How to Get and Stay in The Performance Zone

Learn how you can achieve a state of flow and radically improve your on-the-job performance. 

I want you to think back to a time in your life when you were so immersed in an activity that everything else in your environment just disappeared. 

It was a strange experience, right? 

For a few minutes, hours or even days, the outside world ceased to exist as a meaningful entity in your consciousness. All that mattered was the task at hand. 

Your surroundings, your phone, and even your colleagues all disappeared. Even the passage of time ceased to be a feature of your experience. 

When you came out of this state, you knew that something special had happened. 

But what exactly? 

What you experienced here was the concept of flow in action. It occurs when you let go of the conscious and unconscious psychological headwinds that are holding you back and fully engage your brain. It’s what positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi describes as “a state of complete immersion in an activity.”

During the experience, the quality of your work shot through the roof. You felt focus like never before. And you finally felt like you were able to reach your potential. 

But, more importantly, you actually enjoyed yourself. You felt like you had just come out of a week-long meditation retreat – just without the “oms.”

However, getting into this state of whole-brain flow is a massive challenge, especially right now. There are so many distractions and stresses in our lives. Home schooling, leading remote teams and managing your family bubble are all draining your mind’s resources. And when you’re trying to reach peak performance, that’s not what you want. 

In this post, I share with you some of my top tips to help you beat back the distractions and get into that coveted (and enjoyable) flow state. Check them out below. 

1. Start the Day With Your Most Important Task

Here’s what I want you to do first: instead of starting your day with the task you want to do the most, I want you to concentrate on the one that’s the most important for reaching your goals. 

The reason? 

Your unconscious isn’t stupid. It already knows what you should be doing. So if you’re focusing on the wrong task, it will continue to nag you until you switch to the right one. And that nagging can massively undermine your efforts to get into the flow state. 

To sidestep this, you need to make a conscious decision to only focus on your most important tasks. This way, you put both your conscious and unconscious mind in agreement with each other. Only then can you stay in the performance zone. 

 
2. Remove Distractions 

Here’s the next must-use tip: remove all distractions from your environment. 

Look, we’ve all been there, working with our phones upturned on the desk in front of us. But if you want to get into a state of flow, allowing your notifications to pop up every couple of minutes is a bad idea. Research shows that even momentary distractions force the brain to scan the surrounding environment for threats, disrupting focus. 

Try switching all distractions off for 40 minutes and going deep. Don’t let anything else enter your field of consciousness. Move to an entirely different environment if you need to. Get away from kids, noise and your email inbox. Do whatever it takes to enable your thoughts to unfold unimpeded. 

 

3. Link the activity to a goal that motivates you 

Why is it that passion projects bring out people’s genius? 

The reason is “purpose.” When the mind believes something is worthwhile, even the most difficult thinking happens naturally. 

It’s why Albert Einstein was able to solve relativity. It wasn’t the mathematics that got him pumped – it was the fact that it allowed him to peel back the fabric of reality. 

Getting into the zone requires you to have a sense of purpose like this. You have to link the activity to a goal to convince your brain that the task is worthwhile. If you don’t, it will resist expending the necessary energy. 

 
4. Stay Mentally And Physically Fit

Lastly, being mentally and physically fit improves cognitive performance and provides the groundwork that makes it more likely you’ll enter a flow state.

Research from Harvard, for instance, shows that regular moderate-to-intense exercise helps to push back against “brain fog” and bouts of forgetfulness. Physical and mental activity increases the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a powerful hormone that assists in the construction of new neural circuits. Other evidence suggests that exercise enhances cognitive responses to psychological stresses at the epigenetic level.

So, in summary, stay active and challenge your mind regularly.

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