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In The Zone

By Tim Mitchell,

Kevin Costner I've got an older movie (on VHS tape, just for reference) called "For Love of the Game". It was a bit of a sappy love story, but the central character was an aging baseball pitcher (Kevin Costner) who had the ability to block out all of the periphery and distractions during a game to focus solely on making his pitch. Chapel would go into the stretch and whisper to himself "Clear the mechanism", at which point the stadium noise went away and the surroundings disappeared into a blur, leaving only the strike zone in his field of view. Chapel found his way into The Zone each time the game was on the line, and harvested a perfect game as a result.

The Zone. What is it, and how does one get there?

Over the years I have heard and read other technical colleagues referring to The Zone, and I've found that different people have different definitions for The Zone. For some, it's an end-of-the-day reflection on what was accomplished for that day, and thinking, "I got a lot done today. I was really In The Zone". For some, The Zone is a general, and frequent, overall feeling of productivity. Others consider the lack of problems - no complaints about database performance, no failed backups, etc. - as putting them In The Zone. A select few will say they were In The Zone if their workday included less than three hours on MySpace...

Each person defines it differently, so here's my estimation of The Zone. For me, The Zone has a more Billy Chapel-esque definition. First and most importantly, The Zone is more than a feeling of productivity or specific accomplishments. The Zone is a place where only the strike zone (whatever that is to you) is visible, and all distractions - whether they are screaming fans or ringing phones - disappear into the background. When you are In The Zone, you lose all track of time; hours seem like minutes, and you skip right through the nonessentials (including meals) without hesitation. Second, The Zone is an infrequent experience. Most days I leave work feeling like I was productive, and I am able to note the day's accomplishments; however, I reserve references to The Zone for those days that I know for certain that I was there. Not coincidentally, it's normally on those true In The Zone days that my wife has to call me and remind me to come home. Lastly, being In The Zone is not an experience that can be arbitrarily manufactured. There are conditions that are more condusive to The Zone, but many factors, including a person's energy level, state of mind, and acute wellness, that are not as easily influenced as, say, which music is playing or how much light is in your environment.

So I'm curious what this group thinks about The Zone. What do you consider to be In The Zone, and how do you get there?

Tim Mitchell


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