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Getting into the zone - Crazy tips for maximum productivity

The zone is a mysterious place familiar to deep thinkers. It is a mode of consciousness in which you are almost superhumanly intelligent and productive. Hard problems are solved in the zone. Getting into the zone is not easy, but it pays off. The downside to the zone is that it raises your expectations from yourself and others so much you will never be satisfied by normal again. The upside is that you realize what you are truly capable of.

In the zone, your mind is a blade, a ferocious form of violent, nearly malicious intelligence.

Have you ever been in the zone? I think you'll like it there.

Minimizing distractions

Removing distractions is crucial. I get into the zone most often when when I'm left totally alone for a few days. Most of my breakthroughs happen in isolation.

  1. I gather up all the research I'm going to need in one online sitting. I'll need to have it all in one place for offline browsing.
  2. I disconnect the Internet in such a way that I'll have to spend energy to fix. If it's going to be a short session (e.g., a few hours) I'll disconnect and hide away a crucial component of my home network in a hard to reach place. Usually this is just the basement which is relatively easy to reach. The longer I need to be isolated the harder I am going to make it to undo my decision. Once or twice a year I bury stuff in the woods by my house. That's when I need to do some really serious thinking. Good times.
  3. I remove the battery from my phone and throw it on top of a closet I can't reach without a ladder.
  4. I just start working. No excuses, no more delays. Writing down a clear set of goals before I start.

Feel the shape of it in your mind

Sometimes as I try to begin working, I get this blocking feeling that things are not clear to me. I need to think about it to get a shape of the thing.

If during this difficult period, I'll lie down to "think" and usually fall asleep. I don't really buy into the theory that my mind is getting useful stuff done while I'm sleeping. More likely it's just an avoidance reaction.

I've discovered that whenever I need to clear up my thoughts, I get my best deep thinking done walking around in repetitive, rhythmic patterns, a circle, back and forth, etc.


  • Try to log your breaks, and schedule when they end.

    "12:30 going to eat something. Back by 1:05"

  • For energy: you eat small meals when you're hungry. Don't wait to eat until your very hungry. You'll get tired after a large meal. After a meal, bring a bottle of something sweet to your workspace. That way you can keep your sugar levels up, which is important for being able to concentrate.

  • I take a watch with me, and keep time tabs so I don't turn a 30 minute break into a 90 minute break.

In the zone...

Once I get into the flow of work, I mentally lock on to my goals and the rest of the world goes away. When I finally get into the zone it feels like I'm 5x more productive than usual. In one long sitting I can get as much work done as a week of unfocused effort. Some problems cannot be solved out of the zone.

A word on avoidance psychology

Some of these techniques sounds silly, by it works extremely well for me, and if you try it, it might just work as well for you. The problem with getting started on something difficult is your mind often plays tricks on you - avoidance psychology and all that. From what I've read this happens because of subconscious internal conflicts which you may only be dimly aware of, or not at all.

For example, maybe you're subconsciously afraid of failure, or worse yet, afraid of success...

By consciously isolating yourself from distractions, you don't let your subconscious trick you into not getting any real work done.

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