Don’t Cap Flow State: Extreme Hyperfocus

Ever find yourself in flow state(being in the zone) and then something comes up to pull you out of it? Most often it’s by our own design. We structure our lives in a way where flow state is limited, so our results are too, as an accidental byproduct.

In this article I’m going to share why hyperfocus is so important, and give you an idea to help increase the amount of time you spend in flow state.

What is flow state?

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

Most people’s lives are set up in a way where it’s difficult for them to even get into flow. They work on things they don’t like, get distracted a lot, and the occasions where they are in flow, they have something on their schedule that will interrupt it.

Why does this matter? In short, because flow state, or being in the zone is directly tied to your success, and your happiness. So, when you limit flow, you’re limiting your own success and happiness.

When you limit flow, you’re limiting your own success and happiness

As you know I like to integrate things into my life that make success and happiness easier. Want to know one interesting way that I do this?

I don’t cap flow.

I know what you’re thinking, “what does that even mean Billy?

Well, I set up my life in a way where the times I’m in flow state, I maximize the time that I’m able to stay in it.

If you already follow my blueprints for how to achieve goals and how to set goals even if you don’t know what you want, then a side effect of that is you’ll already have a decent structure in place for getting into flow state.

But I want to share a simple flow hack that’s much easier than what everyone else tries to do. So many people are obsessed with how they can get in flow state more often, and all the tips and tricks that might help them get in the zone easier.

flow focus trick

A much easier strategy to being in the zone more and maximizing flow state, is just not to pulling yourself out of it once you’re already in. Seems obvious but almost no one does it.

Let me show you what I mean.

Here’s a personal case study of extreme hyperfocus I shared with the Incubator a couple months back:

Results that can be achieved with extreme hyperfocus

Over the last month or so I’ve been slowly eliminating things on my to do list. Basically, trying to have as little as possible to do, so that all my time only goes towards doing what I want to do.

The last week or so I’ve been sick, so not only did I not have much on my to do list because of my elimination spree, but I also didn’t go out at all, didn’t go to the gym, etc… Basically all I did was write. The results:

The results:

2,172 word blog post

3,919 word blog post

2,447 word blog post

3,522 word blog post

2,268 word blog post

1,462 word half written blog post

This doesn’t include a handful of other 2-300 word notes/ideas I wrote down on other topics. I might have written close to 18,000 words on the week.

Now, if you’ve been a ForeverJobless reader for a while, you know I’m a relatively slow writer. However, with extreme hyperfocus, pretty absurd results were possible.

Now, I can’t not do anything all the time, but this is a good example of what’s possible with extreme hyperfocus, in a very short period of time.

So, maybe it’s writing, or finding a good supplier, or vetting out a business idea, or whatever it may be for you- if you tried eliminating everything else even just for a brief period, you would amaze yourself.

It’s in large part due to flow state.

Do not cap flow, and you will find the results from being in the state of flow for a longer period of time significantly more beneficial even if the only thing you changed was not capping flow.

How did hyperfocus allow me to get into a state of flow?

With something like writing, a lot of the time is figuring out what to write, then jotting down some ideas, starting to write some, and then a lot of times you’re already on to the next task before you really get anything great going. Then next time you come back you’ve got to figure out what you were writing, and try and get re-engaged with where you were trying to go, start brainstorming again, etc…  If you’re lucky enough to hit a flow state, you cap it by jumping to your next task and starting the process all over the next time.

With the example above, I literally did nothing except eat, sleep and write. Whenever I reached the state of flow, results came very fast. Before being in the zone, they came very slow. For example, sometimes the first hour or two I had a couple crappy paragraphs, but then magically 3,000 words appeared on the page- that’s because of flow state.

Flow Focus

When you have no other distractions, your mind will constantly figure out solutions to what it is you’re trying to do. Flow state is right around the corner. If instead you have things constantly pulling you away, either before flow comes, or when you’re in the state of flow, your amount of time in flow state is significantly impacted.

Flow Graph

non Flow



Flow Schedule

Flow takes time to reach. So why would someone want to limit flow state? Well, it’s not that you want to limit it, but setting meetings and calls at times you may be in flow unintentionally takes you out of flow state, day after day.

