The Art of Simple Work Rituals to Create Tunnel Vision and Instantly Step Into Flow
Want to know how to get in the zone every time you sit down to work or study on your computer?
Maybe our “new society” is still evolving…
Maybe we still have a long way to go before we know how to manage all this power at our fingertips…
But one thing is clear.
Many remote workers and students are flailing to gain some kind of focus. The promise of the Information Age has deteriorated into an Information Chaos…
A constant panicked scramble to get something, anything, done on a day-to-day basis.
Ritualizing Work Can Help Train Your Brain for Instant Flow & On-Call Work Productivity
At FocusMe, we’re constantly looking for new ways to help remote workers and students allocate their mental resources better.
To make each session at the computer more efficient. To limit wasted time and effort. And drastically ramp up productivity.
One of the fastest, simplest ways to do this is the use of simple work rituals and patterns to “prep” the brain for success as you begin work.
Work rituals can be very simple. Seemingly trivial, even.
And yet still tap into high-performing brain patterns in mere minutes, often less.
What is a Focused Work Ritual? And How Does it Help You Get in the Zone?
As you probably know, “morning rituals” have become extremely popular in today’s self-help literature.
Everyone’s constantly looking for new ways to organize their days better, and imitating the patterns of the world’s most elite workers seems like a good place to start.
Freedom without structure can quickly become chaos.
(Especially if you work or study on digital devices.)
While these morning rituals start you off with a more productive day…
The Brain-Training Practicality of Prework Rituals is Often Overlooked.
A work ritual is a simple, usually brief series of steps to implement every time you sit down for an online work session.
It doesn’t have to be super complicated.
For example, you might just put away your distracting devices, jot down something in a notebook, put on your favorite focus music, and get going.
You might even toss in some visualization.
Or a superstitious tweak of your own, to get the mind in the right gear.
Be creative. Make it your own.
But Why Should You Use a Work Ritual?
The basic idea is that by repeating the same exact steps, in the exact same sequence, every single time you work, you create a powerful priming mechanism.
The important part is the repetitive sequence.
The pattern-seeking functions of your brain quickly pick up on this routine over time. Creating a simple, effective method for switching into work mode whenever you want.
As your brain grows more familiar with the productive work sessions produced by your repetitive routine, that routine becomes more closely linked with stepping into flow.
And you can activate tunnel vision moments regularly on cue.
Allow me to illustrate.
Here’s an Example of a Simple Work Ritual for Getting in the Zone Instantly.
How to Get in the Zone – Step #1
It’s 6:45 a.m. and Russel, an online entrepreneur, knows it’s time to work. Because he’s made a “predecision” to structure his life that way.
Maybe he even has a reminder set on his phone so he never misses this “appointment with himself.”
He’s already gotten up early enough to get his workout in. Of course, that’s not imperative to reap the rewards of the work ritual’s mental conditioning. But working at the same time everyday establishes a highly productive pattern in Russel’s mornings…
So he finds it that much easier to structure his other healthy activities around work sessions and start the day off with a bang.
So at 6:45, Russel makes himself a quick cup of coffee and heads into his home office.
Things to Note:
- Try to honor specific time commitments for your work session. You don’t have to get up as early as Russel does, but sticking with a specific schedule will help your brain start gearing up as work time approaches.
- If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, forcing yourself to sit down and get started before you allow yourself to dip into your first or second cup is a great way to tap into the reward centers of your brain and create a little “bait” for yourself. Make delayed gratification work FOR you.
- Russel’s use of a home office creates a special space for getting work done. Not only does this minimize distractions and outside interruptions – but the brain learns to associate that space with workflow and getting in the zone. You don’t need a beautiful office with a giant mahogany desk and all the bells and whistles. A curtained off section of the room or corner of a bedroom (preferably with a locked door) should suffice. But own your work space.
How to Get in the Zone – Step #2
Russel turns off his smartphone and slips it into a drawer as he enters the office. He sets his hot cup of coffee on the desk, and makes sure to gather his computer charger (and anything else he might need) before he sits down.
He also lays a notepad beside his computer to jot down potential tangents and distractions as needed. This step of the ritual is about getting all his tools in place so he doesn’t need to get up again.
With everything in place, he shuts the door behind him. Everyone in the house knows it’s time to leave Russel alone.
He sits down at his computer and fires it up.
Things to Note:
- Research shows just having a smartphone in the room with you makes it difficult to focus. The temptation is always there beckoning in the back of your mind. After you turn it off, consider leaving in a drawer on the other side of the house instead. If you do this every time you work, your brain will get accustomed to this strict no-phone rule while working.
- Notice Russel still isn’t drinking his coffee yet. He’s going to help himself slip right into the zone by saving his first sip for after the clock has started.
- Planning to have everything he needs there with him minimizes the chance unnecessary detours will drag him off track. Most distractions can be anticipated and prevented with a few simple daily steps before your tail hits the seat. Might as well include them in your “ritual.”
- Just the simple act of closing that door and sitting down at that same desk everyday has already trained Russel’s brain for what comes next. There’s no mistaking it – the time for deep, productive work has arrived!
