I am Bobby Lyte, a DJ and producer that spends most of his time between Detroit and San Francisco. I first started DJing at Burning Man, as part of the day party theme camp called DeMentha, about 6 years ago. Since then I’ve also played at many shows in San Francisco and now online during the pandemic. In the last 3 years I’ve started producing my own music, but have yet to release much of it. Stay tuned :).
All that said, my day job is not at all related to music - I’m a software engineer. And it’s this hybrid between music and coding that gave birth to the Flow State show.
While I am technically the solo host of the Flow State show, you may consider Yoshi, my little Westy, a co-host sometimes as she often hangs around the studio as I record each episode :).
You can find me online at @bobby.lyte on Instagram. You can find the show at @our_flow_state on Twitter and Instagram.
“Flow State” is a show designed to help you focus. Whether you’re working, studying, or doing chores around the house, each episode of “Flow State” aims to guide the listener into a productive hour of work. Combine multiple episodes, or play one episode on repeat, and you have yourself a productive day!
Each episode is organized into music sections and talk sections. The music sections last 30 minutes, while the talk sections last five minutes. This may sound familiar to you if you’ve used the Pomodoro productivity technique. It’s a simple method in which you set a timer for 30 minutes and focus on a single task. At the end of the 30 minutes, you take a five-minute break. This method is meant to help people work for longer periods of time without burning out.
This is why each episode of “Flow State” is formatted the same way, but instead of the listener needing to manage a timer themselves, the episode does it for you. Simply work during the music sections and take a break during the talk sections.
By combining the Pomodoro technique with a finely tuned playlist of minimal electronic music, each episode strives to push you into a deep state of focus.
While the show is quite different from my professional work, where I mostly create software, it’s actually not that different from the live and recorded DJ sets I’ve created—but more importantly, it’s similar to the playlists I had been creating for myself and friends for quite some time.
As a coder, I’ve always used music to help me focus and accomplish my best work. Back in the day, I used to create playlists on tapes and CDs, but now I create them on Spotify. These playlists almost immediately trigger flow for me. They calm me down and drown out the thoughts of the past and the future and help me focus on now. I was already sharing these playlists with many of my friends and colleagues, who found them helpful. So when Spotify announced this new format for a show with music, the idea struck me almost immediately. The title of the show and the format all came to me almost effortlessly, as it is a type of show I was practically creating for myself and friends all these years. Spotify had just created a perfect vessel for it to reach thousands of people.
Initially, I didn’t know how many people it could reach or what impact it could have, but I was motivated to create it simply because it was fun to create. And that’s still why I do it today. I absolutely love the process of making each “Flow State” episode. But as it grows I’m learning more and more how valuable flow really is. Put simply, more people in flow means more people enjoying the present moment, which naturally means more people feeling fulfilled with their life. This is what keeps me going.
Since the playlists I created for myself were always uninterrupted, I knew I had to do the same with the show. One does not get into flow using music with constant interruptions. But how long should each music section be? That’s when I was reminded of the Pomodoro technique. It’s a technique for helping people focus for long periods of time effectively without burning out. The technique suggests you work for 30 minutes at a time—these are called “Pomodoros.” After each Pomodoro, you take a five-minute break. Repeat this process as many times as you need in a given day. I’ve always wanted to follow this technique myself, but fiddling with timers throughout the day just never worked for me. But with “Flow State,” if I created the show in that same format—30 minutes of music, five minutes of talking—the listener would no longer need to worry about timing their own Pomodoro. This format solved a huge problem for myself and I figured others would find it useful as well.
And of course, this allowed me to create the talk sections, which I believe have become a big part of why fans come back to the show. Sharing interesting excerpts from various things I’ve read or learned—whether it’s the science of what chemicals are released in your brain during flow, historical accounts of extreme athletes chasing flow, or the need to get rid of email at work—so we can all flow more, has been a fun process for me. And fans of the show have expressed how much they love these tidbits of information and inspiration.
This is probably one of my favorite aspects of building the show. As listeners know, the songs need to meet a strict criteria: instrumental, minimal, and low-to-medium energy. Every week I spend time actively listening to music. I find most of the music directly from Spotify by scouring various different playlists or simply starting a radio based on a song. Whether I’m working, doing chores around the house, out for a walk by the lake, or laying in my backyard hammock, I’ve got my headphones on and I’m listening to music! If I find something that could fit the show, I add it to a giant backlog playlist on Spotify. The bar for these songs is quite high. I have to feel confident that the song will help me stay calm and focused while working. I never settle for anything less.
Finally, when it comes time to create an episode, I go through all the songs I’ve found and pick songs that I think will go well with each other. This part is very important as well. I can’t just randomly throw songs together. There has to be a flow to the playlist. For example, I may want a particular episode to start really slow and build up. Or I may want the show to start off high-energy, to get people pumped, and then mellow out to keep the listener in a steady focus. It really depends on what I’m feeling at the time. I sometimes even throw the songs onto my studio CDJ’s and DJ with the songs to see what naturally flows well. In the end, each episode has a different flavor to it, but the goal is the same: helping the listener get into and stay in flow!
Aside from the music, a lot of research goes into the five-minute breaks and outro sections. These sections glue the show together into a cohesive episode. I hope to not only help the listener get stuff done, but also educate and inspire with the interesting excerpts or experiences I share during the breaks.
