This Wikipedia article is an excellent overview to the concept of Flow.
The problem is, from personal experience, in one specific area, I think it's incomplete. To quote:
Schaffer (2013) proposed 7 flow conditions:
Knowing what to do
Knowing how to do it
Knowing how well you are doing
Knowing where to go (if navigation is involved)
High perceived challenges
High perceived skills
Freedom from distractions
And there are times when I can check the above off but still be feeling unable to get in the zone. My best guess is the weak point is either:
- distractions - it's a broad term, and feeling under pressure, even if completely self imposed, comes under that category.
- Knowing how to do it. If there are several options, and you know how you might do each, but can't decide which might be best, it becomes an issue, even if there is no obvious difference.
Are there any alternative models which explore possible barriers in more detail? Or any concepts such supplement flow theory to give further preconditions for flow? Stating the obvious perhaps, nearly any aspect of a person's general state of mind can be a barrier. Stress, even on unrelated tasks, is an obvious one. Is that already coversed in the above model? It would hamper decision making (knowing how you're going to do it), even though you do know how to do it. Perhaps it also counts as a distraction?
One last thought: perhaps, checking off the above, but feeling unable to achieve flow is itself a sign of incorrect cognition, since one or more points have been incorrectly assessed. (Assuming the model is correct and complete).