Remember my simplified schedule I shared in how to set goals:

  • 4:30 wake up
  • 5:00 writing
  • 9:30 main task
  • 10:15 gym
  • 12:30 other tasks, entertainment, or more writing
  • 8:00 read in bed
  • 8:30 sleep

You’ll notice I don’t have things like “calls”, “meetings” or any set schedule activities right after my priority goal task. You may remember time blocking from The One Thing, where you don’t schedule anything during your time block so that you can give focus to your main goal. Well, I take it to the extreme and don’t even schedule anything after my time block.(the things after it are simply delayed if I’m in flow state)


The reason is so that the times when my time block is up and I’m in flow state, I just keep going. I remain hyperfocused. There’s no alarm. There’s no pressing things I need to get to. There’s just flow, or no flow. Hyperfocus, or unfocused. If I’m not in flow state, I just go about my day after my time block is done. When I am in flow state, I keep going. Everything else gets pushed back until I’m no longer in the state of flow.

If I do have any calls or meetings, I always schedule them much later in the day so that there’s no chance a potential flow state is interrupted.

What is something that would allow you to make significant progress right now?

What do you think would happen if the only thing you did was not capping flow state once you reach it?

I know you might be thinking, “but I have too much on my daily schedule”.


I understand you can’t just block everything else out of your life if you’ve got a tight schedule already. Some of you have jobs, families, and other obligations. That’s okay. Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Do your best to limit the amount of scheduled activities immediately after your time block period. So for example if your time block is in the morning, try not to schedule morning meetings directly after. If it’s in the afternoon, don’t force yourself to go run errands at a certain time, or some other task that doesn’t need to be done at a specific time. May not be milk in your fridge, will be massive flow happening!
  2. Flow TasksPick a certain number of days you can block everything out and do nothing else. Go rent a cabin for a long weekend, or do something as simple as hanging in the library for a day.

You will likely get more done during this period than you could have if you had 5x the days, because you’ll spend 5x of your time in flow. Flow is where the best work happens. Days you can completely eliminate any distractions allow you to be hyperfocused.

Now, if you’re a really busy person, I know it sounds too simple and not to sound dismissive, but I’d recommend trying not to be so busy. Look at the things you do each day and ask yourself if are really getting major life benefits from all of them, or if they’re acting as more of a distraction from the things that would get you major life benefits. Now, ask the same question if you were in flow state for the goals you want to achieve.

What benefits am I getting from my list of to-do items?

What benefits would I possibly achieve from spending that time in flow state for my priority goal?

The upside of being in flow state longer will often significantly outweigh the downside of not getting some of your to-do list done.

The writing example I shared was just one example.

I usually have a don’t cap flow rule when I’m pursuing a goal, I just didn’t have a term for it before.

I did the same thing with my podcast. It helped me get over 58,000 downloads my first month with a very tiny audience at the time. I wasn’t even spending more than an hour or two usually, but the days I did reach flow I would just keep going and script many episodes in a row, where if I had capped flow state, I wouldn’t have been able to.

When I had fitness as my priority goal, I would go to the gym first thing in the morning, and not plan anything after. So I could take my time in my workout and be in flow state. It was literally impossible not to make significant improvements because I was there every day, and never in a rush to leave. There was no possibility for something to distract me from it, or cause my workouts to be rushed and less than optimal. Hyperfocus. Guaranteed flow state. Results were a guaranteed, expected byproduct of not only time blocking it first thing in the morning, but not capping flow state when I was there.

Flow BusyFlow Busy Productive Goals


If you just commit to yourself to having zero distractions for limited time periods, you will achieve life changing results in a very small period of time.

The goal is hyperfocus. It will lead to flow state. Embrace the flow. Do not cap it.

You will be surprised at the results you will achieve if you will just test extreme hyperfocus with your goal.


No activity can be successfully pursued by an individual who is preoccupied … since the mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply, but rejects everything which is, so to speak, crammed into it. – Seneca


Being in flow is +ev. Especially if in flow while working on your priority goal. Do not cap flow state. Cap time needed for activities that do not bring you flow state, so you have more time for priority goals and/or activities that bring you into the state of flow. Stopping flow to work on unessential activities is goal achieving/flow state producing suicide. Flow leads to places for growth. Growth leads to happiness. If you cap flow state, you unintentionally limit your own happiness.

