Focus – eighth part

Dana Vollmer did not have an easy road to the Olympics.

Vollmer is an Olympic swimmer, but it wasn’t just the grueling practice schedule that made her journey to the top difficult. At the age of 15, Vollmer discovered that she had a heart disorder known as long QT syndrome. She had heart surgery later that year, but the operation didn’t eliminate the risk of heart failure. (Even today, her mother watches swim meets from the stands with a defibrillator between her feet.)

When Vollmer finally qualified for the Women’s 100m butterfly at the 2012 Olympics in London, it was her heart that got all of the attention. Little did she know that her head was about to be the problem.

In the content “Focus – the eighth part”, we will determine even more why it is important for success!?

Avoiding drag

As soon as Vollmer entered the pool in the 100m Final, her swim cap came off.

Professional swimmers wear latex swim caps that tightly cover their head to reduce drag in the water. Nearly every swimmer wears them, but swim caps are especially important for female swimmers. If a female swimmer loses her swim cap and her hair flows out into the water, then it can significantly increase the drag that she must swim against during the race. In a highly competitive race like an Olympic final, this additional drag force can be the difference between winning and losing.

This is why nearly all professional swimmers wear not just one, but two swim caps. That’s exactly what Vollmer did. Although her top swim cap flipped off, her second cap stayed in place allowing her to not only avoid disaster, but also win the gold medal and set a new world record in the process.

Now, let’s get to the real fun. What does wearing swim caps have to do with living a better life?

Physical drag vs. mental drag

Imagine that your brain is a computer. At the beginning of the day, your brain powers up and you have 100 percent of your computer memory available to use on your life. The only problem is that every time you add a task to your to-do list, a little bit of your computer memory goes toward that task.

If you open your email in the morning and see three messages that you need to respond to later on, there goes three percent of your computer memory. If you have to remember to take your child to practice after school or pick up the dry cleaning or go to the grocery store, there goes a little bit more memory. The more tasks that are left unfinished, the more memory gets used up remembering, thinking, worrying, and planning for those tasks.

Here’s the punchline: If your brain is constantly filled with all of these secondary tasks, how much memory do you have left over to do meaningful, creative work? 70 percent? 50 percent? Even less?

Trying to do your best work with a distracted brain is like trying to swim for a gold medal without a swim cap. Divided attention is like a thick head of hair creating a constant drag in your mental waters. Split your attention in too many directions and you’ll be paralyzed.

Swimmers realize that if they want to perform at their best, they need to get out of their own way. They need to cover the object that creates drag—their hair—for the race. Does this mean that their hair is bad? No, of course not. Similarly, there is nothing “bad” about your daily to-do list, handling your family responsibilities, or taking care of the emergencies that pop up throughout life. It’s just that when you want to perform at your best, you have to make a deliberate choice to tuck those things away for a few moments.

How can we expect to do our best creative work if we are constantly fighting mental drag?

Creative work first!

The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second. This means blocking off a large chunk of time every day for creative work on your own priorities, with the phone and e-mail off.

–Mark McGuinness, Manage Your Day-to-Day

The best way to avoid mental drag is to give yourself the time and space to do important work before distractions can creep into your day.

Creating meaningful work is hard, even in optimal circumstances. Put on a swim cap and tuck your distractions away for a few moments. Give yourself the opportunity to perform at your best.


I hope you liked the focus content?

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