In the pre-race ready room, just before the finals of the Olympic 200 meter butterfly, a competitor danced around and shadow-boxed within inches of Michael Phelps. Phelps’ scowl reflected his intense internal focus. He never even acknowledged the antics.
Phelps won the gold.
Whether working in a corporation or as an entrepreneur, the ability to hyper-focus on a problem, a task, or a project is key to peak performance. Yet we attempt to make progress on multiple items at the same time, or get interrupted by email and social media, while trying to stay focused. These are perfect paths to kill productivity and stymie creative thinking.
Rarely have we created our own environment for hyper-focus. In other words, we’re not creating conditions for peak performance. We’re not Michael Phelps, who has years of training and coaching behind him, but within our own conditions we CAN create hyper-focus.
5 Strategies for Sustaining Hyper-Focus
- Pick your time and timing. How long: Will you work on this for is it 30 minutes? 45 minutes? Do not say that you’ll stay hyper-focused for 4 hours; it simply won’t happen. And when: What is your most productive time of day? When are there the fewest distractions? Pick those times for your most challenging tasks.
- Go to your “third place”. As writing mentor Sam Horn explains in her book, IDEApreneur, this is a location other than home or work, where you personally can be most productive. K. Rowling famously wrote Harry Potter in a coffee shop. Where is (or what can you create as) your third place? Library? Hotel lobby? Broom Closet? Figure it out and use it.
- Post a sign that indicates, “My door is closed” (even if there’s no door). If necessary, state it as “Available after 11:00,” or the end of your hyper-focus time. Forward the phone to messaging. Shut down email, chat, and all other windows except for the resources you need.
- Create conditions for peak performance. Protect your team from interruptions. As a manager, set up a specific time (perhaps one hour, two or three times a week) with no meetings, no calls, no messaging. Enforce it. Expect withdrawal symptoms. Remind them that short of a fire drill, there’s nothing that can’t wait an hour.
- Treat this time like meditation. Don’t beat yourself up if you get distracted. Simply notice it and come back into focus.
Don’t allow distractions to interfere with your success. Switch on your hyper-focus and go for the gold like Michael.
To learn more about focus for success, contact me today. I’m happy to speak to your group, conduct a workshop or offer executive coaching. Call 804-749-4100 or contact me and let’s talk about creating your ideal conditions for peak performance.