Do you live for moments where "you're so absorbed by the task at hand that you lose track of time and place"?  Some call this 'the zone', psychologists call it Flow, and I'll pointlessly coin a acronym, 'SPS' (super productive state).  CSM guest blogger Trent Hamm has some insights on how to flip [your] mental switch and find 'the zone'.  Why flip that switch?
"figure out how to get in the zone and do it as often as possible. If you can do that, everything else really is secondary. You will find success."
Successful productivity is not fully a matter of 'getting into the Zone'.  Instead, you have to look at how flow fits into your work day.  The biggest step you can take is to discover that flow (aka 'the zone') not only exists, but can be entered to at will.  Once you want to get into a state of flow, the problem is half solved.  Now all you need is a method.

Hamm is all about the method.  His tips include the basics: 'Have an objective', 'eliminate distraction', and 'create a situation conducive to focus'.  He also has a good tip for dealing with interruptions, the very simple practice of keeping a notebook nearby to jot interruptions or future 'to do' items for later, so you don't have to disengage from your flow.

When I am doing research, or programming, or crafting, I live for flow moments.  Everything else-- everything-- is just setup or takedown.  I'd wager a typical 8-hour work day for almost everybody is spent primarily with setting up tasks and managing distractions, all centered around those few productive hours where you Got Stuff Done.

In particularly, I find being able to create flow is essential as a professional writer.  Anyone can write when inspired.  However, I have to be able to write whether I want to or not.  Even if the muse is not upon me, the boss is, and quality words must be produced.

In this, it is important to realize that not all work is flow.  You don't have to be 'productive' at all times.  A substantial part of the work day involves maintenance, set-up, and side issues related to your core work.  You're not hired for 8 hours of high productivity work (despite what your boss might think), you're hired for some hours of high productivity work surrounded by other hours that ensure your work is a) relevant to the project and b) in sync with the rest of the company or site.

Things like meetings, email, discussion with colleagues, gathering information, or honing tools aren't separate from work, they are part of it.  They give you the framing, then you move into a flow state and do something useful with it all.  Then you come out and deliver your work.

If you want success, take these steps.  Understand flow.  Crave flow.  Figure out how to get into that state, what works for you.  And don't feel guilty for non-flow time, but accept that it is part of the package.

Now, stop reading and get back to work.

Launching Project Calliope, sponsored by Science 2.0, in 2011
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