Flow (as depicted simplistically in Figure 1)
is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.
Proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the concept of Flow has been widely researched in diverse contexts.
Figure 1 – The Flow Model
Dealing with complex demands (particularly in unfamiliar domains or with unfamiliar technologies) can test personal boundaries and push even the most stoic into Burnout (illustrated by my red lozenges). Lack of challenge on the other hand leads to “Boreout” (yellow lozenges).
The smart manager needs to ensure Flow is well regulated in teams. Of course, team member abilities are different and their willingness to push their own capabilities is variable (due to personality type, external pressures/demands etc.).
Staff in a prolonged state of ‘Boreout’ disengage, leading to morale and retention issues.
Controlled Burnout can be productive, uncontrolled Burnout is very destructive. Boreout (perhaps with the exception of a short decompression between high octane projects) tempts the maxim ‘the devil makes work for idle hands.’
The Eisenhower Matrix
The Flow Model is also a useful thinking tool for self-regulation. People can hit Burnout by focusing on the wrong things.
As Eisenhower said:
The most urgent decisions are rarely the most important ones.
Keep both the Flow Model and the Eisenhower Matrix in mind.
Figure 2 illustrates this well-worn prioritisation model. The “Urgent but not important” category is your delegation path and rescue vehicle for direct / indirect reports that are in Boreout.
Figure 2 – The Eisenhower Matrix – deciding what is urgent and what is important
Further Reading on Time Management Strategies
- How to be a Productivity Ninja: Worry Less, Achieve More and Love What You Do
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity
- Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It Now
- The Effective Executive (Peter Drucker Classic Collection)
- The Effective Executive in Action: A Journal for Getting the Right Things Done