Tag Archive | Flow

Optimal Oscillation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the optimal oscillation pattern for maintaining peak energy throughout the day?”

“I’ve been experimenting a lot with it.

I metaphorically (and aesthetically) view it as a nested oscillation: oscillation within oscillation within oscillation.

The big oscillation is the circadian rhythm pattern, our natural 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. Sleep is by far the most important variable for managing energy and it’s worth optimizing to perfection.

The medium oscillation is the ultradian rhythm pattern. Our capacity to engage in deep work depends on our capacity to concentrate – to maintain focused attention. This is energy-intensive, and cannot be maintained for longer than 90-120 minutes. This is the optimal duration of a work-block. After every work-block, I take a medium or big break. It is during these breaks when I go for my Parkour walk [<link; medium read]. 

The small oscillation is the pomodoro pattern, which for me is a 30 minute cycle followed by a 10-minute break. During the break, I reflect on the previous time-block and have a consistent movement snack [<link; medium read].

I take my small breaks religiously. They provide feedback. Whenever I miss a break is a sign that I need more rest.”

“When you’re doing creative work, does it not take you out of Flow to take a break every 30 minutes?”

“Creativity is itself an oscillation. Creative insights usually happen during the off-time.

The skill you’re practicing is getting into Flow as fast as possible.”


Creative Flow

The four stages of Flow:

Struggle – Overloading the brain with information
Release – Taking your mind off the problem
The Zone

(Steven Kotler)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Do they also apply to Creative Flow?”

“They do.

You can think of the Struggle stage as the On, and of the Release stage as the Off.”

“Like an oscillation.”


The On stage corresponds to focused thinking in Barbara Oakley’s terminology.

You can start with a Creative Focus, the primary constraint, and explore from there. Viewed as a mind-map, the Creative Focus is the center of the map from which you expand in all directions.

Or you can start with Creative Exploration, as a means to discover your Creative Focus. Viewed as a mind-map, you start anywhere – Improv style –, with multiple centers from which you expand in all directions, making connections between these mini-maps.

After that, you let go, and engage in a diffuse thinking activity, like walking, making sure to have a notebook with or around you.”

On Peak Performance 2

In mental, creative work one can do his best only for two hours at a time on any one subject. But he can work another two hours on another subject with equal freshness. (Walter Russell)

Walter Russell sometimes worked two hours a day on five different creations, thus living five lives at a time.

(Glenn Clark, The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I find that quote about Walter Russell (one of my Heroes) deeply inspiring. The idea of working in 2-hour blocks on 5 different subjects, thus ‘living five lives at the same time’.

It powerfully resonated with me in the moment when I read Glenn Clark’s book about Russell, but then I forgot about it. Recently however, while reading Jim Kwik’s book Limitless, a passage struck me:

Make sure you have a block of time set aside to get into flow. When conditions are right, it takes about 15 minutes to achieve a flow state and you don’t really hit your peak for closer to 45 minutes. Clearing out only half an hour or so isn’t going to allow you to accomplish much. Plan to set aside at least 90 minutes, and ideally a full 2 hours. (Jim Kwik, Limitless)

The idea of setting aside time for achieving Flow… ideally 2 hours. It’s the same 2-hour pattern! 

A light bulb went off in my head.”

“What was the insight?”

“As you know, I’m very interested in peak performance. Two things I’m focusing on are designing my life around the Flow state, and optimizing Energy. Flow is the most energy-efficient state we can achieve. 

The insight was to think in flow-blocks instead of work-blocks. 

I divided my WorkPlay [<link; short read] day into 2-hour flow-blocks. Each flow-block I dedicate to a different subject. 

Block 1: Writing (playing with ideas).

Block 2: Learning-block dedicated to Meta-Leaning and Peak Performance.

Block 3: Learning-block dedicated to Web Design (career-related project).

Block 4: Learning-block dedicated to something chosen at random among my many interests – I call it RND Learning.

Block 5: Variable – it can be Parkour, Improv, Connection, Dancing, Drawing, Systems Optimization, etc.

The structure is modular. It changes based on my present focus and circumstances outside my control.

I call this process parallel learning. This ties in with a fundamental principle of learning called Interleaving – the idea of varying and mixing up your learning to maximize engagement and retention.

The game is to achieve maximum efficiency during every block, and to consistently reach 5 blocks, like Walter Russell.”

My favorite type of Flow

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What’s your favorite type of Flow?”

Creative Flow.