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In The Zone Expand / Collapse
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Posted Wednesday, June 18, 2008 9:22 PM


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Comments posted to this topic are about the item In The Zone



Tim Mitchell, SQL Server MVP
Independent Business Intelligence Consultant
www.TimMitchell.net
@Tim_Mitchell

Post #519563
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2008 1:07 AM
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Tim,
very interesting article, and rather frightening what some feel is "the zone".

To me, the zone is the state of mind where all of my focus is put into the task at hand. It is a trance-like state where I can sit and code for hours on end without realising I've not only missed out on lunch, but I'm halfway into the afternoon. It is like a dream - an etherial thing, a wisp of form.

I've also found that not only is the zone extremely hard to get into, it is extremely easy to fall out of. Any sort of break in concentration will render the required state of mind asunder. Although self made interruptions (getting a cup of tea for example) will generally not break the trance unless I am caught at the tea point and have a chat.

There is a price though for such unrelenting concentration. Exhaustion. Having a good productive day tends to give me a buzz, an excitement that I have achieved what I intended to do, but coming out of the zone, I am completely drained - too tired to be excited.


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Sometimes banging your head against a wall is the only solution.
Post #519633
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2008 1:19 AM
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Wow, I thought was only one of the few. I use hard rock and roll, metallic music and 80's new wave music to get into The Zone. Once there, however, the throbbing music kind of becomes a blur even though, you know, its audio not visual, so its ah, background noise, gray noise?

But last night, I was in a bit of hurry, I got in there anyway without music.

How do I know I am in the zone?

Well, last night's programming problem had been there for months which I couldn't solve because I kept being disturbed (i became management, lately).

So last night, I was packing one problem after down; in four hours after 8pm, I was done. I wasn't really thinking too deeply, just feeling my way, going back one way or the other, checking the Internet for some tips, coming back again, going in a circle again, doing things repeatedly with minor changes, just feeling and intuition.

I hope some people won't think this is kind of a neurotic or psychotic thing, but I have done a lot of programming things and systems (pocketpc sync - sql replication; data sync under 20 seconds over Internet) a lot of people haven't done yet - without training or certification.

but yes, i did use some code from the Internet. and Microsoft code also, but I still had to customize and weave them in to the business requirement. at last resort I bought books also except that books kinda take one away from the zone, but good for backup once there.
Post #519638
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2008 4:06 AM


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On television this week there was a lot of time talking about the late Tim Russert, and deservingly so. One of the aspects of what made Tim so great professionally was his discipline of preparation.

Through practicing such preparation the zen of "the zone" can be achieved on a regular basis... at least that is how I have found it to work for me. Procrastination often yeilds the opposite affect.

This preparation includes continuously studying and perfecting the basics of your skill sets, exploring new approaches to common problems, discussion with your peers about their experiences, applying strategic and architectural thought to the project at hand prior to beginning the work, and simply starting as early as possible rather than procrastinate.
Post #519702
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2008 6:19 AM


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Like other programmers, I too have experienced the zone (why does that statement sound like it comes from a sci-fi movie?). You're working away, you're getting a lot done, and all of a sudden you realize that hours have passed. At one point in my career, I had to start setting an alarm to remind me that I needed to eat. Getting into the zone is easy. You need two things: 1) An engrossing task and 2) privacy. The second one is the hard part. If you're in a cubicle in a busy workplace with the phone ringing every 5 minutes, it never happens. If you're in a either an out-of-the-way cubicle or better yet, in a room with a door you can enter the zone quickly. Having to answer to any person in your company who has a problem with their computer at any time definitely prevents the zone.

Maybe someone can help me out here? Supposedly, Microsoft and IBM did studies about "classic" programmers. Among the qualities noted was the ability to enter the zone (maybe not their words). While in this zone, productivity skyrocketed. It was recognized that interruptions prevent the zone, so the recommendation was to give all programmers an office with a door. The increase in productivity substantially outweighed the cost. Maybe it's an urban legend (or since we're talking computers, a virtual legend?). If it's not, has anyone else ever heard of these or similar studies? It would be great to be able to produce them for budget-conscious management.


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“Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason.”
Post #519771
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2008 6:27 AM


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To me getting in the Zone is not about technical training, or effort, or certain stimulus. I think the hardest thing about getting in the zone is that it is effortless. We (western society) are not a culture of "beings", we are a culture of "doings". Being in the zone is just that "being". What you do while in the zone is everything other people on this list have talked about accomplishing. I do believe that you can condition yourself to enter the zone. On the occasions when I have been in the zone I have never felt exhausted at the end. On the contrary I have usually felt like I had not expended any effort. That is assuming a sedate "zone" versus a competition zone.

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Post #519777
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2008 6:28 AM
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Sometimes I hear people say, "Where did the day go?", but typically that's usually because they were in meetings all day. I'd hardly call that The Zone. I agree with the idea of all distractions disappearing and focusing on the task at hand. It's what I'd imagine someone hopped up on Ritalin would be like, but without the drugs.

I like to use music sometimes (metal) to help eliminate the distractions, but the only real time I feel like I'm in The Zone is when all my ducks are lined up and my skill is permitting me to knock them down one after another, quickly. So being well rested and organized permits me to get in The Zone more easily. If you can create a list of tasks that need to be achieved, state the next action that each one needs and review the status of the projects you are on once a week, it should be easier to get into The Zone.

For reference, my favourite Kevin Costner movies about baseball are:
1) Field of Dreams
2) For Love of the Game
3) Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
Post #519780
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2008 6:41 AM


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I have no idea how to get into the Zone. It just seems to happen for me.

Usually it happens when I am working on problems that are more interesting to me, especially if it is something that I want to tackle. The day flies by and you have something tangible to look at, or at least significant progress on some project. Usually, you have no idea what time it is, just that all of a sudden it's time to call it a day.

It's a great feeling and happens too infrequently.
Post #519797
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2008 7:14 AM


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I have always quoted my best characteristic is to concentrate extremely well on one task. My worst is the same. Being able to shut off to the world and only hear the telephone after the 10th ring. The problem is that colleagues see you as a freak and your wife gets hot under the collar regularly. :)

5ilverFox
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Post #519835
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2008 7:25 AM
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I know I have done it multiple times playing Everquest in the past.... to the like of, "dang, it is Monday already?", type of zones ;)

I thinkt he main thing is not having peoepl distract you. I been working on a problem (XML AGAIN!) these past two weeks. Finally yesterday I decided to stay late after everyone left, 2 hours later and the problems where solved.

In the past I used to use music at work, but don't have a speaker at work, which would be kind of rude in a cubicle farm with my taste for music anyhow. I could do this with music while driving too! Some days I would find myself at the next time to stop for gas :) And no, I was not asleep!! Just zoned out. Oh wait, maybe that was different. Although I do think the two are closer to each other than what is apparent on the surface. Just that while driving there really is nothing to focus the Zone on. (for reference, most of that driving was in ND, SD and Nebraska....)
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