Wandering minds can revel in a state of Flow—a hyperfocused world where everything else slips away. The inner critic is quieter, if not silent. Ideas flow and merge. A sense of direction and the possibility of getting somewhere energizes.
But while creativity and the thrill of engagement blooms, there is the Dark Side of Flow to consider. When not managed well, its power can leave a wake of trouble, be that lost responsibilities or even hurt relationships.
Managing can seem impossible.
Flow’s enjoyability blissfully allows you to lose sight of the rest of the world. But, there are other things to do. There are responsibilities. Even things you’d enjoy can get lost in the shuffle. It can be very easy to forget that Flow needs time.
One thing you might try is to set up reminders. But doing so without thought makes them nearly invisible, barely heard. Since they are not part of the hyperfocused world you are in, it’s like they don’t exist.
Another solution is to get other people to help out. Either offered by a well-meaning other or requested, the idea is to have someone shake you out of your trance to remind you to do the laundry, take out the garbage, write a report, or otherwise.
Unfortunately, that person doesn’t know where your mind is. Whenever they tap your shoulder, it’s never the right time. Those creative moments can be rare and precious. So you might respond with a polite thank you, often tinged with subtle resentment. Or you might just yell, “Not now!”
To make matters worse, you might even feel guilty because you just shut down this person who was offering help.
There are, however, better ways to use reminders alert yourself, ways that might just gain your attention.
If you hear a reminder that is unique to the moment, meaningful, easy to engage, and respectful of where you are now, it is much more likely that you will want to act on it. You will be much less likely to disrupt Flow, and instead have an opportunity to guide it.
Creating strong reminders is a practice of respecting Future You. Doing so also gives Present You a more guilt-free engagement of whatever you are doing now.
What’s more, because you are taking control, you stop sowing the seeds of a love-hate duality with those you could otherwise enjoy company. Your conversations no longer center on “When are you going to do X?” with the inevitable response, “Later!”. Instead, room forms for conversations about mutual interests, the day-to-day, and future projects.
If you are interested in learning exercises to create more useful reminders, consider joining the list for Waves of Focus – Guiding the Wandering Mind, a live cohort-based class planned for sometime this Fall.