You Know The Feeling
Your head is down, you’re cranking out whatever you’re working on and all of a sudden time disappears and nothing else matters. Everything else is muted and you are just destroying! Well, er, in a good way of course. Everyone has this feeling of getting into the zone or being in a state of flow from time to time. I’ve started to ‘hack’ this artificially get myself into this headspace at will. Here’s how I do it.
I’ve noticed that I almost always have some type of drink on the go. And no, I’m not talking alcohol. I gave up that poison years ago. I’m talking about the best espresso you’ve ever tasted at a cafe in Athens. Or the incredible organic coffee from Arbutus Coffee in Vancouver. Whenever I get into this flow state or into this zone there is always a drink involved. I suppose the caffeine induces some type of biochemical or neurological response which makes my feel like I’m in the zone… It could also be that I’m least productive when I don’t have a drink going.
Music or Silence
If there is not complete silence at the ass crack of dawn then I need to have music. Usually ambient or lyric free music is best. For example this week’s Friday Mixtape by Tor is exactly the type of flow inducing music that I love.
Very Early Mornings
I’m talking 4:30 or 5:00AM. When I get a restful sleep I can rock up at this time of day and immediately start cranking it out. For many people, like my most awesome brother, the late night is a better flow time. He and I once tried to work together and this caused huge issues! He works best at night, I work best in the morning. You can’t just start waking up this early on a whim. It takes quite a while to get used to the sheer ridiculosity of this time of day. The best part about this time of day is you can take your dog for a walk and there is near silence. Take your dog to the local cafe and crank out some work before the rest of your timezone is even awake.
The best combination is this: some fantastic early morning exercise, a great coffee type drink, and silence or ambient music. If you’re a runner you can parlay your well documented ‘runners high‘ into your flow state. If you can combine all of them in the right order you’ll be a productivity master. Your inbox will be zeroed and you’ll get your most important tasks done before your friends or colleagues are even awake. They’ll wonder how you make it look so easy. It appears as though most high performance people (yeah I just said that, pfft!?) do this.
If you really have trouble finding your flow state use one of the time tracking tools to monitor your productivity. Then take note of your environment. Act accordingly.
As many of you know I’m on a health and fitness kick. I’ve tried to get back in shape (meaning healthy not chiseled abdominals heh) several times in the past and I’ve consistently failed miserably. More often than not its because going to the gym is super boring. This time I’m making the process of getting healthy again into a personal video game. The idea is that if I’m always trying to beat my high score i’ll have more fun than just doing exercise for the sake of it.
Weapons of choice for nerding out my workouts:
I do this mainly by using my GPS when I do outdoor activities like running, cycling, and snowboarding. When I get back home from the outings I then upload my metrics into Motionbased. After that I can see speeds, elevation, heart rate etc. I can even look at my tracks on Google Earth and Google Maps. The image above is a screenshot of run I did the other day as seen on Google Earth.
Its much more fun to doing these activities knowing that you can look at how fast you went, how far you ran, or how hard you worked. Over time I’ve been able to see my heart rate go down while my speeds and distances increase. You might think this is a fairly expensive undertaking but I consider it an investment in my health. What could be more important to you than your own health? Of course gym memberships are pricey as well. If you’re not into the geeky bits you could always just use a stop watch, a map and check your pulse but then wheres the fun in that?!
Mathew Honan has an article in Wired along these same lines in the February 2007 issue.
Update 2: FYI – spell checking and proof reading your blog posts is always advisable when you post something late at night. Sorry about that original post.
Update 3: I guess this is my version of fatblogging ;)