What makes a high performer? Why do some people achieve greatness and others get left floundering behind.
When I was working with elite athletes at the Australian Institute of Sport, soldiers in the SAS, some high profile people in the entertainment industry and more recently with high performers in corporate organisations, I noticed some clear characteristics that set high performers apart. The good news is that it is not all about talent, ability and potential, it’s more to do with how they execute on a daily basis.
The most common characteristic that sets high performers apart is their ability to focus deeply on the tasks that they perform in a day. However as a society we are losing our ability to focus. It seems like the whole world has ADHD. There are three main reasons for this.
Attention deficit habit (ADH)
ADH is a condition where the habits in our day are sapping our ability to focus. For example most people leave their email open and every time it alerts us to a new email we stop what we are doing and we go off and check it. Also we leave our phone on constantly during the day even when we are writing a report or meeting with someone. These habits actually set ourselves up to be distracted and train us to have poor focus.
This is the result of shifting from a physical economy to a digital economy. We are overloaded with information and we have so much information coming at us we don’t have to focus on one thing for too long before something else will come and take our attention away. A recent report released by Proud Foot consulting said that information overload was responsible for a 10% decrease in productivity.
The greatest enemy of focus is this idea of multitasking. Multitasking suggests that you can focus on many things at once. The reality is multi-tasking is a very inefficient process and in reality all you are doing is focusing poorly on a number of tasks rather than focusing well on one thing.
So what is the solution how do we improve our focus? Well there are three simple techniques we can use to have the focus of a high performer.
Control Your Environment
Set up your external world to support focus, turn off the email, turn the phone off, and educate your staff on when you are not to be interrupted. Push back on the environment, don’t be a slave to your environment.
An example of a formal practice is meditation. Years ago I thought that meditation was tree hugging, hippie stuff, however a huge amount of evidence shows that meditation has a beneficial impact on our cognitive ability. In its purest form meditation is about calming the mind and focusing on one task, this ability will translate into work.
During the day practice focusing your attention on whatever is in front of you. Lose yourself in what ever you are doing. If you are writing a report focus entirely on that report without thinking of the other things you need to do later in the day.
Likewise if you are having a conversation with someone totally immerse yourself in that conversation and don’t let your mind drift. So often we have conversations and we are not really present.
Business is built on relationships; the greatest complement you can give another person is your undivided attention. Some people believe that being present is the key to team building.
This is the first step towards high performance. Go forth and focus!