When there’s a lot on the line, I can find myself thinking about the outcome more than the task at hand.
Whether it’s a foosball game, where my teammates are counting on me to score a winning shot, or I’m hitting a project deadline — focus can be my friend or my ultimate enemy.
Sharpen Your Focus
It all depends on where I put that focus.
In times like these, I have to remind myself that worrying about the outcome won’t help. I need to make the most of the moment and turn that intensity towards the task at hand — one pitch at a time.
In Overachievement: The New Science of Working Less to Accomplish More, John Eliot, Ph. D. writes about sharpening your focus for peak performance.
Three Epiphany’s from a Heart Surgeon
Eliot shares the lessons from a heart surgeon about thinking in the present:
- Epiphany Number One: An exceptional performer is absorbed in the moment, no matter what’s at stake.
- Epiphany Number Two: It’s important to let results be just that – by-products of what you are doing. You can’t try to control wins and losses, no matter how important.
- Epiphany Number Three: No matter how much or how little prior experience or practice you have, no matter what your skill level at the time you are about to perform, you must, for the moment, let go of any inclination to judge yourself.
Never Give a Pitch Away
Eliot writes about how Pete Rose used intense focus on every pitch:
“What does that mean – ‘Never give a pitch away’?
No matter what else was going on in the game or in his personal-life, Pete Rose, the batter, focused on every pitch that was thrown to him as if it were the only pitch he would see in his life.”
Find a Way to Focus Among the Chaos
It’s not about reducing your workload and having less to do. In fact, Eliot writes that you can use the chaos of your day to build exceptional focus.
“Many others are so overwhelmed by the chaos of everyday life that they think the only route to true concentration is to have only one thing to do.
They end up spending too much time trying to clear away the brush of each workday, removing presumed obstacles to concentration, trying to make their workloads lighter, their schedules less hectic.
But they might be ridding themselves of the very stuff that can help them focus exceptionally.”
Use the Most Specific Task to Narrow Your Focus
Find the simplest, most specific, most immediate task to narrow your focus.
“The trouble is, we tend to think of getting there as requiring a lack of distractions. I hear it from executives all the time: ‘I’ve got deadlines out the wazoo; everybody wants something from me; how can I concentrate?’
Performing in the present is not about making all these things go away.
Rather, it’s hooking on to one thing – often the most sensory-absorbing thing – and committing all your energy to it. … But no matter what your field, you can take any job and find the simplest, most specific, most immediate task and use it to narrow your focus.”
Forget Cause and Effect – Performance is Distinct from Outcome
Your performance is distinct from the outcomes. Eliot writes that you should keep each stage of your performance independent from the next.
“Learning to be in the present will be impossible without understanding a principle that I have already discussed: Performance is distinct from outcome. …making it in the world of high-level performance means not paying attention to the results of every move you make. Keeping each stage of a performance independent of the next is another definition of “being in the present.”
Treat Every Task You Do as a Separate Performance
Eliot writes that you should treat every task as a separate performance.
“And whatever your job is, don’t bother to think about the consequences, positive or negative, of your efforts. Just lose yourself in the execution of your strategy for execution’s sake alone. Treat every task you do as a separate performance.”
Don’t Rearrange Your Work — Rearrange Your Focus
It’s not about re-arranging your to-do lists. It’s about focusing on the right things.
“Overwhelmed by the details and distractions of their busy lives, most people try to eliminate as many as possible ‘to give myself time to focus on what’s important.’
he typical results is that they waste too much time trying to sweep away the small stuff and still don’t manage to focus, or they get caught up in writing and rewriting ‘to-do’ lists, further frustrating themselves with the volume.
My recommendation is simple: Don’t rearrange your work; rearrange your focus.”
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:
- Focus on one pitch at a time.
- Hook on to one thing.
- Be absorbed in the moment, no matter what’s at stake.
- Let results be the by-product of what you’re doing.
- Don’t judge yourself while you’re performing.
- Don’t rearrange your work; rearrange your focus.
Use the mess of your day to practice focusing on one pitch at a time.