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Zone In On Your Productivity



Some people call it being on a roll. Some call it “being in the zone.”  The “zone” has been described as a short-term, highly productive state.

Regardless of what you call it, to become a consistent, high-output professional, it is useful to know how to benefit from the productivity surge that you experience when in the “zone.” Here's an exercise to help you create an environment in which you do your best work.

As you recall a situation when you were in the zone, circle each item below that was present or was a factor at this time. New insights might emerge. 

Next, recall a second such time and run through each of the questions listed below once again. What items have now been marked or circled twice? Soon, your own personal pattern on the road to high productivity will emerge.

1. Recall a time when you were highly productive:

  • Where were you?
  • What time of day was it?
  • Was anyone else around?
  • What was the temperature?
  • What was the lighting?
  • What resources were available?


2. Think about yourself at that time:

  • What were you wearing?
  • What did you consume the night before?
  • How long did you sleep the night before?
  • How did you feel?
  • What was your level of fitness?
  • What did you eat that morning?

3. What about the time of day and week:

  • What time of day was it?
  • What day of the week was it?
  • What had transpired earlier?
  • What was forthcoming?

4. Consider the tools available to you:

  • Were you using a computer, tablet, or smart phone?
  • Were you using other equipment?
  • Did you have a pen or pencil?
  • Did you have a blank pad?
  • Were you online?
  • Were other resources available?
  • Were periodicals, books, or directories present?

5. Consider your environment:

  • Did you have a view?
  • Were you in a comfortable chair?
  • Were you at a desk or at a table?
  • Were you in a moving vehicle, i.e., a plane or a train?
  • Was there quiet or soothing background noise?
  • What color were the walls surrounding you?
  • Were you in a room with rugs?
  • Could you hear others?
  • Was water nearby?
  • Were you near the bathrooms?
  • Were you near the coffee machine?
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Robert Carty

The elusive zone! I find that I've only achieved that state of Nirvana when doing something creative or athletic. For me it's a time so focused that I don't know what else is going on around hour or even hours can pass while you're creating your work. I find that modern work life has too many interruptions to get fully zoned-in. Phone ringing, meetings several times a day, email pings either visually or audibly, all distractions. I think artists and writers can more readily find the zone because that kind of work involves fewer business level interruptions.

I also don't know how long periods of sustained zone-ness can be maintained. I always feel pretty spent after that level of production. One consistent thing that helps get into the zone though, I would have to say is music. No recognizable pattern for me (they genre/type doesn't seem to matter). It could be that is helping block out other distractions or otherwise occupying the mind that seeks distraction. When the zone is over, I usually find that I wasn't even listening to the music and didn't even notice when the album had ended.

I've never experienced a mini-zone...30 minutes of being highly productive is just focus, not zone. In my experience anyway. I see a difference. I'll have to monitor the details now and see if I can find any consistencies with Jeff's suggestions!

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