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How to Be in the Flow by Getting Inspired on Simple Things

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash


I’m a software engineer that will always be making products because that’s what I love to do to see many lives improved. I know the feeling well when I was in the flow; I couldn’t stop working because I enjoyed it so much, the stream of ideas was continuously flooding, and many things got done beyond my expectation.

When I’m not flowing, I truly miss that time. I wonder if I could engineer a way to make myself in the flow whenever I need to. I’ve tried to work non-stop, watched more inspiring YouTube videos, lingered on the couch, you name it. Sometimes it works, but more often than not it doesn’t. And usually when it works, it’ll take a very long time to get into the flow.

Then I wonder why is it so hard and take a long time to be in the flow? So I’ve tried some experiments around how to get into the flow as soon as I could, and surprisingly it works! If I could summarize that in simple words, it’s by getting inspired on simple things and back to the work as soon as you get that. Here are few of simple things that inspire me to achieve the state of flow:

Meditating on Why

Most of the time we don’t know what we’re doing, and it’s okay. But the fallacy of this state is when we never take a step back to reflect on why we’re doing what we’re doing. Keep doing our work over and over again is not a sustainable way if we want to have a finished work that we’re proud of. Surely we’ll have a hard time to get into the flow when we never thought about the purpose behind the work, especiall when the obstacle comes.

The purpose is the fuel to reach our direction.

— Wilbert Liu

I have a routine every morning before I get into my work. I open a note app on my phone; and if the work that I’ll do is a new one, I’ll make a new note like this:

<Name of the work>

Direction: ---

Purpose: ---

So the direction is where I want to go. I could come up with the answer to it by asking some random questions like what should I do now, what’s the next thing I should focus on, etc. And the purpose is the reason why you chose that direction. When figuring out the purpose, it’ll be more helpful to ask more questions about the why. Why does it matter, why don’t we choose another path, is this the only way to go, etc.

When the work that I’ll do is the recurring one, I’ll just revisit what I’ve written and just jump into the work when the work is in the state of ongoing. Doing all of those things are like letting the electricity flows into my body. That gets me excited to work in the beginning or when I’m in the tough times.

Explore Beyond Your World

When we talk about exploration, we usually think about traveling. It started to be a trend in these past few years, and it’s totally good! I love traveling too, and I believe we can mention the benefits of traveling from A to Z without any mistake. But the downside of it is the cost of doing it; and it’s not only about money, especially if you have a small family for at least one wife and one child. It takes time, energy, and so many hidden costs that you’ll be surprised afterward.

Again, from the deepest of my heart, I love traveling. But then why should I travel daily if I want to get into the flow state? That will be so costly. And if the needs of getting into the flow are daily, is there any better way than traveling? Follow along, I’ll tell you what exactly changed me.

A few months ago I found Unsplash Wallpaper app on Mac and started using it. What surprised me was how a high resolution with high-skilled photography wallpaper could be so refreshing to see. It’s inspiring, moved me, and got me into the mood. But there’s something wrong with the app. I can’t search to explore what I want to see and just gave me the next random wallpaper. Realizing it’s a need for me to explore, I made an app called Poster. You might want to see the demo as well!

Poster 2.0 — Explore

Poster 2.0 — Popular

Poster 2.0 — Search

I usually use it whenever I need to, but it works nicely when I want to enter the flow state just before work. The interesting thing is I designed it in such a way that you don’t have to dwell for a long time. Just search for anything in your mind; or if you don’t have any, use the Explore or Popular tab to meet some serendipity there.


Being in the flow is a competitive advantage of doing meaningful work. When we’re disciplined enough, it’s possible to make it a habit and get the benefit of it for the work. Those above are my two simple things to get inspired, so I could get into the flow easily when I need to. I’m curious to hear from you, what’s your hack to get into the flow? Is there anything I’m missing?

Feel free to give your comments below! And don’t be hesitant if you just want to say hi. My contact could be searched easily on this site. Reach me anytime! I would love to hear from you.

Published 13 Sep 2018

👨🏻‍🎨 Wilbert Liu on Twitter