Find the Productivity Zone Even when it feels Most Challenging
Productivity is a major objective in our lives that often escapes us; sometimes without us even realising it. The ease of access to distractions like social media, instant messaging, e-mails and the internet presents us with many avenues in which our focus can so easily wander.
But often it can be more than just the habit of constantly checking our phones that causes our days to be unproductive. Factors including dehydration, environment and even failing to plan can also kill productivity before we even begin.
Although known as many things we’ve all found ourselves at one point or another, in that beautiful state of flow. Is there a better feeling than looking up at the clock to realise hours have passed and you’ve reached that word count, completed that project or cleared that to do list effortlessly?
So what is the formula to getting into the zone?
The Scientific Criteria
According to Psychologist, Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, author of Flow, there are three specific criteria to meet:
- Have clear goals and an idea of how you can progress towards them.
- Be able to give yourself or quickly seek feedback as you work.
- Balance your level of skill with the level of challenge within the task.
This can then be broken down further into five elements that help us optimise both our mind-set and our environments in order to get into the zone:
Exercising our self-control leads back to the idea that some distractions are totally avoidable if we are strict with ourselves. Turn off your notifications, or your phone completely; close down your e-mails; shut your office door and set yourself as away or busy online. According to Csíkszentmihályi, “In the flow-like state, we exercise control over the contents of our consciousness rather than allowing ourselves to be passively determined by external forces.“
Throughout our Londonoffices blog, we talk often about the impact that environment has on your ability to work and to work happily. This is no different when it comes to getting into the productivity zone. For each individual, the ideal working environment will be different.
Some people thrive surrounded by the buzz of others, with plenty of colour and creativity. Others find that a quiet and relaxing spot with ample sunlight and plenty of natural materials helps them slip away. Finding which works for you is key to maintaining focus.
Even when equipped with the knowledge and understanding of ‘flow’, getting into the zone is still difficult. And balancing your skills with the challenge in hand is one of the hardest parts. Before you can even think about entering the zone to complete a task, you will need good understanding of the subject field. Your abilities will need testing, but not to stressful levels. While if a task isn’t challenging enough, the mind will begin to wander and look for other stimuli.
This is where you think about the purpose of your task and whether you really value the end result. If you don’t connect with why you are doing something or understand its importance or value, the chances of reaching the zone to complete it will be very low.
Feeling rewarded is also another huge factor when trying to get into the zone. This isn’t the thought of a lovely huge pay-cheque at the end or winning an incentive. It is the idea that you find value and reward in the task itself – so much so that you would do it without the money if there weren’t bills to pay. In Csíkszentmihályi words we should, “Experience… the activity as intrinsically rewarding.“
Find your Individual Zone
If there is one thing we know about people is that we are all wonderfully unique and there is never a one rule fits all for human behaviour. Getting into the zone is as much about discovering what works for you as any behavioural technique.
Are you a morning person or a night owl for example? Our energy levels waiver throughout the day, your only job is to understand when yours are highest. How much work do you generally find you do during each period of the day?
If you’re ready and raring to go as soon as you walk through the door, then those e-mails can wait. Sit down and crack on with the nitty gritty as soon as you arrive. But make sure you’ve created yourself a clear plan before you leave the office the evening before.
If you’re more of a slow burner and find that you like to ease yourself in, why not spend the morning reading through industry news on LinkedIn and organising your inbox? Then grab yourself a coffee and crack on! It’s all about what works best for you.
Once you have discovered your body schedule, put it down on paper and plan your most productive day. In an article by Fast Company they suggest we should, “Block out thinking time on your calendar for when you’re most productive. Schedule tasks that take less cognitive load like email replies or paying bills for the time of day where you’re ready to operate on autopilot. Arm yourself every day with the right time frame to get the right work done.”
Set yourself up Right
The best way to set up your day to allow your mind to get into the zone is to plan. Take a look at your task list and decided what you will do and at what time you will do it over the day. In an article by Shine they explain, “When our subconscious mind doesn’t know when we will complete a task, it will often interrupt our flow state with intrusive reminders about what else we need to do.” It is also a good idea to deal with any mental clutter – check your calendar and organise your e-mails – so you know nothing pressing needs doing before you can get into the zone.
Planning also includes combatting any potential disruptions before they occur. Is your laptop battery on low? Are your glasses close by? Is the temperature in the room comfortable? Any of these things may be just waiting to burst that productivity bubble as soon as you enter it. Remember, without focus there is no flow.
Then there is your body to think about, because there is nothing more distracting than a rumbling stomach. Having a small, healthy snack on your desk to reach for from time to time will help fuel that brain power. Focus is at its highest when our bloody sugar is up. Although, you may want to avoid large meals right before a big task; digestion requires the brain to work on the body and not on your mammoth workload.
While we’re talking about the body, dehydration is another sure way to kill productivity. Seeing as the brain is 73% water, it needs plenty of that H2O to keep working at its best. And if your mind still continues to slip, try taking some nice deep breaths while you work. It helps the flow of blood to the brain and relaxes the nervous system. Perfect for getting into the zone.
Looking for that perfect workspace to help you reach your best in business? Londonoffices have a huge selection of space ideal for every type of business, no matter how you find your zone.