I get these topics from various places, whether it’s my spiritual practice as a light-giver, personal life experiences and challenges, or the various books I’m reading.
I won’t get into the details of what I do as a light-giver, but what’s important to know is that the space and stillness that I’ve created for myself through this practice is a major part of how and why I share what I share. In the stillness I find peace, and I hope to share that with others. Fun fact: The photos for this interview were taken at the Light Institute of Santa Fe, New Mexico! While I am not directly associated, the serendipity of connecting with this institute for this photoshoot was absolutely jaw-dropping.
Of course, between the space and stillness I do many things, one of which is reading. The show has pushed me to read even more, and on a weekly basis I’m reading several books and blogs as well as listening to podcasts and audiobooks. I’m like a sponge, absorbing everything I can. I take notes, but I don’t get too attached to anything until I start recording. When it comes to recording time, something I’ve read will resonate in that moment. This part is important because I want to genuinely feel and connect with what I’m sharing. Maybe I’m going through a challenge that a certain book is helping me with. Or maybe I’m not resonating with anything I’ve read that week—this itself will be the experience and emotion I want to share. Being genuinely in the moment as I record these talk sections is important to me. It makes the whole experience of making the show more fun and more flow-y!
A lot of my talk sections are readings from books or articles, so those are read verbatim. However, I definitely try to go off the cuff to share my experience and understanding of a specific topic. These are all quite spontaneous, but because the time is limited—only five-minute breaks—I often have to edit it down quite significantly to fit the format of the show. Battling between it feeling like a natural conversation, while also getting a specific point across in the limited time frame, is challenging and has been something I continue to improve. It’s been fun to work on this and has actually made me a better communicator in my personal life. One thing is for sure: I’ve definitely gotten better at reducing the ums and ahs I use in a sentence.
My goal with the show was to help anyone and everyone trying to focus—or I should say, trying to get into flow. Being in flow really means one thing: being totally and fully present with whatever it is you’re doing right now. Some people call it being in the zone. Whatever you call it, most people would agree that this state of being justifies life itself. When we’re not questioning our past or worrying about the future—when we’re totally and fully present with the ‘now’ is when we truly feel alive. So for me, this show is trying to reach anyone who responds well to music as a trigger into flow.
I believe most of the fans are knowledge workers, who spend most of their day in front of a computer. But I’ve heard from many others as well, including students trying to study, weightlifters in the gym, moms getting chores done around the house, and even dancers trying to get into a nice warmup routine. The applications are wide, and as I expand the show into potentially more formats I’m sure it can apply to many contexts. Music for your next yoga class? Who knows. But the goal is always the same—to help you enter and stay in flow state as long as possible. It’s what we live for!
I hope the listeners come away from the show wanting to come back. If the show is working, then it is something you can put on repeat and fill your day with as much flow as you’d like. In addition, I hope the talk sections can educate and inspire listeners. In some episodes, I share a lot about the science behind flow and how every individual’s biological body works differently and will respond to different triggers better or worse for flow.
For example, some people respond quite well to coffee. For me, coffee gets me too energized and doesn’t allow me to focus. I need something calming—like music! It’s these tidbits of science that I hope help the listeners improve their relationship to flow. I also share various excerpts from books on business, work, and life, and I hope these can inspire listeners to go after their biggest dreams. It’s this combination of music and knowledge that hopefully helps the listeners get things done, while also helping them learn something new.
A lot of my promotion has been through Instagram and Twitter, specifically ‘at’-mentioning musicians that I’ve featured on an episode. Many of the up-and-coming artists have responded well to this and love to hear their music being featured on a show. I’ve also used Twitter to mention specific writers whose work I’ve featured. As writers, they love to have their work featured as well as be included in the discussion. Lastly, I like to get listeners involved with the music selection. If you think a song fits the show, simply ‘at’-mention the show on Twitter or Instagram and link to the song. If I feel it works, I’ll include it in the show.
Today, starting a show has never been easier. Anchor and Spotify provide tools that make it incredibly easy. The hard part is coming up with something you enjoy making. And that’s what I would focus on: What do you, uniquely, enjoy creating? For me, I also had some other ideas for a show, but none of those were something I thought I would really enjoy creating. This is the one idea that felt like I could and would enjoy creating for a long time. That said, there’s no harm in creating a show that only lasts for a few episodes. If you enjoy creating it, why not? Again, that’s the most important piece. I feel like I’m in flow when I’m creating “Flow State” (so meta!).
“Flow State” is just the start! I’ve gotten incredible feedback from listeners and I know there’s more to this. While I will continue making and improving the show, I hope to build other aspects around the show that help promote flow. I know there’s a real interest for a community where ideas and knowledge about flow can be shared and discussed. We also have ideas for creating group flow. Have you ever gone to a yoga class with a large group of people? Compare that experience to doing yoga at home alone during the pandemic. I’m sure you’ve noticed the difference. This is why we think creating communities that flow together could really work.
Also, as I mentioned, my day job is a software engineer, and I’m fortunate enough to work at a company that prioritizes flow and deep work. This is rare in most businesses today, but I believe it’s extremely valuable.
Photos by Krysta Jabczenski.
The opinions expressed above are those of the interviewees and not Anchor or Spotify.