The science behind FLOWN
We've taken the research behind what makes us creative, productive and fulfilled to build tools and resources that deliver every element
By tapping into neural triggers that have been part of human wiring for millennia, FLOWN's tools enable you to consistently find focus.
Built around six key aspects of behavioural science and neuroscience, our tools provide proven and powerful prompts and resources designed to enhance concentration and productivity, so that you can get more done, more easily. Here's how...
1. Body doubling
Body doubling is the practice of working in the presence of others to anchor attention and make it easier to focus on tasks.
This is to do with mirror neurons — a class of brain cells that enable us to reflexively emulate those around us, to adopt social behaviours for acceptance, status or competition.
A 2006 German study found this kind of social pressure to be impactful for most tasks, improving human performance by 16-32 percent. Multiple studies have since shown body doubling, social cues and the feeling of being observed (also known as The Hawthorne Effect) to be powerful motivators that cause us to work harder, think more deeply, be more creative, and even feel what we are doing is more meaningful.
🗨️ FLOWN Flocks integrate body doubling with every session.
This allows members to work in the virtual presence of others to leverage the proven benefits of positive social pressure, making focus easier.
2. Implementation intentions
This simply means having a clearly defined plan for when and how you will accomplish a goal.
Research published in the British Journal of Health Psychology compared the outcomes for 248 people aiming to improve their exercise habits over a two week period.
A third of subjects were asked to devise a specific plan for when and where they would exercise (what researchers term an ‘implementation intention’) by completing the following sentence:
“During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME] in [PLACE].”
The study found that those who did this were able to follow through on their goal of exercising 91% of the time — more than double the rate of those who didn’t use this practice.
Implementation intentions have since been found to be a highly effective trigger for successfully forming new habits and following through on goals across a range of settings.
How Flocks work
Accountability is to do with the positive social pressure that’s experienced when our actions are answerable to peers.
A 2010 study by the American Association for Talent Development found that the probability of completing a goal increased to 65% when the intention to achieve it was shared with someone.
Importantly, when this was also done as part of a specific accountability appointment, the likelihood of success increased further to 95%.
🗨️ At the start of each Flock, FLOWN members are invited to share what they hope to achieve during the session.
This use of a positive social cue as part of a scheduled appointment helps to leverage the proven benefits of accountability, and support behaviours that make focus and productivity easier.
4. Stints of focused work
In 2015, a 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 what’s known as 'attention residue' – whereby the brain struggles to fully move on from the interruption. This phenomenon has been shown to reduce productivity across the workday by up to 40%.
Strategies for managing focus stints
It’s clear the avoidance of distractions is vital; but to remain productive it’s important to also moderate the time spent doing focused work.
Research by the social networking company Draugiem Group in 2014 found that the top performing 10% of workers focused on work for an average of 52 minutes before taking a break.
These findings tally with separate research done by the polling company Ifop, which found that the attention of meeting participants was most likely to drift after 52 minutes — the exact length of time found to be best for focusing on tasks in Draugiem’s earlier study.
Walking has been shown to be a powerful aid for emotional wellbeing and cognitive performance.
In a 2014 study at Stanford University, subjects were given 4 minutes to come up with as many alternate uses for a common everyday object as possible — a standard divergent thinking exercise used to measure creativity.
Researchers split the participants into 3 groups, and tested them twice. The first group was asked to do the tests whilst seated, whilst the second and third groups were asked to use differing combinations of walking (on a treadmill in a windowless room) and sitting.
The study found that participants averaged around 20 creative ideas per person when seated. However those who did the test whilst walking almost doubled this output. Importantly, those who were asked to walk first and then sit for a subsequent test, still benefited from the residual effects of their initial walk to significantly outperform their seated counterparts.
The study was repeated four times across various settings, each time demonstrating the creativity-boosting effects of walking.
Research has shown that these effects are further enhanced by walking outdoors. This comes down to what’s known as attention restoration theory (ART), where the brain’s capacity for focus is replenished through exposure to natural environments, which in turn encourages more effortless brain function and promotes the release of alpha brainwaves.
No wonder thinkers like Einstein, Tesla and Marie Curie were all famous for their mid-workday walks. Studies show that this kind of mind-wandering can kick us into a mental uber-state — ideal for creativity, problem solving and mental rest.
🗨️ FLOWN’s Awe Walks integrate walking with other proven practices like mindfulness and positive constructive daydreaming — each of which have been shown to aid creativity, lower stress, and improve focus.
6. The power of play
According to Boston College professor, Peter Gray, play is a state of mind uniquely suited to ‘high level reasoning, insightful problem solving and creative endeavours.’
This is because play promotes the release of a hormone in the brain known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor — a molecule closely related with the brain changes involved in learning and memory.
Play has also been shown to be important for promoting the release of dopamine — a brain hormone linked to improved mood, cognitive performance, and the self-control needed for sustained bouts of focus.
The FLOWN philosophy and
the psychology of flow
Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was the first to define and describe flow. A brain state in which a person feels immersed in their task, and able to focus with ease to do complex work. After interviewing practitioners of every kind (everyone from Himalayan climbers, to Dominican monks, to Navajo shepherds), Csikszentmihalyi formulated eight characteristics he found to be common to the experience of flow states:
The 8 characteristics of flow
Complete involvement in the task — to be focused, concentrated
Inner clarity — certainty concerning goals, and how well we are doing (immediate feedback)
A sense of control — the activity feels doable; our skills are adequate to the task
Dissolution of ego — actions and awareness merge; lack of self-consciousness
Timelessness — time seems to dilate or constrict
Intrinsic motivation — the doing of the task becomes its own reward
A sense of ecstasy — of being outside of everyday reality
A sense of effortlessness or ease
🗨️ Each of FLOWN’s six key elements help to create the pre-conditions for flow. We do this by eliminating distractions and guiding members on how to define practicable short-term goals for each session.
Together with designed play practices and social cues, members are able to more easily dampen the mental ‘noise’ that can interfere with focus, and thereby find flow states consistently and with greater ease.
The science has spoken
So, now you know the proven methods behind how FLOWN helps thousands of professionals all over world. Join them. Join FLOWN, and let's get started.