Medical Mnemonist Podcast

How to Find Flow in Your Medical Education

Chase DiMarco talks about flow, the mental state of immersive focus. He draws insights and tips from Mikaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book called “Finding Flow”. Unsurprisingly, attention and curiosity are necessary to get into that zone of concentration.

  • [00:58] Defining Flow
  • [01:38] How to Reach Flow State
  • [08:06] Learning Requires Undivided Attention
  • [09:33] Develop Curiosity for Greater Enjoyment
  • [13:31] Flow vs Happiness

What is Flow?

Flow is a state of mind in which an individual becomes fully immersed in an activity, like studying. This is also called “entering into the Goldilocks zone”. You enter a state of flow when you deal with tasks that have just the right amount of difficulty. It is neither too stressful nor too simple. The task is challenging enough to motivate you to accomplish it.

Tips for How to Reach Flow State

In order to reach flow state, the task must be stimulating. It must require a high level of concentration and thinking. Receiving immediate feedback regarding the task is also helpful for staying on track. Remember to set SMART or clear goals for yourself so you can track progress. Exercise a sense of control. You can achieve flow by taking charge of your own learning and to-do’s instead of waiting for instructions. The environment must also be conducive so that you can be fully immersed in the activity. Avoid task switching and minimize distractions.

A task that is easy feels too mundane to pursue. On the other hand, a task that is extremely difficult can feel overwhelming. The activity should be hard enough to challenge you. This tip tells us that learning should be done in an active manner. Re-reading past notes does not teach you anything new. Instead, discuss with friends, make concept maps, tackle the lessons from a fresh angle. Engaging with the topic in a different way deepens your understanding of it and will help you enter a flow state during a study session.

Learning Requires Undivided Attention

This may seem obvious, but learning is most efficient when you are fully present. Being preoccupied with other things may cause you to miss key points from the material or lecture. It may also cause you to learn the topic out of context. In the end, you’ll have to go through the material again which ultimately decreases efficiency.

Flow vs Happiness

Happiness is a state of leisure and comfort whereas flow is a state of change and learning. Flow actually opposes happiness because it requires effort and is a challenge. However, we can achieve happiness through flow. There is a sense of accomplishment from overcoming challenging activities.

Listen to Medical Mnemonist’s past episode: Deliberate Practice for Medical Students. For more tips, grab a copy of Read This Before Medical School. Don’t forget to leave a rating!

Share your experiences, tips, and suggestions to [email protected]. Or you can directly reach out to Chase on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. Join the Medical Mnemonist Master Mind Facebook group and find our Blog postsPodcasts, and other Resources at FreeMedEd.org!

Chase DiMarco

Chase DiMarco is an MS, MBA-HA and MD/Ph.D-candidate. He is the founder of FreeMedEd, a free medical education resource, the host of the Medical Mnemonist 1-Minute Preceptor podcasts by MedSchoolCoach, creator of several medical education platforms, and CEO of FindARotation clinical rotations service.

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