Generate your Genius Zone: The best way to be energized and productive at work

When was the last time you completely lost track of time at work? When were you so immersed in the activity that you felt everything else just slip away? Which moments seem to produce your best work and uplift you at the same time? What are you doing when you’re in your Genius Zone?

Yes, your Genius Zone: that feeling of doing your best work through your best effort and for the best reasons.

Researchers call this the flow state and studies show we are so much more productive and happy at work the more time we spend in the flow state. In fact in this McKinsey study, they extrapolate that productivity would double if staff just spent 20% more time in the flow state.

So what is the flow state exactly? And then once we define it, how do we get into it so we can experience more positive energy, happiness and productivity?

Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, the defacto Father of Flow, identified nine components of being in flow:

  • Clear goals which align with skill level
  • High level of concentration without distractions
  • Loss of self-consciousness
  • Distorted sense of time
  • Clear and immediate feedback
  • Balance between skill and challenge
  • A sense of agency – personal control over the activity
  • The activity itself is intrinsically rewarding
  • Absorption in activity such that focus becomes narrowed

Think back to when you had a great day at work or on a project, did you experience some or maybe even all of these elements?

To help clarify how they might show up, let’s take a look at how each of these could come into play. The more clearly we can define and identify these components the more likely we can generate our own genius zone on demand.

A musician in flow

I think it’s safe to say, most of us have experienced a musician performing live, so this example should be pretty easy to imagine. Think of those performances and what the musician might be experiencing as they move into a flow state.

  • They have a clear goal of performing a piece of music and when it aligns with their skill level, they know flow is within reach. If they choose a piece of music which is above or below their skill level, it’s much harder to reach their Genius Zone, or Flow State.
  • Musicians are rarely doing anything else when they are playing a piece – no distractions.
  • When they are playing a piece which is on a suitable skill level, they are not worried about failing – just one example of the loss of self-consciousness. Musicians often get so lost in the performance they lose other types of self-consciousness. They might dance and move in ways which they would find awkward outside of the flow state.
  • When performing, musicians often lose track of time, not having any idea of how much time has passed.
  • Musicians have clear and immediate feedback and in several ways. They hear the notes immediately and know whether their work is correct or not. They are often playing with other musicians who offer immediate feedback, and if they’re playing in front of an audience they also receive immediate feedback from them.
  • When a musician selects a piece which is slightly above their skill level – that fine balance of challenge and skill – they’re more likely to get in their genius zone.
  • Musicians definitely have personal control over the activity. It’s up to them as to how they are delivering their work.
  • The act of creating art rewards the artist in and of itself. Musicians are often driven to make music no matter what external reward there might be.
  • And similar to 3 and 4, when musicians are in the flow, their focus narrows considerably. They are not likely to be thinking of anything else.

Generating your own Genius Zone

While the chances of us creating art while working in a credit union may not be that high, we can certainly increase the odds of getting into a flow state by generating our own genius zone. To do that look for ways to do the following:

  • Have clears goals for every step of your project: Define what it is you’re needing to accomplish. Short-term goals are especially helpful for generating the genius zone.
  • Gather immediate feedback: How will you know your work is progressing? Could you gamify the project’s process somehow? For each step, no matter how small, is there an acknowledgement of having done it? And even more helpful would be to somehow know if the work is being done correctly.
  • Find the appropriate balance between your skill level and the challenge: Flow is reached when we feel comfortable with our skills AND have to push them just a bit to solve a problem, the ‘challenge’ as it were. If we find ourselves bored with our work, it usually is due to a mismatch in skill and challenge level. We might have the skills, but there’s no challenge anymore.
  • Remove distractions: An easy one: put your phone on silent or in another room. A hard one: removing yourself from interruptions as when colleagues, staff or your boss come looking for your immediate assistance. Some people have success blocking off their calendars, shutting their door, even working in a different space to help generate their genius zone.
  • Choose work which is in itself rewarding: This will be different for everyone, but knowing what work brings you joy and sparks your energy is key to generating your genius zone. If you need help identifying that work, check out assessments like Clifton StrengthsFinder, StandOut, or SparkType.

Are you ready to spend more time being happy and energized at work? Take the steps to generate your genius zone and amp up your happiness!

Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown fell in love with credit unions in 2005 when hired to start up an in-house advertising agency at one of the nation’s top 30 credit unions. With ... Web: Details