The science behind FLOWN

FLOWN's mission is to weave deep work principles into your life. Because when it comes to a better work life and getting more done, the FLOWN framework works. Explore the brain science that informs what we do…


It all starts with focus…

In his book Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World, computer science professor and productivity writer Cal Newport defines deep work as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit”.

So, what happens when we concentrate?

Focus for results

Through a process known as 'myelination', the brain cements learning by strengthening the connections between neurons so they can fire faster. This process is triggered when you concentrate deeply, which makes distraction and multitasking the enemies of myelination!

Mixed up minds

A 2015 study at the University of California found it can take more than 23 minutes to fully regain focus following a distraction. This is due to a phenomenon known as 'attention residue' – where your brain can’t fully move on from whatever you were distracted by.

Chain reaction

According to data from time-tracking app RescueTime, 50% of phone screen sessions start within three minutes of the previous one. So being distracted by a ping on your phone can spiral into truly crushed productivity.

FLOWN and focus

Use FLOWN’s tools to give yourself the space to focus, and to learn to do it better, more often. Flocks, our facilitated virtual co-working spaces, are run on Zoom and designed to tap into a host of brain triggers that help you focus and get things done. We’ve also put together a host of videos exploring the concepts – you’ll find them in the FLOWN Academy…

Placing play at the centre of productivity

It’s scientifically proven that you can’t focus all the time. So what should you do in your downtime? Research shows that play, learning and exploration are superpowers for those who want to lead productive, creative, and fulfilled lives.

Play to win

Numerous studies show that adults who make time for play have increased levels of productivity, creativity, health and happiness.

Team games

A study at Brigham University found teams were able to boost productivity by 20% by playing a collaborative game before a task.

Play IS productive

Boston College professor Peter Gray calls play “a state of mind uniquely suited for high-level reasoning, insightful problem solving and creative endeavours”.

FLOWN and play

Come play with FLOWN. From the playful meditative exercise of Quests, to the serious silliness of Flock sessions, we exist to help you tap into all the productivity and wellness benefits of play. Also, we enjoy messing about. 

The importance of nature

In 2015, research from the University of Melbourne found that just looking at a green roof garden scene on a screen for 40 seconds improved concentration and performance levels. Imagine what real nature could do? Well, you don’t need to imagine - neuroscience has the answers…

Natural talents

Researchers into Attention Restoration Theory (ART) have shown that natural environments restore our ability to focus and improve creative reasoning skills

Urban nature works too

Researchers at New York's Cornell University found that as little as 10 minutes in a natural setting (even a small urban park) helped college students reduce stress levels.  

Slow down time

Researchers at Stanford coined the term "time abundance", to describe the natural shift that occurs in our perception of time when we hang out in nature. Time slows down, so instead of feeling too pressured to be creative, you can actually find inspiration.

FLOWN and nature

Quests are designed to harness the proven effects of immersing in nature. Even if you live in the city, it’s possible to find a little slice of greenery and carve out some restorative time – led by our guided audio meditations. 

And, if you really want to give your brain the boost of nature, browse our unique collection of properties – we have a load of places to inspire your next work or restorative break. Which leads us to…

Grand gestures – leaving the day-to-day

Cal Newport talks about the ‘grand gesture’ – the act of taking yourself away from your day-to-day circumstances to focus on a meaningful task. There are hundreds of anecdotes supporting the idea, which you can file under ‘habits of highly successful people’…

Entrepreneur Peter Shankman once took a flight to Tokyo and straight back again, purely for the purpose of completing a manuscript on the plane.

Maya Angelou writes her novels and poetry from a hotel room, with little more in it than a desk, a Bible and a bottle of sherry.

John Steinbeck used to row out onto the water on a tiny fishing boat in order to avoid distraction.

But the grand gesture isn’t just a habit of eccentric geniuses and high performers. It’s backed up by research into context, distraction, and motivation.

It’s also a powerful ‘implementation intention’ – research shows that putting specific plans in place – that is, exactly when and where you’re going to achieve a given goal – doubles your chances of success

FLOWN and grand gestures

Our curated list of FLOWN properties is certified for deep work – with good wi-fi, and ergonomic desk spaces. They’re also beautiful and often set away from the city – so you can enjoy other deep working benefits such as walks in nature. 

