The following paragraphs were written with programmers in mind, but they’re absolutely true for me concerning writing, translating, blogging and everything else, as well. (source)
Here’s the trouble. We all know that knowledge workers work best by getting into “flow”, also known as being “in the zone”, where they are fully concentrated on their work and fully tuned out of their environment. They lose track of time and produce great stuff through absolute concentration. This is when they get all of their productive work done. Writers, programmers, scientists, and even basketball players will tell you about being in the zone.
The trouble is, getting into “the zone” is not easy. When you try to measure it, it looks like it takes an average of 15 minutes to start working at maximum productivity. Sometimes, if you’re tired or have already done a lot of creative work that day, you just can’t get into the zone and you spend the rest of your work day fiddling around, reading the web, playing Tetris.
The other trouble is that it’s so easy to get knocked out of the zone. Noise, phone calls, going out for lunch, having to drive 5 minutes to Starbucks for coffee, and interruptions by coworkers — especially interruptions by coworkers — all knock you out of the zone. If a coworker asks you a question, causing a 1 minute interruption, but this knocks you out of the zone badly enough that it takes you half an hour to get productive again, your overall productivity is in serious trouble.
This is one of the main reasons I get impossibly cranky when interrupted from work. I am capable of spending 10 hours working and feeling okay about it, if everybody else forgets that I exist. After all, I love what I do. It makes me happy.
Also, whoever wrote this is optimistic. I need around 20 minutes to start working at maximum efficiency…or more. Depending on the day. But then, I’m a writer. Not only does the quality of my writing depend on my mood, so does the actual damned plot.