The zone is a peak state where you’re positively immersed and focused in a single activity. Some people call this state “flow” or “peak performance”.
I’m certain you have been in the zone before, whether by playing your favorite game, crunching code, browsing the web, playing an instrument or discussing your favorite topic.
It usually involves deep concentration and feelings of effortlessness, joy and confidence. You become deeply immersed in what you do and lose track of time. Sounds familiar?
I decided to share some insights on how to get into the zone. I use these methods myself to get back on track when I’m feeling unproductive. Give them a try.
As usual, I structured this post as a practical guide. I hope you’ll find it useful.
So, What’s In It For You?
Getting into the zone has several benefits:
- You are highly productive and achieve more in less time.
- You stay focused on a single task – not an easy thing to do these days.
- You feel great – happy, relaxed, competent and confident.
The Secret: Getting Just The Right Amount Of Stimulation
The secret to getting into the zone is getting just the right amount of stimulation for the task at hand. This stimulation can either be internal or external.
This so called “right” amount of stimulation depends on the person and on the task.
When you’re under-stimulated, you feel apathy, fatigue, boredom, and lack of motivation.
When you’re over-stimulated, you are anxious, nervous, irritable, and over excited.
In either case, you’re not performing at your best, and you’re likely to procrastinate, lose focus, and achieve sub-optimal results.
When you’re in the zone, you’re alert but calm, confident and motivated. You’re performing at your best, and do so effortlessly.
Unfortunately, most people swing between over-stimulation (nervousness) and under-stimulation (boredom) throughout the day.
Therefore, so you need to stay attentive to your body, thoughts and feelings to see how stimulated you are, and act accordantly.
The following guide will help you determine whether you’re over or under stimulated, and suggest some practical steps to get you back into your zone.
Getting to Your Zone When You’re Nervous (Over-Stimulated)
You’ll know you’re over-stimulated when:
- You’re easily irritated by people, interruptions, noises and setbacks (for example, when I’m over-stimulated I often get angry at websites and computer programs)
- You’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know how to cope.
- You have many thoughts running through your head.
- Your heart beats faster and harder than usual (this is the adrenaline pumping)
- You take fast and shallow breaths.
In that case, use any of these steps to reduce anxiety and get into your zone:
- Get a short nap or break – sometimes a 10 minutes nap or walk outside is enough to “reset” your state and reduce some stress.
- Take slow, deep breathes – inhale for a few seconds then slowly let the air out by clinging your teeth and tongue, making a “sssss” sound as you exhale slowly. Repeat a few times.
- Chunk it down – you might be unconsciously anxious about the task at hand. Chunk it down to small, more manageable set of steps to reduce anxiety.
- Get stuff off your head – your mind might be loaded with many concerns – work, family, errands, finance, things to do, etc. Take a pen and paper and write those things down to allow your mind to focus on a single task.
- Take a shower – a good shower can be used to relax both your muscles and your mind.
- Think of something that relaxes you – a loved one, the seashore, a pleasant vacation you recently experienced.
Getting to Your Zone When You’re Bored (Under-Stimulated)
You’ll know you’re under-stimulated when:
- You feel bored, although you might have things to do.
- You feel sleepy and fatigued (for example, when under-stimulated I feel too weak to do anything, as if I’m out of emotional energy and will power)
- You’re indifferent, unmotivated and feeling low, even slightly depressed.
- You have a craving for sugary or salty foods.
In that case, use any of these steps to rev up and get into your zone:
- Make the task more challenging – sometimes you get under stimulated when a task is too simple and dull. Look for ways to make it a bit more challenging, take it to the next level.
- Move your body – walk, run, dance, jump, do some exercises and get your body moving.
- Grab a snack or a drink – but be sure not to consume an excessive amount of sugar.The sugar rush will burn you out pretty fast.
- Leverage pain and pleasure – ask yourself: what kind of pain would I experience if I don’t get this task done? What kind of pleasure would I get by completing this task?
- Put on some loud music – whatever makes you upbeat and motivated. Use headphones for increased effect.
- Multitask for a short while – while multitasking is not optimal, it’s still better than no-tasking at all.Go and multitask for 5-15 minutes until you feel motivated again. Start a Facebook chat,open the TV or make a phone call. But use it sparingly until you’re back on track and don’t make this a habit.
I hope you enjoyed reading this guide, here’s how to apply it:
- Next time you procrastinate or feel unfocused or unproductive, use the guide above to determine if you’re over or under stimulated.
- Then, apply one or more of the methods to get back into your zone, until you’re feeling positive, motivated, focused and confident.
- Be sure to use these methods in moderation, otherwise you’ll find yourself overshooting from under to over-stimulated, or vice versa. Keep in mind you need to get just the right amount of stimulation, not too much and not too little.
I’m certain tapping into your zone as a habit will make you happier, more productive and more confident.
I’d love to hear your comments – what are your methods to get into the zone?
Photo by RelaxingMusic