“The successful warrior is the average man with laser-like focus.” – Bruce Lee
Better focus is a skill we can get better at every day. Here are some ways that you can train focus daily so you take energy away from your distractions, and put it into your process and what’s going to maximize your performance and your progress.
Plan what you are going to do
If you don’t have a plan and a measure of success for executing that plan, it will be harder to focus. What are your goals and what is the purpose of those goals? What are the milestones? Everyday is a big opportunity to be productive which is made easier with clear goals and tasks. Plan the next day, the evening before. On the golf course, your performance process provides you with an anchor to what’s most important and a plan for any situation. During practice, having a clear intention for what you are going to work on and what drills you will do, will give you more purpose and greater focus. Research indicates that 90-120 minute uninterupted chunks are optimal, but you can start with smaller time periods and build it up. Focus on just one task during chunks – there is no such thing as “multi-tasking”.
Awareness meditation and breathing exercises
Perhaps the best way to train focus is through awareness of what you are focusing on. This is what you’ll develop through Awareness Meditation, which most of my students do daily. How to meditate and be more mindful of your attention is covered in Module 4 of the Mental Game Training Program. Practicing controlled breathing while you meditate or as separate breathing exercises, such as the Wim Hof method or Breath of Fire, is an effectice way to reset when you are feeling distracted and quiet the mind so you can focus better.
Being hydrated and putting the right foods in your body are proven to improve focus and cognitive performance. On a daily basis, you should be mindful of it – drink plenty of water and eat plenty of brain foods such as fish, blueberries, broccoli and nuts.
Sleep and relaxation
Sleep experts say that most people need between 7-8 hours each night to fully recharge the brain. Most of us are sleep deprived, which limits our focus and cognitive performance. Take sleep seriously, especially the nights before your tournament rounds. Better recovery from sleep is one of the reasons that Rory, Justin Thomas and many LPGA Tour players use the Whoop strap.
Allocate time to social media each day
Reduce your social media usage to set times each day. Don’t allow the app engineers to pull you down the rabbit hole at any time of day. There are now apps which help curb social media usage by disabling your apps after a certain amount of time spent on them. If you don’t think you need this level of self-regulation, create a time in your calendar when you check social media feeds each day and stick to it. Resist the urge to look at that notification that just appeared on your phone, while you are doing something else. Reading messages or looking at social media feeds can trigger emotional reactions, which takes energy away from your focus.
Create an environment which is more conducive to focus
Attempting to do anything with distractions at your finger-tips will likely result in loss of focus. As I write this article, my phone is in another room and I have only this document open on my computer. When I need to use a web browser, I limit it to one tab only. Make it easier to focus by reducing the number of potential distractions, so you get deeper into your task. Certain types of music can facilite focus such as brain.fm. Juniors: deep practice doesn’t involve you looking at Instagram in between shots. Get used to just “being” without needing the constant distraction of the phone to see how many likes your last post has got. Use your phone as a reward for a sustained period of high focus.
Put yourself in uncomfortable situations
Being on the edge of success and failure is where focus is hardest, so that’s a great place to train it. When you are uncomfortable and playing under pressure, that is when you are most likely to be distracted by negative thoughts and self-doubt. Being able to quiet the mind and focus on the activity makes playing golf in the zone, more of a possibility. As Steven Kotler of the Flow Research Collective says, “Flow follows Focus”. Without being able to focus on the present moment in the “big” moments, you are unlikely to get into the Flow State, where the “self” disappears and all that exists is the task. Welcome those times where you feel uncomfortable and think of them as training for your focus. Creating a practice environment which simulates these scenarios and challenges focus under pressure should be a part of your practice regimen.
Train Focus Doing Routine Activities
Simply being more mindful of your attention as you do daily activities such as eating, brushing your teeth or washing the dishes – stay immersed in those tasks as you would want to be immersed in the process of hitting a shot. Be present and aware of the sensations in that moment, instead of being somewhere else in your mind.
By doing focus training exercises such as these throughout each week, you’ll notice that you’ll be able to get more control over your attention, stay in tasks longer so you increase your productivity and you’ll be able to stay focused on your process and have more success under pressure.