Have you ever experienced being in "the zone"? You might have experienced for sure - but never noticed it. Once you are able to notice how it is to be in the zone - you can plan to get into the zone more often - for better productivity and happiness.
What is the zone?
The zone is a state of mind when time stops, creativity flows, your breathing is relaxed and steady, new ideas spring up and it leaves you energized wanting for more. In spite of working for hours at a stretch, if you are in the zone - you never feel tired.
Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, Anna Karenina - are two books that I have read where they talk about this state of mind. Zen book says about getting into the zone on any activity that you do - could be washing dishes, could be fixing a motorcycle, could be writing a blog post. In Anna Karenina, one of the characters - Levin goes to cut corn along with his laborers - this chapter in the book is a masterpiece. Leo Tolstoy beautifully describes how it is to be in the zone - proving why he is one of the greatest brains of all time.
It took some time for me to discover this "getting into the zone" thing. Whenever I am in the zone the code that I produce is beautiful and bug free. New ideas, hidden potential bugs show up and I squash them even before they get a chance to show up.
How to get into the zone?
You need a ritual. Here are some of the things that I do to get ready to go into the zone
Either classical music or some movie songs that I have heard a million times before - mostly AR Rahman songs - so they wont distract but will quieten the outside noise.
2. Clear out the feeds and empty inbox
I clear out all the feeds in bloglines, and also empty my inbox - so there is no thread running silently in the head draining resources.
3. Busy status in IM
IM is a big distractor. I educate my buddies not to disturb when I am on busy-status. If they do not respect - I either block them temporarily or sign off from IM.
4. Load up with water
I keep a big jug of water and keep sipping. It will keep the brain hyderated for the upcoming power session !
After this - when I hit the editor I will notice that time would have stopped, and the things around me will disappear and I will not even hear the music. It will be just me and the editor - and things will start flowing. Because now I will be in the zone!
What is your ritual to get into the zone?