The way we work is the way we live. If we are working at our best, we will be living at our best. The meaning of our life is intimately linked with the meaning of our work, which depends on the meaning that we find in each one of our daily tasks.
Work means attention ordering and sustaining effort. When we are working at our best, we are working with the qualities of order, intensity, and constancy.
Our ability to perform any task at our best depends on the level of focus we attain. The very highest state of focus is called flow. When we’re in flow, we are working intensely toward a goal without any effort needed to fight distractions or impulses. Though we lose track of time, we do not lose ourselves in the task: flow is a highly intentional state. We could say that it is mindfulness plus momentum.
OptimalWork.com aims to teach you how to achieve and sustain flow throughout your day. The foundation of our approach is the Elmbrook Professional Inventory (EPI), a simple instrument that we designed to assess how well you have been working and living for the past week. Each item of the inventory presents you with an ideal to strive to attain; taking the inventory every week will remind you of each ideal and track your progress. When you practice working with these principles in mind, you will transform your life.
Optimal Work is built on the psychological foundation of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and applies the insights of this scientific tradition to the challenge of working at your best. The inventory was created by specifically adapting the six areas of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). With some consolidation, this leads to an approach that is at once biological, psychological, social, and spiritual; in the inventory these categories are reflected in the domains of work-life balance, mode of working, collaborating with others, and ideals (respectively).
Working with researchers at the Harvard Program for Integrative Knowledge and Human Flourishing, we have confirmed by factor analysis that the inventory questions do indeed group into these four domains. We have also confirmed that the questions on the inventory are all positively correlated, so that improving in one item goes along with improving in all the rest. In a preliminary study we have shown that the scores on the inventory correlate tightly with the best work-engagement measures in the social sciences literature.