I am often asked by others in my field, how it is that I am so productive. How can I serve and help the number of clients that I do, while also writing some 45-50 original blog posts, 10-12 print articles, record 45-50 new podcasts and other content per year? The fact is, I couldn’t do it without the ability to get into “my zone.” My zone or my flow or whatever you want to call it is that place I slip into that helps create momentum and drive to propel me into higher levels of productivity. There are some days I can’t achieve this flow, no matter what I do. I have learned to be OK with this. I have learned to give myself a break once I have given it a reasonable try. There are some days that I do produce work but it’s only after really pushing and grinding it out. So, I don’t want you to think that I have some kind of special magic in which I can step into my zone just any old time I desire.
On the other hand, with a few tools and plenty of practice to develop the skills I need to do to produce a high level of performance in my chosen profession, I can now at least most reliably step into that flow and zone. Today, I am going to share with you a few tricks you may be able to use to help yourself step into that zone you need to produce at a high level on a pretty consistent basis.
1. First of all, there is no zone for something new
The first few times you do something, you are going to be in what we call the “chaotic” stage. The early part of developing any kind of skill or comfort level around these new activities. It takes commitment and courage to be able to get through these introductory phases of new activities because our pride and ego do not enjoy it so much when we are not very good at something. Another point I want to make is that since this is something very new to you, you haven’t developed any kind of performance zone around it, so you are not going to find your flow. You may not find your zone or flow the tenth time or maybe even the one-hundredth time. Continual repetition and practice helps develop our performance zone which is activated in the subconscious part of our brains. I am certain that nobody goes onto a golf course for the first time in their life, having never played golf before and manages to achieve flow. There’s just too much of your conscious brain working, overthinking every part of trying to play this game. So, as simple as it sounds, you must have developed a reasonable amount of skill from practicing and doing before expecting to be able to get into a positive flow of your performance zone.
2. Start thinking deeply about the people I am helping
When I sit down to design a seminar, class, record a podcast or write a new article, I have in my mind the ideal participant, listener or reader. I get my mind off myself and get it focused on the person I am doing this for. I think about the joy and excitement they will have that someone has already experienced the problem they are facing and also is offering some valuable suggestions to help them alleviate the issue and pain. I find that getting your mind off yourself and onto the service of the recipients is vital to helping me step over into the flow of my performance zone.
3. Imagine my ideal outcome
Another thing I learned back in my teens as a high-school athlete was to “play the game mentally” in advance of “playing the game physically”. Getting yourself into the flow from a mental standpoint can be essential to following through with your competencies to produce the outcome you want. When you have clarity around the finished product, it’s almost like you are connecting the dots to create the picture that has already been outlined. Spending some time carefully envisioning what you want is critical to actually producing it. I also will share this. I try to never lose any of my ideas, good, bad or otherwise. I keep several pads around the office, at home, even beside my bed to make sure I can write them down and not lose them. Sometimes, having a concept or idea is the hardest part. Once you have an idea I can launch from, I can catapult myself into my zone fairly easily.
4. Regulate your emotional state
Some emotions will help you find your zone, and some will hinder you from getting into it. One area this is especially true is when you have to communicate or present something to someone else or to a group. If you know any good presenters, then you have probably heard them say that one of the most enjoyable parts to them about making a presentation is the ability to create that performance zone in which everything they do seems effortless and easy. One key to slipping into this easy zone is the mastery of being able to control and regulate your emotions. As someone goes through the phases of mastery in presenting, you can see their progression from the worry of what their audience is thinking (and every other self-conscious thought they have) to one of being relaxed and confident. They become relaxed enough to find their feet before each speech or presentation and to slip into their performance zone almost effortlessly.
5. Know your ideal environment
Sometimes it is helpful to be cognizant of your surroundings. Definitely, some people’s performance varies depending on the environment, while others do not. It primarily depends on the locus of control in each person. Some people can get into their ideal performance zone no matter the environment or conditions, while others must have a highly controlled environment. Once, I recall giving a presentation to a group of people and I needed the help of visual aids to get my points across. Having no projection screen, they removed a table cloth from one of their tables and stapled it to the wall and away we went. While that environment was workable for me, while you are on the road to mastery on your key skills, you need to study which environments you excel in and while ones you do not. Always give yourself the edge when you are able.
6. Know your best time of day
Understanding when your best and worst rhythms are present is very important. My very best periods seem to be in the morning, while I am not as good toward the late evening hours. As I have gotten a little older, I am ready for bed around 10:30. In my 20s and 30s, I could function just fine on less sleep, but now I find I need all 8 hours when possible to do my very best work. You may find that although you still may be fairly productive, you simply cannot find that performance flow and zone unless it is in a certain time of day. It’s worth raising your awareness on this and documenting when it’s easier and harder for you to step into your zone.
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