Sometimes I’m amazed at what I can get done in one hour. Other times I’m appalled.
Like an athlete leaving nothing but net and sinking shot after shot, don’t you wish you could be in the Zone more often, if not all the time?
There’s lots of advice out there to help you do just that, but I’ve found that one of the key first steps is figuring out just where your “Zone” is.
After all, we all have different ways of working, so it doesn’t make sense to suggest that there’s only one way we can work better.
I think the following questions help define a personal working style and, once you know it, the easier it is to create a good working environment for yourself.
How do you feel about white noise? – Me, I’m all for it. Most of the time. I love working while listening to the radio, or working in a coffee shop. I find that having a certain amount of noise around helps me concentrate. Other people can’t understand this at all. The point is, neither way is right, but you’ll be more productive if you can set yourself up properly, without driving your co-workers batty. Earbuds, anyone?
What about clutter? – No doubt you know someone who somehow manages to do a terrific job – but their desk looks like it was tossed by mean-spirited hooligans. I don’t do well with clutter, although I wish my files were better organized. I figure this puts me in about the mid-range of the clutter continuum. By articulating where your clutter comfort zone is, you’ll be able to find your happy place, where you’re not wasting time hunting for papers or doting on your organizational system.
But the most important place to keep clutter free is your brain. How do you do that? I find that taking a walk or moving around in some fashion are the best ways to clear my head. Other people can’t imagine how I keep my focus, but I find that finding a literal way to shift gears helps me through cognitive roadblocks. Maybe you need to hunker down and stay focused on the problem. The key is to find what works for you.
Does the clock motivate you? – Some people can work away, day in and day out, making steady contributions. I’m not one of them. I need deadlines to get things done, and the more dramatic the better. The level of pressure I find motivating might be like fingers on a blackboard to someone else. Let your relationship to time and deadline pressure guide you in developing your work plans, if not your job itself.
Nobody can be in the Zone all the time, but knowing what helps put you there can help you find it more frequently.
by Danielle Dresden