Happiness, creativity and working in your zone

Lotus illustration Jo Gifford

illustration: Jo Gifford

Being in the zone is an amazing feeling. That moment when you are locked in a private space and flow; just being, doing, and enjoying it.

I really think these moments are the key to our happiness. Being in a flow is when you are connected to the universe, sub-consciousness, higher self or whichever way you choose to frame it. Either way, it rocks.

I walked past my school grounds this last weekend and remembered some of my happiest moments of being in the zone. I used to have art lessons on a Friday afternoon, and I remember vividly sitting on the school field, sketching and drawing outdoors and feeling totally connected. How often do I sit in fields and draw now? Yip, you got it: very rarely.

Working in the creative industries that magical, ethereal flow is what we are paid to channel. We need to know how to tap into it for actual financial gain (how amazing is that!), and it’s a muscle that needs training. Yet, I tend to completely ignore or sabotage mine choosing to override it with Twitter, admin, housework, meaningless things.

There are so many ways to get in your zone but different things do it for different people. One man’s flow is another man’s migraine, so what works for me might not work for you. Still, here are my top 10 tips for creative thinking, working, and zone channelling.

1) Switch off.
My recent trials in New Diva 365 of having no social media for parts of the day or evening have reconnected me to the offline world and the peace that comes with that. Being plugged in all the time is stressful, distracting, and a constant bombardment of information. Switching off and going old school plugs me back into myself. And I like it a lot.

2) Playing with my children
The act of play is so liberating, yet we rarely do it. Having twin 2 year olds is a great excuse to go crazy with the plasticine, get creative with Lego and just do sticky-painty-glitter collages for fun. The key here is to ignore your phone/text/tweets and just do it and enjoy. The kids love it, I love it, it’s healing and energising. Borrow my two if you need some small people;they are Mini Cherry Sorbet CEO’s in the making and love an expansive mindmap or two.

3) Listen to music
The right music can really get my brain warmed up and flowing. Daft Punk’s Discovery album has been a favourite since it came out for just focussing my thoughts and going with the flow. I love the music of the Cocteau Twins for the ethereal melodies and background music, so I like to tell Last Fm my choices and let it flow. Whether it’s Dizzy Rascal, Mozart or PJ and Duncan do whichever works for you.

4) People watching
Again, a skill lost in the social media age this is one of my favourite ever pastimes. I am so happy just sitting with a cuppa in a coffee shop and watching, observing, probably doodling in my Jottr pad or similar. The trick here again is to not be tempted to waste that precious time messing around on the iPhone.

5) Instgram/photography walks
I love, love, love the simple act of mooching around with a camera in my hand. Be it my Nikon D40 or simply the iPhone with Instagram, when you go out with a camera surroundings look different and we see the minutiae. Colours are more saturated, the world is full of moments and I feel inspired. Try it out and see how you connect with your environment.

6)Idle sketching
The pleasure of sitting with a sketchbook and some charcoal or oil pastels is something I used to spend hours and hours doing at A-level for my Art projects. I loved it with a passion and was proud of my drawings. Want to guess how much time I spend doing that now? Even an hour a week would be an improvement and I will aim to do that and re-connect with that poor,starving inner child in me, the artist that needs feeding.

7) Singing
Singing is empowering. Singing is primal, the body’s most basic instrument, and it is so easy to do. In the past when I have sung with choirs that feeling of belonging, of the body and voice existing in a vibrational space with others is the zone right there.  Now I don’t claim to have the best voice at all, (and when the Karaoke and wine combination hits I cant be held responsible), but I may have to hunt out a local choir to get my voice heard.

 8) Cooking
I do often find the zone rocks up if I am baking. The enjoyment of creating something for pleasure, rather than the hurried weekday teatime ritual is a lovely activity. The drawback is that I often eat too many of the resulting cakes… a small price to pay for creative genius?

9) Running
This definitely gets me into a zone. I have found in my training for the Team Bangs on the Run half marathon that the zone doesn’t kick in until around 7 miles, but once I am there it’s great. Just me, my body and the open road. Running, you rock.

10) Sleep
Ok, so maybe not a great one for a working day but letting my brain rest is the best gift I can give to it. Poor brain, it’s always having to work a million miles an hour when I have my way, and resting lets me dream, unpack that tangled subconscious and tune into to radio Jo.

I know when I have suppressed my flow too much during the day with media noise, self imposed devices and infomration overload as I tend to be wide awake with a stream of creative ideas at night, the one time my brain is allowed to rest  the quiet.  Even 5 minutes here and there makes a difference; allow yourself those moments in the day..

How do you plug into the Zone? What works for you?
Let me know.




Jo Gifford

My work is about helping people work in smarter, creative ways + getting their message out to the world via killer content—blogs, copy, images + social. I am a designer, writer, blogger, mentor, author, creativity addict + prolific geek. You could call it a portfolio career of multi-potential multi-passions. I call it being me.
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