Are You In The Zone?

Ian Paul Marshall —  September 24, 2010

are you in the zoneOver the last week the stars have descended on Toronto and they’ve stolen my wife away from me.

Once a year the streets of our city are lined with big name hollywood celebrities like Ryan Reynolds, Megan Fox, Ben Affleck, Bruce Springsteen, and more.

They all come here for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

And because my wife works in the movie biz she’s been going to screenings, cocktails parties and participating in all the movie madness that has gripped our fine and beautiful city.

We’ve been ships passing in the night. I think I’ve seen her for about 30 minutes total over the last seven days.

Since she’s been wrapped up and booked solid I’ve been with the kids all day long. 24/7.

But with all that going on I’ve still been able to have one of the best months of my life for being in the zone and churning things out.

What I’ve been able to accomplish:

And I’ve still been able to:

  • Watch the season premier of Vampire Diaries (OMG Katherine is back)
  • Watch an episode of Mad Men (Don Draper is so broken you’ve got to love him)
  • Take some time and watch Prince of Persia (I hate trailer lying but the movie was still good)
  • Watch an episode of Jersey Shore (Fist pump!)
  • And a lot more…

So how was I able to do all this?

I think one of the ways was really understanding the productivity illusion.

The Productivity Illusion

A big trap that I see a lot of people getting into is thinking they’re actually being productive.

You’ll know when you’ve fallen into this scenario if at the end of your day you find yourself saying, “What did I actually accomplish today?”

Signs that you’re in the midst of this issue:

  • You check your email 10 times an hour
  • You constantly check facebook every five minutes to see if anyone has liked your latest status update
  • You surf the net doing “research” about future projects but have little relevance to what you’re actually working on right now
  • You check your twitter account a couple of times a day to see how often you’re being retweeted or how many new people are “following” you
  • You continually have to organize your desk to stay on top of things
  • You spend more than 15 minutes a day in meetings

I’m totally guilty of all of the above. It’s actually a little bit crazy and frustrating. But with time I know I’ll be able to work it out of my system.

I’ve started to already. But I know I can get better. Then I’ll be a producing powerhouse.

Understanding What Productivity And Producing Means


  • The amount of work produced in a given period of time.
  • Productivity relates to the person’s ability to produce the standard amount or number of products, services or outcomes as described in a work description.


  • Bring out for display
  • Bring onto the market or release

Being productive is a system that leads to producing tangible results. If what you’re doing isn’t bringing you closer to finished projects then you’re just spinning your wheels.

Being In The Zone

Being in the zone is about shutting out all those things that distract you from the task at hand. It’s about sitting down and doing the work that needs to be done. Churning it out. Moving yourself closer and closer to the end result you want.

6 Keys To Getting In The Zone

  1. Get Clear On What Needs To Be Done
    What are the three most important things that you need to do to bring you closer to your dreams? Take some time now and really think about them. Once you’re clear on what needs to be done write them down.
  2. Prioritize
    What is the most pressing thing that needs to be accomplished? Or another way some people start off building momentum is to work on the smallest task first. However you approach this you need to determine where to start.
  3. Set Deadlines
    Put yourself under some pressure. We always seem to perform better when we know we’re racing against the clock.
  4. Slash Your Distractions
    Close your mail program. Don’t pop open that browser. Close the door to your office. Cancel your meetings and ask for the cliff notes of what happened. The world will be fine without you for awhile.
  5. Maximize on Your Time
    There’s tons of time during the day. All you have to do is find it. 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there, all of these little slices of time will quickly add up to a whole bunch of time that you can use to get things done.
  6. Schedule in Downtime
    When your brain and body signal that it’s time for a break, listen. There’s no need to be a machine about this. Have fun and make sure to schedule in your down time. And besides, Vampire Diaries looks pretty juicy this year. 

If you need a little more help check out the personal goal setting worksheet. It’ll let you get clear on your goals and help you create a plan to achieve them.

Be Inspirational!