33 Responses to “Don’t Cap Flow State: Extreme Hyperfocus”

  1. Himanshu

    This is gold…love the advice you put out…keep up the good work…????

  2. Neil

    Great post Billy! Do you ever find yourself feeling pressured in that blocked off time period? Like “oh shit now I only have 1 hours left in my set aside time! Need to be more productive!” then that pressure can then be counter-productive.

    • Billy

      Kind of the opposite for me since I have my ‘don’t cap flow’ rule. If anything I’m less productive than I should be during that time sometimes because I know I don’t have to do anything else.

  3. Sam

    Another great one Billy, since reading The One Thing, I no longer book calls/meetings in my flow time.


  4. Jimbo

    The key to flow is mastering “NO.”

    “No, I can’t hang out with you today” (especially women addicted to my irresistible sexy charm and brilliant coversation).

    “No, I can’t go out clubbing tonight” (Sorry dude. Learn to fly solo; I’m no man’s wingman.)

    “No, I’m not available for family dinner at Olive Garden.” (You can love your family without letting the family set your agenda,)

    “No, I’m not going to help you out.” (It’s not that I’m an asshole, I’m just busy being lazy, although people will not understand why family and friends don’t drop everything to help out with their pressing pet project).

    “No, I’m not going to work” (being obsessively lazy is the key to using your mind to solve the problems that most people solve with “hard-work”. What a waste of a man’s life)

    “No, I’m not returning your call,, text, etc.” (I’ll get to you when I’m ready, if I’m ever ready. Most pings for replies are people wanting to rob me of time/and attention, if not more precious resources like money and property).

    The default answer to all requests for my time are “NO.” I let the other party convince me as to why I should change that NO to a YES. And, it’s surprising how they are unable to come up with compelling reasons 95% of the time.

    I’m flowing right now!

  5. Papi

    I used to have a sales job where I had to be in a constant state of flow at all times. I was selling hair straighteners in shopping malls, and I’m sure you can imagine that’s not an easy job. Not only are you on your feet all day, but you have to learn to crank up your energy levels on demand when you’re doing your demonstration in order to even have a CHANCE at making a sale.

    After four years on the job, I learned quite a few tricks for getting into the “flow” state. Some are better than others, but here’s a few tips:

    1. Sugar free energy drinks

    These will buy you about 2 hours of “flow” time, assuming that you’re able to focus on the task at hand. I remember when I would get to the mall, I would wait until 11 AM to drink my first one, because that was when the mall started to fill up with people. I would almost always make a sale within minutes of starting to drink it. Make sure you get the sugar free ones, unless you are in the mood for some diabetes. Also, limit yourself to 2 x day and take a day or two off here and there during the week. Honestly, it’s not a long term strategy because you’ll eventually get hit with adrenal fatigue but it definitely works!

    2. Modafinil/Adrafinil

    This is the good stuff right here. It’s a “wakefulness promoter,” which is a non-stimulant type of drug that is going to keep you awake. Very good stuff, not speedy like Adderal but will give you good clean energy (more like endurance, really) throughout the day. Modafinil is scheduled, so you’ll need a prescription, but Adrafinil is unregulated and you can buy it freely on the internet (it breaks down into Modafinil in the body).

    3. Making a list

    I’ve found this helps me get into a “flow” state somewhat indirectly. For example, if I wake up and just plop myself in front of the computer, I run the risk of getting distracted: Facebook, Reddit, cat videos etc.

    But if I sit down and BEFORE I get on the computer, make a list of all the shit I need to do that day and keep the list right next to me, then there’s a much better chance of me actually working towards crossing the things off that list.

    4. Centrophenoxine

    Yes, another substance (you can tell I’m a fan of these strange things). Centro is another nootropic that helps your brain produce acetylcholine, which is a type of neurotransmitter in your brain. There was a study on rats who took it that ended up living 30% longer than the control group.

    When you take it before diving into a task, it gives you tunnel vision on said task. But be careful – because if you take it before doing something that isn’t productive, you may look at your watch 3 hours later and realize you just spend the whole day stalking your friends from high school on Facebook.

    5. Coffeetivity

    This is a cool website that mimics the sounds of a cafe. Apparently, science has proven that it helps people be more productive.

    I discovered this website at my last job. It was a phone sales gig that pretty much required us to cold call people from a list of leads for 8-9 hours a day. Draining, yes, and a flow state was pretty much mandatory to make any progress.

