Most of us have been fortunate enough to experience what some call flow or getting in the zone, often accompanied by skipping meals, locking phones in a drawer, and losing an overall sense of time. Outcomes of the zone can be momentous: achievement of breakthroughs, increased efficiency, broadened vision, and sparked innovation. There is plenty of research that suggests that many of the game-changing realizations and creative output achieved in the zone are simply not attainable in other states of mind.
Imagine what a workday could look like if we traded wasted meetings and combing through emails for uninterrupted productivity and creativity. An hour in the zone can be more productive than eight hours outside of it.
The zone sounds great – sign me up!
Not so fast. You are probably already aware of the most likely culprit that pushes you out of this magical zone: the typical corporate office. Jason Fried - co-author of "Rework” and a thought leader on workplace productivity, explained in his TED Talk Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work that most people do their best work outside of the office: on a porch, in a coffee shop, a library, or even on a plane. Furthermore, most people he surveyed claimed an optimal time for work: for example early in the morning, right after lunch, or late at night when everyone is sleeping. These times usually don’t align with a typical 9-5 schedule. There seems to be a glaring paradox here: most of us are required to show up to the office, but do we really need to be there 100% of the time?
In his TED Talk, Jason focuses on a theme supported by much of the Positive Psychology movement and independent research – you can’t achieve flow or get in the zone with so many distractions. People need long stretches of uninterrupted time to solve problems and think at their best. According to The Harvard Business Review, one study found that people experience an average of 87 interruptions each day. While this alone is enough to cause concern, each interruption takes over 20 minutes to recover from. Some simple math will tell you that there aren’t enough hours in a day to compensate for this intrusion on our highest quality thinking.
So get out of the office and into the zone? Yes! Well…that’s a good start.
There is some hope…and there is also disagreement. The hope: there is a growing trend of businesses shifting away from traditional cubicles toward an “open office” environment. Furthermore, many career/workforce blogs such as The Muse and magazines such as Entrepreneur have noted the increase in flexible arrangements for workers. The disagreement, voiced eloquently in last year’s Fortune article The Open Office Concept is Dead, is that open offices don’t actually support collaboration or limit distraction. In fact, they can produce more problems than solve, including new types of distractions and loss of privacy.
The Solution: Let creativity happen naturally
If you’re reading this article, you most likely hold your engagement with your work to be of high value. At Alcove, we set out to support the evolution of the modern workspace by allowing you to experiment and find your optimal zone– wherever you are without visual distractions that accompany otherwise hectic surroundings. We believe that if you concentrate without interruptions, you will achieve greater impact and hopefully have more time to pay attention to the things that matter.
I'd love to know where and when you are at your most creative; achieving flow. Send me a note at email@example.com.