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Today is day #12 of my startup journey. I am experiencing a sense of void after a highly productive period. It is not uncommon. For all my life, I am looking for the flow state.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term “flow.” I understand it as a state of being ultra-focused and tireless, to the point of forgetting to eat or sleep.

As I enter startup life, working on my dream projects, I thought the flow state would frequently come to me. It turned out to be only half true. I find flow only happens with crafty activities, such as designing, coding, or writing. It never happens when I do self-promotion or marketing. Furthermore, on the days that I did both types of activities, I can’t get into the flow at all. In an attempt to fight my unproductiveness, I start to self-diagnose why.

To enter the state of flow, it needs a few hours of ramping up. The concentration level climbs up and then stays in the flow state at its peak, maintains it for a while, and then cools down. The graph:


On days I need to self-promote or do marketing, the design/code/writing activity is divided into several segments. Each segment doesn’t have enough time to climb up high enough to reach the flow state. The graph:

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I started to notice the phenomenon while I was working at my corporate job. I have meetings each day that interrupt my design time, and because I was not able to enter the state of flow, I feel tired after work. The situation was improved when I started working for my startup, but as a founder, I need to pick tasks like marketing and sales. These new challenges become the new productivity killer.

I think it may help to dedicate days to marketing/self-promotion solely. If I have some extra time on those days, I can relax and browse the Internet to find inspirations or do market research. These activities seem to go together because they have similar attention patterns. On other days, I dedicate all day to design/code/write.

Do you have more tips on fighting unproductiveness? Let me know by subscribing to my newsletter and directly replying. I can’t wait to hear other ideas!

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