Need Time to Think and Create? Make a Bliss Station Your Next Stop

Do you feel like you are always in overdrive? Do you find yourself running from meeting to meeting or watching your “to-do” list grow quicker than you can cross things off? Are you having trouble finding time to think about or do those things that reenergize you?

You might consider creating a Bliss Station. Before you think I’ve lost my mind, keep reading. You might find this to be a helpful tool.

I learned about the concept of Bliss Stations in one of Daniel Pink’s “Pinkcasts.” Pink interviewed Austin Kleon, the author of Steal Like an Artist and Keep Going. Kleon is a self-proclaimed “writer who draws.” He regularly posts a variety of writings, drawings, and ideas on his website

His recent blogpost about how to create one can be read here. He first wrote about Bliss Stations in 2016 here.

But, to save you some time, I’ll share with you what I learned from both his blog and his very short interview with Daniel Pink. (Watch it here.)

Powerful simplicity

A Bliss Station can be a real geographic place. A special spot may be best for you, but it can be created almost anywhere. It is a place where you can think—or just be—without distractions. Its purpose is to provide you with a quiet, uninterrupted environment to spur your thinking and creativity.

You don’t need much to create a Bliss Station. Kleon recommends the following “equipment” —

  • Your cell phone placed on airplane mode to make it “dumb”
  • Earplugs (not earphones!)
  • A timer (your phone’s timer alarm should vibrate or make sound even in airplane mode)
  • An interruption-free space
(Not to be confused with bliss)

To get started, Kleon recommends setting the timer to 15 minutes, arguing that even the busiest person can spare 15 minutes to focus and advance their thinking about a particular topic or idea.

I’m drawn to the concept of a Bliss Station for its simplicity, yet power. I use a similar strategy when I need to focus and avoid distractions. I close down my laptop and set my phone timer to 25 minutes. Then I read something, or I develop a storyline for an upcoming professional learning session. Or, I write a blogpost or commit to some work task that needs my undivided attention.

The Bliss Station makes this focused concentration even easier by removing one more distraction: interruptions by distant sounds, a ringing phone or a colleague. Finding such a place—Kleon notes his Bliss Space is in his garage—is vital to move into what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “Flow.”

Flow is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great costs for the sheer sake of doing it” (Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, p. 4).

Think of a moment when you were so totally focused on something that you lost all sense of time. Flow can happen when you a reading a really captivating book, or when you are totally immersed in a hobby, or any number of activities that invite you engage deeply. I’d suggest a Bliss Station can induce flow.

Joseph Campbell dreamed up the “Bliss Station”

The concept of a Bliss Station did not come from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Me-High Chick-Sent-Me-High). Rather, it was the idea of the late Joseph Campbell, the mythologist and writer. In an interview with Bill Moyers, Campbell noted:

“If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”

Campbell suggested creating your bliss by having a “sacred space” to enable you to reflect, work without interruption, and create. You can read a fascinating blogpost about both Campbell and Bill Moyers written by the equally remarkable Maria Popova.

Why not join me in the bliss challenge?

Based on reading and thinking about a Bliss Station, I’m committed to creating one. The challenge will be finding a space where I can’t be interrupted. Maybe I’ll start with trying a sign on the closed door of my office asking not to be disturbed!

I should have tried that today, as I’ve attempted to write this blog, I’ve been interrupted four times: once to celebrate an office birthday; once by a phone call; once by an impromptu, but important meeting; and once by a colleague who was proofing a professional learning design we plan to use. Sound familiar? Maybe if I sat in my car….

It may be challenging but I’m determined to try it. If you are feeling stressed and desiring something like a Bliss Station, please join me in creating your own. And, if you do, please let me know how it goes! I’ll keep you posted about my space as well.

Austin Kleon’s Bliss Station as it looked in July, 2016.