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The zone: "A place were you do focused work without the existence of time."

You have been in 'the zone' when a couple hours have passed without you noticing it. When you're into the zone: you work at maximum efficiency and you produce the highest quality of work. Since you are fully concentrated when into 'the zone'.

But how do you get into 'the zone' quickly? For instance: How to get into 'the zone' in 5 minutes or less?

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I read a great book called The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin that went into some of this. He talked about how 'the zone' can be triggered by over time associating a particular activity with the zone. He talking about this guy who when he was at his absolutely peak would listen to a particular song. He did this over time and subconsciously the song became associated with being in the zone. After this association was built, he was able to play the song and he would enter 'the zone'. Any fans of the UFC can see a similar technique by GSP, who pinches his nipple before the fight starts, something he does during training when he is operating at a particularly high level.

Personally I think it works ...but only because you believe it works. There is no science there, only psychology ...although that is to be expected as 'the zone' is a purely psychological concoction as well! I actually do this kind of thing when I'm feeling very out of the zone - particularly when things appear gloomy and as though they aren't going to work out. I have some quotes that I read that make me feel better and get me out of the rough patch. I've heard of others watching the Al Pacino speech from Any Given Sunday. Basically anything that gets your blood flowing and excited will make you more alert and productive.

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I use a series of 3 songs - works for me, as I consciously associated that sequence with 'the zone' over time. – Rory Alsop Mar 13 '12 at 19:30
This is exactly why a lot of people say that they need a cup of coffee before they are awake. Okey, caffine has something to do with that too, but i think it is the ritual that kickstarts them. – Roel Mar 17 '12 at 14:32
psychology is science – Andrew MacFie Mar 20 '12 at 15:40
If you want the science behind this, the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg explains why. A habit requires a cue or trigger to start. On cue, the brain will load up the processes required to do that task efficiently. This process stops only when the person receives an expected reward at the end (which can be as trivial as praise or a good feeling). It's quite similar to being in the zone; the brain will filter out things that distract from the task. – Muz Feb 1 '13 at 9:09

The way that works best for me is a pair of headphones and some repetitive music that doesn't really draw attention to itself (my preference is vocal trance) but does drown out any distracting noise. That combined with some challenging work is usually enough to get me into "the zone" or a state of flow.

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I'm going to agree with Gareth on the repetitive music. One band I would suggest is Zero 7. They put me into the zone faster than I can say ....(in the zone).

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  1. Absolute silence works best for me, but if I have to drown out some office noise I find Aphex Twin or Brian Eno's drone style ambient music good. Also Sleep Research Facility's Nostromo album available on iTunes works really well.
  2. Set the Windows taskbar to auto-hide so you can't see the clock and other distraction system tray notifications.
  3. Close your email and IM clients.
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How to get into 'the zone' in 5 minutes or less?

1) give yourself enough uninterrupted time (turn off email/phone/messengers/etc)

2) take one of the medium-complexity tasks and start doing it (being a programer, I usually do some refactoring, it doesn't require lots of brainpower, but still complex enough in order to give the brain a nice warmup)

3) do NOT try to check if you are in the zone or not, just do that task, then take another one, before you would realize you are already in the zone.

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I have answered this question in detail here:

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Hi Elmer, that isn't very useful here, as we don't know when a link may change. If you could add a summary of that blog post it may fit here. – Rory Alsop Jan 10 '13 at 23:21

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