thing in the morning, so get the hardest thing out of the way first thing.
  3. Practice being your best under the worst conditions….. In order to get past your fears of not performing under pressure, you may wanna consider practicing under extreme conditions. One day try intentionally making your conditions at work as hard as possible so that you prove to yourself that you can perform at your best no matter what.
  4. Create a positive relationship with exhaustion….. There's no way around it. If you're performing at your best, you're going to get exhausted from time-to-time. Gritty performers don’t fear exhaustion. It's wasted energy. They transcend the associated fight-or-flight by re-framing exhaustion as a positive reward for making great progress.
  5. Create a positive relationship with fear….. Become a friend to your fears by knowing that if no fear existed, you’d be in your comfort zone and not making any progress. David Goggins, a former Navy Seal and NYT bestselling author says, "Callus your mindset to fear." Lean in!
  6. Mind the little gap between a thought and its emotion….. There’s a millisecond gap between a thought and your body’s ability to send negative neurotransmitters, like cortisol. If you can positively re-frame your thought during that gap, you’ll stay in flow state. For example, if a negative event happens in your life, like being pulled over, immediately say to yourself, "Best thing that coulda' happened." You'll feel better, and the worst case scenaro is that you'll learn a lesson. That's not so bad.
  7. Create a reflex to lean into challenge without ruminating on your doubts….. High performers often jump into challenge without looking. They do this because they know that rumination just drives one into fight-or-flight and fosters negative outcomes.

And here's one more little secret to jump into flow state when you're feeling out of sorts. Sit by yourself and do some deep, slow breathing for a few minutes. Do this until you feel a state of calmness wash over you. This is a great way to reset your state of mind and get going again.

In order to achieve our dreams and enjoy the process, we may wanna consider backing our positive intentions up with these seven qualities of grit.

Challenge: The Accountability Mirror - Every day before you go to bed write on a post-it note your biggest challenge or task of the next day. Put it on your bathroom mirror. The next day mark the challenge off and put up the next one. If you didn't complete the challenge, be honest with yourself as to why and don't let yourself off the hook. I learned this technique from David Goggins who is no stranger to grit.

P.S. Grit isn't the only quality of flow state. Other beliefs and mindsets are helpful too, like having genuine curiosity about the work you're performing. And it helps when you're a master at the basics of your job. I'll cover these other aspects of flow state in future posts.