Optimise yourself for creative flow

And kill procrastination at the same time

In the previous two articles, "What's lack of focus costing you?" and "Hacks to get into creative flow" I wrote about focus and how to arrange your environment to enable focus and about creative flow and the different phases you must go through to enjoy deep and super-productive phases of work.

In this article, I’m walking through some actions that you can take to get into creative flow and to “optimise yourself” for creative flow.

I know how hard it is and Serge’s tips have made me realise that I have done quite a few things wrong – things that had me struggling with creative flow and even led to procrastination and negative self-thoughts. (Serge is the psychoanalyst I interviewed and who shared all these awesome insights with me)

Just like an elite athlete, you can prime yourself for creative flow.

We sometimes wonder why elite athletes have their weird rituals before a match or a competition. Talking with Serge have made me realise that they have developed these rituals to get into a state of heightened focus and flow.

It’s not just the psychological build-up but also the physical preparation for extended periods of focus.

I already spoke about the brain, burning through a lot of neurochemicals. Your brain needs to be fuelled up for performance. Creative flow is a high-performance activity and you need to take care that you are physically and mentally prepared for high performance.

And remember - you always need to go through the whole cycle of creative flow. You cannot jump into the creative phase – you need to go through the struggle phase first!

So, here are a few tips to prepare for creative flow:


What this means is that you need to achieve a balance between your level of skill and how challenging your task is.

We have all heard that you need to get outside your comfort zone to achieve the big thing. What we don’t know – or at least what I didn’t know was – that you should only take a tiny step outside your comfort zone.

Too much of a challenge and you won’t achieve creative flow.

There are two ways this can go:

You find yourself procrastinating. The reason for procrastination is that your task is not challenging enough. It’s not engaging enough and you are bored with the task.

When you find yourself procrastinating – then make your task a little harder until it becomes engaging again.

Your brain locks up and won’t engage at all. That can happen when you make your task too hard and you stretch yourself too far.

It’s like trying to compete in an Iron Man without knowing how to swim properly or having done the mileage.

If you stretch yourself too far, then you lock yourself out of creative flow, your brain locks up and you find yourself staring at a blank page, an empty canvas – or in when trying the iron man – in a support boat gasping for air…

Serge told me that ideally, you shouldn’t be more than 4% outside your comfort zone.

That seems to be a ridiculously small number.

But how do you know that you’re picking the right amount of challenge?

You should feel a tiny bit nervous about your task but still confident that you can master it.

When you want to write your sales page, then it would be too hard to just sit down and try to write a sales page. You won’t achieve anything – or at least not create a page that will actually sell anything.

In order to write a good sales page, you have to understand the basic principles of copywriting, some sales psychology, the customer’s journey, storytelling basics…


A large hit of dopamine gets you into creative flow. But there’s a hack that allows you to stack lots of little hits of dopamine to get the same effect as one big hit. Lots of small releases of dopamine are essentially mimicking a large hit of dopamine and take you into flow and trigger creativity.

Creative decisions release dopamine in the brain. If you want to get into a “writing” flow. Then you could start editing your work from the previous day. Every change of word, sentence structure or grammar is a tiny creative decision that releases a tiny amount of dopamine. After a while, these small decisions will have built up enough dopamine to get into a creative writing flow.

Serge is a street photographer and explained that only one in every 3-5000 images is a really exceptional picture. To prepare himself to get into creative flow, he looks at photobooks – but not photobooks with street photography because they get him stuck and inhibit his own creativity – but at other types of photography (portraits or urban landscapes etc.).

For writing, he suggests to experiment and read something that you really enjoy but is not related to what you are trying to write.

So, if you are trying to write a sales page, you could read a novel you like, a book about mindset, anything that is not related to sales pages.

Reviewing other people’s sales pages is probably the worst thing you could read before trying to write a sales page. If you do that, you’ll probably get stuck and end up copying other people’s sale pages rather than writing your own.

On the side – that’s one reason why I don’t like blueprints and swipe files too much. I find that they take me away from my own brand voice and messaging.

I prefer to work with a structure of different sales page elements that I then write in my own voice.

But you need to try that one out for yourself.


In the first part, I wrote about scheduling interruption-free blocks of time. This is quite important when it comes to working creatively.

A flow phase typically lasts for 90 to 120 minutes. You need to add about 30 minutes for the struggle phase to get into creative flow and then an hour for the recovery phase. That takes you up to 3.5 hours per cycle!

It’s possible that you could go through two cycles a day. I noticed that I often get a second creative flow phase in the evenings.

But you have to understand that flow is not something that you can experience all the time. The conditions have to be right for it. And – if you are doubting that you can get into creative flow – then you should know that you are absolutely capable of it. Flow is universal and everybody can do it!

Categories: Focus, Attention, Procrastination, Creative Flow, Productvity

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