How to Get in the Zone – Step #3
This is not required for a work ritual to support you…
But anyone who wants to reach new, higher heights of achievement, should consider drawing on the life-changing power of mental visualization techniques to get into the zone.
Jason Selk, a performance training coach for some of the world’s top athletes and business leaders, writes about simple mental rituals in “10-Minute Toughness,” and the follow up book, “Executive Toughness.”
Selk has athletes and business clients run a quick personalized highlight reel in their own head just before go-time, and then envision how they want to perform before they begin. They also recant a quick, personalized (deliberately structured) affirmation to tap into their most powerful version of themselves.
Sound like new age nonsense? Selk backs up his claims with research and client results. In any case, Russel’s version of this doesn’t even take 5 minutes, and it’s a great ritualizing component to his prework routine.
Things to Note:
- If you don’t have time to read Jason Selk’s books, no big deal. Just write your goals on a whiteboard above your desk. A quick review of them and an internal intention to move in their direction is enough. You might also consider some type of visual representation.
- Visualization is powerful but doesn’t have to be fancy to work…For example, one of the easiest ways to break the habit of sleeping in is to take a quick second before sleep to envision yourself jumping out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off. The point is that setting a visual intention for something makes difficult things much easier.
How to Get in the Zone – Step #4
Russel takes a quick moment to grab his whiteboard marker (or a notepad and pen) and jots down a quick list of 3-5 things he intends to do after opening his computer.
These aren’t trivial to-do’s – they are the most important tasks he will complete today.
Things to Note:
- Preplanning your computer time only takes a moment; if you already have goals and responsibilities, you know what needs to be done first. But this simple step in your work routine ensures you open up your computer deliberately and move with purpose. A specific intention to not get sidetracked. There’s no easier way to fall out of the zone than just letting the digital labyrinth carry you away…
How to Get in the Zone – Step #5
Before doing anything else, Russel taps into one of the most important sensory inputs for sinking his mind into the zone.
Russel has a channel saved on his Spotify for binaural beats that help him focus. He pops on his headphones so he can’t hear family making intrusive noises around the house, and he hits play to take control of his own environment.
Music is a super powerful addition to ritualizing anything.
Things to Note:
- Different types of music work for different people. Classical music is great for mellow but deep focus. Or maybe you like something more upbeat, like hip hop or reggae. Music with lyrics might work for some, but for others it’s too distracting.
- Try alternating types of music depending on the type of work. For example, Russel uses binaural beats when it’s time to do deep work, but when fielding emails and other admin tasks, a little r&b or jazz keeps him in a positive mood without allowing him to get bored.
- Want another alternative? Try the background noise of a mellow coffee shop, or even the addition of a gentle rain. Studies show ambient coffee shop noise helps some people get more done. And it may cut down on the lonely feeling of working at home during lockdown. FocusMe has a free tool for this – stop by the RainyCafe anytime you want to liven up the office.
How to Get in the Zone – Step #6
Russel’s brain knows what’s up now and is shifting gear into full-on work mode!
He writes down his starting time (for tracking purposes) on the white board in front of him. And (now that he’s on the clock) finally takes a satisfying sip of his still-hot coffee.
Then he promptly begins work on his most important task of the day. The work ritual, or mind program if you will, is complete.
It’s time for the magic to happen…
Things to Note:
- Remember, the coffee functions as a reward for starting. Many people love their morning indulgences but don’t make it intentional. Russel deprives himself until his work has begun, creating a small motivator for moving forward with a productive day.
- You can also hold off on the coffee, alternative drink, or even breakfast until you’ve completed an hour or two of work. What other little motivators can you think of? Sprinkle them about your day. Remember, they don’t need to be complicated. Get creative!
- Tracking work not only makes it much easier to know your metrics – revealing where your time goes and opportunities for improvement – but has other benefits within the ritual as well. The repeated step of writing start time down just helps solidify the work “ritual” structure. It also creates obvious wins and turns daily work into more of a game.
- If Russel really wants to gamify his work, he could check out gamification apps like Habitica, or create a simple spreadsheet for logging in and out of work, tracking hours, noting other metrics, etc. Tracking alone can help the reward-seeking brain find momentum (this is especially helpful if you struggle to get motivated for far-off goals). How far can you go to gamify YOUR daily metrics?
- Notice Russel starts with his most important or most satisfying work first. Not email or instant messaging! This minimizes the risk of slipping into reactive mode. And sets the stage for constant progress towards his most important goals.
How to Get in the Zone – Step #7
Rinse and repeat.
Things to Note:
- Russel implements this same routine every time he sits down to work. After long breaks. After lunch. If he does an evening work session at random, he uses it again. The less he deviates from this, the better it seems to work…
Caution: Drawing on Work Rituals to Get in the Zone Doesn’t Have to Be Over-Complicated.
In this article, I’ve elaborated every little step in Russel’s ritual for clarity. But don’t get the wrong idea…
These steps are very simple and take up almost zero additional time in Russel’s day. A work ritual can amount to a mere half a minute and still feel significant.
The brain is a pattern-loving machine.
If you give it a structure and routine, so it knows when it’s time to perform specific functions, it will optimize for you and help you stay on track.
Try it for a couple weeks.
You just might be amazed at the results…