“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” — Bruce Lee
You can use the mess of your day to practice a peak performance technique professional athletes use.
Think of this as, “One pitch at a time.”
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.
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.
Here are my key takeaways:
- 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.
Sharpen Your Focus in the Moment for Peak Performance
Eliot emphasizes the importance of focusing on the present moment for peak performance, rather than being preoccupied with outcomes.
Eliot shares three epiphanies from a heart surgeon, including the need to let results be by-products of what you’re doing and the importance of not judging yourself while performing.
Eliot also highlights the significance of treating every task as a separate performance, using the chaos of everyday life to build exceptional focus, and rearranging your focus rather than your work.
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.
Focus on One Pitch at a Time (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.”
Final Thoughts: Sharpening Your Focus for Peak Performance
Sharpening your focus is a skill that can lead to peak performance in any area of your life.
By letting go of worrying about the outcome and focusing on the present moment, you can improve your ability to perform under pressure and achieve your goals.
Remember that performance is distinct from outcome, and treating each task as a separate performance can help you stay focused and motivated. So take the time to practice focusing on the task at hand and use the chaos of your day to build exceptional focus.
With these tips, you can sharpen your focus and accomplish more with less stress and effort.