They're those moments when you really love your job. You're energized and completely focused on the task at hand.
You're "in the zone" -- or, as scientists put it, you're experiencing a "flow state."
And new research suggests a simple way to experience more of those moments and boost your job performance -- it's all about keeping your evening time for yourself.
"If employees have the possibility to recover well from work, they will experience more flow at work, which may actually help improve their performance on the job," study co-author Dr. Maike Debus, a psychologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, told The Huffington Post in an email. "Managers/supervisors should support employees in recovering from work...not making them stay overtime too often; not saying something like 'Think about project XYZ tonight, and let's talk about it tomorrow.'"
For the study, Debus and her colleagues asked 121 computer programmers to complete a series of questionnaires every day for five days. One questionnaire gauged how rested the workers felt in the morning at the start of the working day, allowing them to note whether "This morning, I feel well-rested" or not. Three other questionnaires given throughout the day gauged the workers' sense of "flow" on the job.
What did the researchers find? Workers who felt recovered in the mornings experienced above-average flow levels.
"The more/better recovered a person felt in the morning of a specific day (compared to his/her average), the more flow he or she experienced," Debus said in the email. "Research has shown that activities that help people to detach from work (i.e., being mentally and physically away from work, not thinking about work-related matters) are very beneficial for recovery."
That's something to think about next time you're asked to stay late or work on a project in the evening.
The study was published in the July 2014 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.