The concept of the grand gesture doesn’t have to be that grand. Flocks are a great way of stating your ‘implementation intentions’ and making space to follow them through. 

Ergonomic workspace setup

Not everybody has a plush home office in their spare bedroom or study. And one of the effects of the sudden switch to WFH amid the coronavirus pandemic is an increase in aches and pains. Interestingly, ergonomics have an impact across your wellness…

Aches and pains

In the UK, the Institute for Employment Studies found more than half of survey respondents reported new aches and pains, especially in the neck (58 per cent), shoulder (56 per cent) and back (55 per cent). 

Unconventional desk spaces

Physiotherapy group Ascenti found that 72% of UK WFHers have worked from the sofa, 56% from their bed, and 36% have used their chest as a desk. 

Mental costs

This isn’t only terrible for your back. Poor ergonomics have been shown to harm your mental health too. Poor posture has been shown to impact how confident and positive we feel.  

FLOWN and your workspace

Not only have we curated a list of properties to which you can escape – all certified for an ergonomically optimised workspace – but we’re also working on kit recommendations to keep your home office environment comfy. Watch this space for the FLOWN Kit launch.

Rituals of accountability

Accountability is taking responsibility for doing what you say you’re going to do. It’s a powerful mental trigger that’s proven to boost your desire to succeed and your motivation to deliver.

Set intentions

A review of goal setting and task performance research found that specific and challenging goal setting led to higher performance in 90% of studies when compared to easy or vague ‘do your best’ goals.

Build rituals

Rituals render powerful benefits. Motivation alone has been shown to be ineffective when it comes to implementing positive life change. Whereas one roundup of studies into ritual concluded they help to regulate emotions, performance-goal states, and social connections.

Reach goals

“Although listed separately for the purpose of our framework,” said the researchers, “there is considerable overlap between the three functions.” Which is a perfect segue into how FLOWN’s approach to accountability can serve YOUR personal goals.

FLOWN and accountability

Accountability is what makes Flocks tick. Set aside time, book your session in, and show up. Share your intentions with other FLOWN members. You don’t have to present your work plan! Just state your goals for the session. Then get on and do it – safe in the knowledge that everyone on the Flock is striving to achieve something meaningful, just like you.

Exercise for body and mind

The brain chemistry of exercise is reasonably well known. Physical activity releases dopamine (which gives you a rush of happiness) and serotonin (which promotes learning and memory, as well as lifestyle wins like better sleep and a regulated appetite). But these and other positive brain chemicals can be promoted through mental exercise too. 

Wandering minds

A study by the University of California found taking time to daydream boosts divergent thinking – a key indicator of creative potential.

Prioritising rest

Work by the Royal Society for Open Science has shown a lack of rest can significantly impact the quality of your decision making.

Learning is key

Research shows that intentionally broadening your knowledge base can prevent lockstep thinking and improve creativity. 

FLOWN and body-mind fitness

Quests are designed to tune out your thinking side whilst tuning into your senses and imagination. Playful, meditative and fun; Quests help recharge your mind and prime your creativity – all within a snappy 10 minutes. And don’t forget the Almanac. These delightfully random but fascinating reads can help widen your thinking. And the great thing? No choice overwhelm or selection scrolling – your Almanac entry is served to you entirely serendipitously.

Access to diverse people and ideas

“Imaginative people have messier minds.” So says Dr Scott Barry Kaufman – a creativity psychologist at NYU. His research (and many other studies of creativity) shows that diversity of experience is a core driver of innovation.

Broaden your mind

A French study found that being introduced to ideas and knowledge beyond an area of expertise helps to counteract "cognitive rigidity", opening the mind to new insights.

Connect to create

A paper published by the Academy of Management discovered that connecting with a diverse array of thinkers disrupts our thinking in a good way, promoting creativity.

Explore and experience

Research shows connecting with a wide range of disciplines and temperaments promotes cognitive disinhibition – a key component of being creative.

FLOWN and diversifying experience

The FLOWN community offers the chance for you to step outside your bubble, challenge your assumptions, and open to fresh ways of thinking to spark new ideas. And, although they’re for individual focused work, Flocks are also uniquely social events. They provide access to like-minded others across a range of industries, united by a desire to do great work and feel good about it. 

Science has spoken…

FLOWN's tools are built around proven ways to get the very best from yourself and maximise your experience of work. Join us now and let's get started.

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