In a World of Noise, Learning How to Switch Off Our Minds is a Super Power
Noise is one of the greatest challenges facing entrepreneurs today.
"Psst, come over here. I'll let you in on a little secret." That's how I felt when I listened to my wife talk about her latest problem. But before I tell you her problem and the secret, let me set the stage.
Like many people, her company has turned to the work-from-home business model. Since March of last year, she's been at home. Every day. From Monday to Friday, she works at our dining room table, with no end in sight.
It seems obvious to me that more companies will embrace this concept even after Covid-19 is long gone. There are two main reasons why:
- No commute: allows employees to save between 30 minutes up to two hours a day in travel time. That can result in more sleep, less stress and more productivity for employees.
- Less office space: companies can reduce their office space in expensive cities, saving them a small fortune in overhead and increasing their bottom line.
Anyway, the other day my wife happened to walk past a house for sale. We're not in the market for a new place, but she popped in to take a look for the heck of it. Naturally, when she got home, she gave me the lowdown, what she liked and what she didn't. She loved the kitchen, the lighting, the shutters, but hated the upstairs. One room was super small, not much bigger than a closet. The other two rooms were nice but not big enough for a queen-size bed.
As it was a rainy day, we didn't have much to do so I told her I'd like to take a look at it. For her, it was something fun. For me, it was something more.
At present, I rent a small apartment which I use as my office/consultation area. It's perfect for what I need, but it's money down the drain every month. Why not buy the house, and turn it into a stylish office?
After taking a look at the house, I asked my wife, "If we bought this house, would you want to use one room as your office?" Her reply was a simple "No." She went on to explain that while she didn't like the fact that there was no gap between her work life and her home life, there were advantages, too. She could do some prep for dinner while waiting for a response from her coworker. She could work out, right up until three minutes before she had to start working. On top of that, she has access to everything she needed.
Earlier, I talked about the positives of working from home, but there are negatives as well. The big one is not having a separation between work and home. The result is we can't stop thinking about work – the outstanding issues, the delays, the upcoming meetings, the mistakes. Before, when we were at home, it was easier to think about what we had to do at home, then when headed off to the office, we'd start thinking about work. There was a clear gap between the two. We could turn one thing off and turn on the other. Not now.
That's precisely the problem my wife is having now, and from talking to clients, it's clear she's not alone.
So, how do the most successful entrepreneurs and athletes learn to shut out the noise and perform at elite levels? After all, they are under constant pressure to succeed. The Elon Musks and Stephen Currys of the world have the weight of the world on their shoulders. How are they able to channel their focus with laser accuracy with all the noise around them?
I found some answers in Kobe Bryant's book Mamba Mentality which I picked up a while ago. It gives us a behind-the-curtains-look into the mind of one of the greatest athletes ever, basketball or not. I remember watching him play and it was uncanny how alike he and Michael Jordan were, but reading his book gave me insight into the concept of how to deal with pressure.
This is something that the great Phil Jackson introduced to both his championship Bulls and Lakers teams. Single-minded focus is what is needed to perform at the highest levels of sports and business. Kyle Wilson, Jim Rohn's 18-year business partner, starts off all his sessions with a guided meditation before getting to all the nitty-gritty.
Michael Phelps always had his headphones on before his races. Bryant explained that while some athletes love to listen to music to either pump them up or calm them down, for him headphones were a fake-out. He would merely put them in to keep people at bay. Nice little life hack there.
There's a good reason why Crosswords and Sudoku are so popular - they give our minds something to do. Our brains are incredibly powerful, but when given space to think, we fill them with any number of things, which is why focus is so important. Giving our minds mental challenges allows us to focus on one task and shut out the rest.
As a productivity consultant, I am hesitant to mention this as I know what a time drag video games can be. Nevertheless, video games are extremely good about creating focus - just ask any parent who has bought their kid a Nintendo Switch or PlayStation 5. Some games, such as Monument Valley, Hocus and Last Voyage, allow for creative, out-of-the-box thinking. Games like World of Tank Blitz allow for strategic thinking in quick 7-on-7 skirmishes. If games are your escape, just be sure to set a timer because it's easy to lose track of time in the video world.
Noise is possibly the biggest challenge facing the modern entrepreneur. Social media, SNS, emails, colleagues, bosses, clients, friends and family are constantly vying for our attention. Our ability to keep that noise at bay will often determine just how successful we can be regardless of what field we are in.
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