Are you familiar with the concept of hyperfocus vs flow? Both are states in which you focus, but not all focus is created equal. These two states of heightened focus are often confused for one another. However, there are differences between the two that are important to understand - especially for people with ADHD.
The flow state is a desirable, focused feeling in which getting work done feels like a breeze. Flow means that you focus on the tasks at hand productively.
The hyperfocus state (which is commonly experienced by people with ADHD) is often confused with the flow state, but doesn’t have the same positive benefits. Hyperfocus can actually get in the way of productivity. It creates a negative cycle of intense focus on the wrong tasks. However, once you learn to recognize the difference between these two states of focus, you can also learn how to take control and turn your hyperfocus into flow.
In this guide to hyperfocus vs flow, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about these two states. Keep reading to learn why hyperfocus isn’t the same as flow. And, how anyone can find their way to a flow state.
What is the Flow State?
The flow state is a concept in positive psychology defined by a feeling of complete, energetic focus. While in the flow state, time can slip by unnoticed while you completely lose yourself in the task at hand.
Flow is different from the forced concentration we often associate with working. Flow feels natural, relaxed, and easy. While you’re in this state, you’ll be effortlessly creative and productive.
History of Flow
Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi first coined the term “flow state” in 1975. Of course, the concept has been around much longer than that. However, this was the first time a modern researcher put a specific name to it.
The concept of flow has grown even more popular in recent years. Modern society places a heavy emphasis on creativity and productivity. We highly value entrepreneurs, developers, and creatives. Many jobs now require more innovation and self-starting than ever before. As machines replace manual jobs, people are more valued for their brain power than anything else.
These changes have made the flow state more desirable. And for a long time, it was thought that the hyperfocus was benign. Often experienced by people with ADHD, many believed hyperfocus was basically the same as flow. Maybe even better. However, we now know there are some important differences in hyperfocus vs flow.
ADHD and Hyperfocus
Once, hyperfocus was called ADHD’s “superpower.”
This state seems desirable in many ways. In a state of hyperfocus, the individual becomes completely focused on a particular task. Time slips by and all other tasks fall by the wayside. The task at hand gets undivided attention.
In this sense, hyperfocus looks a lot like flow. The main difference: People with ADHD often have a hard time controlling when they go into a state of hyperfocus. When hyperfocus switches on and off at will, it no longer feels like a superpower. It can actually hinder productivity, confidence, and success at school and work.
Why Hyperfocus Isn’t the Same as Flow
The flow state isn’t really a focus synonym. Instead, flow is a very specific kind of focus that people can learn to control with practice.
Much of the recent conversation about flow hinges on how to tap into the flow state intentionally. As people learn how to reach their flow state when they need to, they can get more done in less time. And, the work accomplished is of better quality.
The flow state is relaxed, but focused, and usually requires deliberate action on your part.
On the other hand, hyperfocus can occur whether or not a person desires it. People with ADHD may find themselves in a state of hyperfocus when it’s actually the last thing they need.
For example, a student with ADHD who sits down to write a paper might suddenly find themselves hyperfocused on organizing all the papers on their desk instead. Although they are hyperfocused, that focus is actually taking them away from the task they need to complete.
The main difference between hyperfocus and flow is this sense of control.
Hyperfocus and the loss of control associated with it aren’t productive or desirable. Fortunately, though, the flow state is accessible to anyone: it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get there.
Ways to Get Into a Flow State
There are many different theories on the best ways to find the flow state. Checking in with yourself, and consciously stepping away from tasks that don’t deserve your complete attention are a few things that can help. Some more methods that may help achieve a flow state are:
- Clearing your mind
- reducing interruptions
- working at an uncluttered desk
- breathing deeply for a few minutes
Can people with ADHD who are prone to hyperfocus achieve a flow state instead? Absolutely.
Hyperfocus can make you feel like you're losing control. However, learning to achieve a flow state is possible. It allows you to take back control and focus on what you really need to accomplish.
When you recognize yourself slipping into hyperfocus, you can start doing the things that will help you shift into a flow state instead.
Hyperfocus isn’t very well understood since it lacks thorough research at this time. That’s why so many people still don’t understand the difference between hyperfocus and flow. But once you’ve experienced both states, you can easily see why one works better than the other.
The methods for turning hyperfocus into flow will differ slightly for everyone. Start practicing the ways to get into a flow state. Over time, you’ll start to learn the methods that work best for you.
Do you have a story about experiencing hyperfocus vs flow? Leave a comment and share your story!
Image CC by 0, by JESHOOTS via Pixabay.