It happens all the time. I am working on something and suddenly I realize I am actually doing something else. Last night I went downstairs to get myself some water. Instead, I fed the cats. I was back upstairs when I realized I had forgotten my water. How did that happen? The simple answer is I thought my brain could remember for the thirty seconds it took me to feed the cats that I needed water. Turned out, it couldn’t.
There is a lot of information to help us deal with physical distractions like what happened to me last night. Turn off your phone, close your email, focus on one task at a time. But what happens if you are trying to give a presentation and the guy in the front row keeps spinning his pen around his fingers? Or when you’re on the field in the middle of what is going to be a great play and the ref blows her whistle to make are really bad call? Those type of human element distractions can really derail your performance.
Here are a few techniques you can use to keep a distraction from disrupting your ability to perform to your potential.
Before the presentation or game – Prepare
- Remind yourself that what other people do is outside your control. But you do get to control how you react to them.
- Have a strategy to bring your attention back into focus. You might take a deep breath, place a red dot on every page of your notes as an anchor, touch your pinky finger to your thumb, whatever works for you.
During the presentation or game – Perform
- Repeat to yourself that you cannot control someone else, only your reaction. If you allow their distraction to interfere with your ability to give your best, they win.
- Use your strategy. That is why you developed it.
- If you have the luxury of time, implement the seven second rule. Allow yourself to be really annoyed for seven seconds. Really focus on it. Is that as annoyed as you can get? Come on! I know you can be more annoyed than that! Then let it go.
- Focus on the very next thing you need to do or say. The next ten seconds are the only thing that matter. Make each ten second segment as perfect as possible and you will perform flawlessly.
After the presentation or game – Evaluate
- So, how did you do? If you have video, watch it with a critical eye. Where did you get distracted and how did you handle it.
- How did your focus strategy work for you? Was it able to bring you back to the moment? If yes, keep using it. If no, continue to practice it or find a better anchor.
- Did you notice that certain types of distractions are more likely to affect you than others? Practice staying on track in spite of those things specifically.
Repeat – keep using your focus strategy and anchor until it is second nature.
Everyone gets distracted. The only difference between a great performance and a derailed one is how the distraction is handled. The good news, learning to perform at your peak without being distracted is a learned behavior. You can do it if you put your mind to it.
Do you have a strategy or anchor that helps you focus? Share it with us!
Last week in Good Person, Bad Behavior, we talked about how a person think of themselves as “good” while behaving badly.
Next week we will look at the power of information and how team members might be using information to the detriment of the team.