    The good thing about this site is that it provides some background noise so there isn’t complete silence for whatever you’re doing. I can’t really explain it because I don’t understand the science behind it, but it actually works!

    6. Nicotine

    Yes, I realize most of my tips are substance-related. And yes, I realize that nicotine gets a bad rap because of cigarettes. Before I go into the good aspects of that though, just know that most of the research regarding nicotine is connected to cigarettes as well. In other words, there are very few studies that focus on nicotine alone. Do a Google search for “gwern nicotine” without the quotes and read what he’s written. Very long, but very good.

    Nicotine will help you get past those “ugh” moments where you just don’t want to do something. Using a personal example, I am not a clean person. I used to hate cleaning my room and/or apartment, and would only do it if I had a girl coming over that I wanted to impress.

    But then I ordered some nicotine lozenges from Amazon (very cheap, like $4 for a bottle of 40 lozenges). I would take 1/4 of a lozenge and then clean my apartment, and then wouldn’t you know it: now I wake up every morning and feel compelled to clean my apartment.


    Anyway, sorry to post such a long comment but part of MY flow state today was to post long comments on other people’s blogs that I enjoy reading. I love reading your stuff Billy. Feel better!

    • Billy

      Thanks for sharing!

      Can’t say I’ve tried most of these, but the simple act of making a list for me literally changes my day/week. Super boost of productivity and definitely helps increase flow. So simple, but works.

  6. Austin

    Keep ’em coming man.

    I’m still reorganizing my business based on the brief interaction we had on your last article.

    Regarding this article, I find that the problem isn’t necessarily getting into or prolonging flow. It’s the interior psychological barriers. Once I give myself ‘permission’ to move past those barriers (feat primarily) the flow state is a piece of cake.

    Would love to see some more content about how you personally handle your interior barriers.

    Talk soon man

  7. Rinaldo

    Well this is timely. Looking back on this day where I had to script my new podcast episode, create 10 leads for my business and review quantum physics lectures and not having done one single task with a 100% completion I will definitely block time differently from this point on. Thinking about doing themed days. Although, classes serve as such a flow disruptor especially when they are scattered throughout the day.

  8. Frances Smith

    Love it! I’ve done this before and had extreme results. It’s takes a lot of effort and of course, focus, but man it feels good when you hit your goals!

    • Billy

      Good to hear from you! Miss seeing you all the time.

      Btw I tried eating some healthy delivery meals out here in Cape Town- just not the same as yours were!

      Hope the new venture is going well.

  9. David

    Great topic and very dear to what I am working towards currently (in terms of self-improvement.

    I would highly recommend Deep Work on the subject, funnily enough, I was so inspired by the first few pages that I went ahead and finished the book in 2 days (including notes).

    Many of the world’s greatest achievements have come from this supreme state of flow, deep work or focused concentration. It is really amazing what we can do when we can reach this, and to reach it consistently.

    • Billy

      I loved his previous book, and haven’t had a chance to get to that one yet. It’s on my list, looking forward to reading it.

  10. Dave

    Excellent as always Billy. Thanks a lot! I just want to add for anyone (like me) that initially finds it very difficult to get in flow, you really need to check out (I’m not affiliated I just love it!). It gets me in flow within 5-10mins about 90% of the time (which is incredible for me!). The other 10% of the time I’m simply brain dead and a set of jumper cables to the temples wouldn’t even do the trick! :)

  11. Miritana

    Awesome post! I’ve been struggling with a 7 episode television series I’ve been writing and this particular article is perfect for the challenges in facing at the moment. Thank you so much!

    • Billy

      Awesome! What’s the series on?

      • Miritana

        Not sure if my reply posted, but the show is about a middle aged actor struggling to make ends meet while his contemporaries enjoy successful careers or are married with children. His daily life is taken up with random auditions for bit parts and his casual job as a mystery shopper on the Sydney trains network. Very similar to Louis C.K. And Master of none. The series’ working title is “Transit”.

  12. Miritana

    It’s about a 40-something actor still trying to manage his fading career while working a casual job on the Syndey Trains network as a mystery shopper. Very much in the Style of Louis C.K, Master of none. Set in Syndey, Australia.

