Call it flow, or being in the zone; Whatever your preferred name, you know its power, right? I didn’t fully understand this concept until I became a runner and began training for half-marathons. It took a lot of practice and patience to achieve that mental state; not having to think about my stride or my pace. My body “worked” seamlessly, just as I needed and wanted it to. The reward? Feeling invincible, unstoppable, successful. The hard work, blood, sweat and tears finally feeling worthwhile. That has been my experience with getting into the zone, as an athlete.
So what does that have to do with your professional life and productivity? A lot, actually. It can be argued that the state of flow is the most perfect state from which to work. And if we expand the definition of “work” to include making sales and delivering quality products/services for our customers, in addition to running that PR marathon or catching that perfect wave, the correlation is easily made. As productivity pro Laura Stack says, “When you achieve a state of flow, skill merges with practice and preparation in an almost magical way.”
How do you achieve flow and get into the zone when you are at your desk, in your office, and you don’t have adrenaline, beautiful scenery ,or fresh air to inspire you? It is a different kind of flow, I would agree, but the outcome can be just as powerful and meaningful. Writing a wonderfully-crafted proposal, providing a well-received presentation, knocking it out of the park on a client project; these can also be the result of flow and can lead to success and feeling unstoppable.
Here are a few strategies to help you find your flow and make the magic happen:
- Delete the Distractions– You know this, but do you actually do it? Turn the phone off (yes, off, not just on vibrate) or at least move it into another room, out of sight and (hopefully) out of mind. If someone really needs you, they will find a way to get a hold of you. Lock yourself out from tempting websites (check out the Chrome extension StayFocused). Tell those individuals who tend to interrupt you that you are not available for the next few hours. Be proactive and take control of your time and your focus.
- Set the Clock- Need to submit that proposal by 3:00 PM? Set the timer and race the clock to get it done by 2:00 PM. Don’t have an external deadline? Still set the timer and get the project done by 2:00 PM. Regardless of whether clients or co-workers are directly involved in a project’s timeline, create your own deadline, and then challenge yourself to get it done by a certain day and time. With a specific start and stop time in place, dig in and get to work! Single task and make that the ONLY task you devote mental energy to, while the clock or timer is ticking. Give yourself a limit on the time you spend on each task, consistent with its level of importance. Done is better than perfect, right? Which leads me to the next tip…
- Aim for 80%- I read a wonderful mini-book a few years ago called The 80% Approach by Dan Sullivan. It literally changed my work life. It teaches you how to eliminate perfectionism and procrastination, to get work done more quickly, and to redefine what “finished” really means. There is no such thing as perfect, and by recognizing that your 80% will likely be seen as 100% by others, you can focus on getting the work done and not unrealistically seeking perfection. Flow is not about doing it perfectly, it’s about doing it skillfully and effectively. [Get a free downloadable copy of the book here.]
- Fuel to Focus- Are your body and brain fueled up? Just as you will tank in the final miles if you haven’t properly eaten before a race, you will not find your flow if you are not providing fuel, aka healthy food, to your brain. Food has a direct impact on focus, memory, and attention span. Be sure you are well fed and feeling energized prior to rolling up your sleeves and tackling that project.
What has your best experience been, finding flow and getting into the zone? Let us know what works best for you, and try a few of these techniques the next time you need to focus and create some magic. All in a day’s work, right?
To Your Productivity-