The Zone, otherwise known as flow, is an ultra-efficient state of mind. It happens when you become completely absorbed in whichever activity you are doing.
You feel unstoppable in the Zone. The rest of the world is a blur, your focus is razor-sharp and you're making incredible progress. You have almost certainly experienced it at some point in your life.
When we looked at the Work Equation, I compared your productivity to racing a car. Being in the Zone is like driving at top speed. In exactly the same way that you need to drive fast to win a race, the Zone is essential for working efficiently. You have no choice.
But just as a car doesn’t instantly accelerate from zero to its top speed, nobody enters the Zone straight away. You need to warm up. Your mind requires time to settle into the task at hand. While it does so, your efficiency climbs towards its maximum value. Let’s call this acceleration period the Zone Approach.
In my experience, the Zone Approach takes at least 20 minutes. However, this will vary from person to person, and by the activity or task you are doing. It's very unlikely to be less than 5 minutes.
Remember the Work Equation:
Productivity = Time x Efficiency
Since we have time along the horizontal axis and efficiency along the vertical axis, your productivity equals the total area under the graph. Make sure you’re comfortable with this because we’re going to use a few more graphs in the next chapter.
If this were a graph of your car’s speed over time, then the area under the graph would give the total distance travelled by the car. This means that the distance travelled by the car and your productivity are analogous.
Let’s suppose you’ve planned your tasks very efficiently. This is like racing to the finish along a straight path. You just need to keep your foot on the accelerator, reach your top speed, and zoom towards your goal. If only things were that simple...