Finding the Zone.

February 10, 2011 by
Filed under: Development, General, Personal 

Several years ago at one of my first jobs, right smack at the end of the dot-com boom over here, we had a dartboard. What good is a dartboard you ask? I don’t know, we also had a pinball machine, but I never quite liked it as much as the dartboard. I’d take short breaks from answering phone calls and e-mail or problematic pieces of text to throw a few darts. Personally, it gave me one thing however, I learnt to shut out everything else and find my Zone, you know the one where you’re at your most efficient, solving problems, kicking off e-mail and answering calls in a furious flurry.

For me, I focus on the bulls-eye of the dartboard, relax all muscles in my head, letting my scalp feel like a smashed egg running down from the skull. It feels like my head gets lighter and all pressure on my brain dissipates. Nothing else exists but bulls-eye. Ears are shut off, and all focus is on bulls-eye, nothing else distracts my eyes. At this point I’m there, and ready to hit bulls-eye. It’s simple, it’s fast, and it works. Under extreme pressure and stress, it sometimes takes closing my eyes to get the process started, but almost always I reach the “Zone” within a minute or so.

After the few darts, I’d get my headphones on and listen to music, work my hardest to shut everything else out and maintain the Zone for as long as possible. Reaching it takes concentration and loosing the concentration is always easily lost. Getting back on your train of thought on a complex problem after loosing it is hard work, often taking 15-30 minutes. I absolutely hate having that elusive thread of clarity vanish into thin air due to someone breaking Zone or loosing the almost ready to implement solution to a particularly bothersome problem.

My wife knitted me a pair of special fingerless gloves, ending just before the first knuckle on my ringfinger. I use them while coding or otherwise writing at the computer, to keep my hands warm, just to be able to maintain the Zone for that bit longer, not having to bother about getting cold hands. Cozy, to say the least, but people look funny at me for using them so it’s not often I use them at work. Also, I like to wall myself in as I’m easily distracted by movements and foreign objects. Open office space is complete devastation on these trips into the Zone, where people talk, walk around, gesticulate, strange things happening on other peoples screens, and so forth. I barely ever manage to stay in the Zone for more than 45 minutes or so. On that note, open office planning must have been among the most stupid things ever invented, short term savings at huge cost in productivity.

So, that is how I reach my Zone. Do you have a Zone, and how do you reach it? How do you maintain it from collapsing?


One Comment on Finding the Zone.

  1. Michael Brown on Thu, 26th Jan 2012 03:46
  2. Oskar;

    Thanks for this perspective. I found this in the course of doing some research for an article that I wish to write about “getting into the zone.” My particular thrust for the article focuses on the golf game. Thanks for pointing out that it applies in all aspects of life. I note that you use the bulls-eye as a focus point. In most sports the performance is based on achieving a target or desired goal, those who are able to train themselves to dial in on the goal and tune out the distraction are those who have found that “Zone.”
    You are also right about it being an illusive thing. The auto-pilot flow can instantly disappear when we are interrupted. While I am vastly more productive when I am in the zone, finding it and keeping it are not so easy. You seem to have found a way to get there.
    Thanks for sharing, I need to go find some darts.
    Michael Brown

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