Funny, I’ve never come across any specific posts or articles on this before – until now. I’ve long been one to preach this “zone” that we get into. Especially while at my last job, I found I rarely got into my “zone” unless I either came in a couple hours before anyone else (that rarely happened, I’m not a morning person) or either stayed late.
Ultimately, it takes managing your interruptions to keep you productive. If you’ve got a busy workplace where colleagues drop by your desk regularly you’re likely not getting as much productive time as you – or your boss – may like.
Some things I do:
- Manage email interruptions – incoming mail alerts are not your friend. I personally extend the interval on these alerts or simply shutdown email when I don’t want to be bothered
- Productive hour(s) – it’s hard to enforce, but if you’re constantly interrupted with visitors, you may want to suggest 2-4 hours a day where others are not allowed to interrupt you at your desk. Encourage email
- Avoid IM – It’s hard to do. At my last workplace I avoided it for nearly a year before I caved. Largely because it was faster than email – unfortunately much more intrusive as well. Manage this like you do “productive hour”. Encourage colleagues to simply email you.
- Take a breather – I find times when the stress level gets to me. Deadlines looming and you’re frustrated. You can’t think straight or focus. As crazy as it might seem, that’s often the best time to take a break and relax. It might take you 3 times as long to accomplish that task if you can’t think straight. Alternatively you could release some of that anxiety with a 15 minute stroll, return and blaze through that problem
- Stay organized – this is a big one. I find I get more stressed and productivity takes a hit when I feel the shadow of Mt. ToDo. Organize and prioritize early and often so you can keep it all in perspective.
- Batch things up – it’s likely you end up with like tasks throughout your day, week or even month. Switching from one to another takes time, and you lose your focus and momentum. If possible, group like tasks and fire through them in turn.
All of those above practices help me get in the zone and stay in the zone.