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The Zone – can the zen of sport transfer to the workplace?


Top athletes strive for the ultimate state of concentration and focus in order to achieve peak performance. This has been called “the zone”, where skill, training and mental discipline come together, to make possibilities on the pitch, track or court seem limitless.

But is this possible in the workplace? Will Mushat, director of Sages and Wise Women looks at how to create the right external and internal conditions.

Many of us can think of times when we’ve experienced feelings of complete concentration; periods where we’ve been absorbed in completing a task and everything seems to just fall into place and background noise recedes into silence.

Reaching a "flow state" or getting in "the zone", as it is more commonly known, usually happens not in relaxing moments of leisure but when we are actively involved in tasks that stretch our mental and physical abilities, such as work. Characteristics of a "flow state" include deep concentration, distorted sense of time, increased efficiency, heightened creativity, peak performance and great feelings of satisfaction – factors which are invaluable in the workplace.

There are many elements that can help people increase their chances of reaching a natural "flow state" and boosting concentration levels. If you create the right mix of these elements, combined with a dash of commitment and desire, things will occur that may previously have seemed impossible.

Try these tips to improve your chances of getting into "the zone":

- Time - make a note of your peak concentration times (e.g. first thing in the morning or after lunch) and plan your day accordingly. You may need to schedule your time to avoid interruptions. Also allot the right amount of time – rushing will destroy your concentration levels!

- Distractions - organise yourself so you have everything you need to complete the task at hand. Remove as many distractions as possible - physically and in your mind – so that you can focus entirely on your work.

- Relax - take deep breaths and focus on the task at hand. Learn to relax as you absorb yourself in your work.

- Set realistic goals - make sure you understand what you are trying to achieve. Are your goals clear? Do you have the skills to achieve them?
Remind yourself frequently of the overriding purpose of your work and your chances of completion.

- Don’t strain to complete a task – enjoy the process of work and if you feel yourself losing focus take a break, but try to concentrate for longer periods on each occasion.


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