What is your focus trigger?
Growing up, as I’ve mentioned before, I played competitive golf. I always knew the importance of a pre-shot routine, but it wasn’t until college that I actually worked on it and made it something that truly set me up to focus on the shot. When I got to college, I started working with a sports psychologist who really helped me in this area. We established a routine that, for the next five years until I quit playing due to injury, never varied. It was as follows:
- Stand behind the ball with my club under my right arm.
- Put my glove on and undo the velcro and tighten it back. That was my trigger: the sound of the velcro.
- Then I was able to visualize the shot, seeing it clearly in my mind.
- I then walked up to the ball with the club in my right hand and aligned myself, took one last look at the target, and swung.
My focus trigger was the snap of the velcro. Even today, the sound of velcro reminds me of my pre-shot routine. If I got distracted during any part of the routine, I started over from that point. I would back away, snap the velcro again and continue. If my focus was broken, I needed my trigger to refocus.
Today, my focus trigger is the sound of either classical or ambient music (specifically with Alpha waves) or Gregorian chant. Those are the only two things I listen to when I write, analyze reporting, or have to focus on anything for more than a few seconds. The mere sound of the music or chanting immediately triggers me into focus territory.
Finding your focus trigger might take some time. It did for me in college. We tried numerous things before we landed on the velcro.
If you do not have a focus trigger, here are five ways to find it:
- Find a common, but not too common, sound. The glove velcro is common enough on a golf course, but it only happens (hopefully) less than 80 times per round. It is readily available to most golfers and starkly contrasts the surrounding quiet. At work, it might be a certain drawer closing or the sound your chair makes when it goes into a certain position. You may have to work through a few sounds to find the right one.
- Tap dance. The trigger for one guy on our team was to tap, tap, tap his right hip flexor with his right hand. That motion and feeling (it didn’t make much of a sound) signified to his body that it was time to focus. Look for repetitive sounds, motions, or feelings that you can implement like a tap to help you focus.
- Close your eyes. This is an old, tried and true way to enter focus-land. It doesn’t work for me, but for many people, when it is time to focus, 10-20 seconds of “nothingness” with their eyes closed does the trick.
- It’s probably right in front of you. What currently helps you focus? For me, without knowing it would be my trigger, listening to classical music helped me focus. So when I was looking for a trigger, the simple act of pressing the button in iTunes and hearing the strings or the chants was all it took. I was in focus-land! Perhaps you already have something that helps you focus like music or a certain place in your office. Try that for a while and see what happens.
- Practice, practice, and then move on if it doesn’t work. It took me a year of experimenting to find the right trigger. I tried the tap thing, I tried closing my eyes, I tried other touches and sounds, but we settled on the golf glove because it worked. Then I practiced and practiced it. That’s right, I practiced my pre-shot routine. Hundreds of thousands of times until it was subconscious. Make sure you give your trigger a fair trial, but if it’s not working, move on to a new one.
What is your focus trigger? What have you tried that didn’t work for you?