  13. Will Bauer

    Love this post! Not only because that’s the one thing my business is about (blocking all distractions with our Software, but also because I found this to be true myself. I am so much more productive when just focusing on one single goal and not trying to do a zillion things at once.

    Have you read “Deep Work” by Cal Newport? If you have not you will definitely like it! Deep Work is just a synonym for your word hyper focus and Cal is as extreme as you are when it comes to focus ;). Jared Tendler recently also published a podcast episode with him which was worth listening to if you don’t feel like reading (you can skip the part when Jared just talks to Barry).

    Have a great day! Cheers Will

  14. Ender Aydin Orak

    Hi Billy,

    I always find what you have been writing valuable, but I’m not sure if this is a good advice or not. At least I think there should be a separation between the type of tasks that you want to achieve in order to reach your goals.

    It may be true for the creative tasks that require high level of focus and being in the flow not to cap it and delay the other tasks as much as possible, but in general after some period of time, you may end up having lots of tasks at hand that you have delayed for a long time to stay in the flow and that would cause a lot of stress on you, which eventually will prevent you to stay in the flow.

    You may also have problems with your social life, your network, which is also seems time consuming and not productive, but to some extend play a key role in your long time goals and success.

    Another problem with this approach would be to fall in the trap of feeling that you have achieved too much in a short period of time, and then you may break your daily routine for a while, which would be disastrous once becomes a habit on its own.

    I think maintaining a constant pace would be more valuable advice, though you may not be able to reach your goals as fast as the flow times, you will eventually be reaching, and you’re guaranteeing it with being consistent and not productive in a unstable way.

    Thank you so much again for your invaluable posts.


    • Billy

      I’m constantly tweaking and testing things with my days/habits, so this is one that may or may not turn out to be optimal for me as I test it with my writing.

      I don’t let too much pile up because of the way I structure my weeks with buffer days:

      So that limits potential stress from building up because there is a day set aside to get things done that have been put off.

      Great feedback, thank you!

  15. David Levin


    This is really great. Thoughtful and important. But I actually disagree, to some extent.

    The idea of getting into flow and respecting it is huge, and I totally agree with that. But I don’t agree you shouldn’t cap it. In fact, the opposite is true. You can get to a higher level of creativity, effectiveness and happiness by capping it very intentionally.

    The problem with not capping your flow state is that it can take over, which ultimately hurts the quality of your work and makes you unhappy.

    Many times I have let the flow take over, and stayed at my desk writing for hours on end, only to get to the end of the day and feel like I’m farther behind than when I started, and my life is more out of control. Super frustrating.

    Also, after a relatively brief period of time, the quality of your creativity goes down. Yes, more stuff is coming out, but it doesn’t end up being your best stuff. You need to step back and get perspective now and then to do your best work. The sweet spot seems to be 45-75 minutes at a time.

    Here’s the best way to go, from what I’ve read and experienced for myself. Set a timer for 50 minutes, shut all your distractions off, and get to work. Don’t think about anything but what you’re working on for that time. Then, when the timer goes off, get up and do something completely different for ten minutes. Play your guitar. Walk around. Give yourself a true brain break. Then set your timer for another 50 minutes and go at it again. Two or three of those in a day is absolutely perfect.

    I think you’ll find something like this is better than no cap at all. It’s definitely important to get used to accessing your flow state, but if you can also stay in control of your overall time and focus, you’ll move to an even higher level.

    • Billy

      Great feedback David, thanks! I’ve tried some things similar to that before and found it was too short of a time for me with priority task activities when wanting to go into flow.

      I am planning to test limiting flow to see how it compares to what I’m currently doing, but at the moment it’s working very well for me. I take breaks when flow stops, so it’s not as though I’m writing with no breaks at all. If I find myself getting out of the zone, that’s when I take a breather.

      • David Levin

        That makes a lot of sense, too. Maybe just try a longer on-period? 75-90 mins? But it sounds like you’re already very aware of what’s working for you. No surprise there. 🙂 I was more offering the idea as an alternate for readers who are maybe just starting out with it. Thanks!

  16. Rich Cosh

    Oh hell yeah! I can really relate to this. I used to struggle with having ADD because I didn’t know about Hyperfocus and Flow.

    When I started writing my book however, I would head up to my cottage with no reception, and no internet. I remember smashing out 80% of my books content in one week. Absolutely astounding results.


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