5 elements of fighter pilot focus

If you are tethered to a computer or smart phone, you probably struggle to maintain focus on the things that matter.  Countless times per day, your attention gets pulled from what you are doing.  What if instead, you had fighter pilot focus?

When we began interviewing soldiers, some of our early interviews were with fighter pilots.  Even more so than athletes, fighter pilots work with incredible focus.  It’s not that they have more self-discipline than other people.  Rather, it has been designed into their work lives.

You may not be able to create hours of unobstructed fighter pilot focus, but consider these key elements.  You may find that you can pull it off better than you think.  Achieve intense focus for 90 minutes each day, and you will find that it’s like adding days to your calendar.

Here are the five elements of fighter pilot focus:

1. Clear mission

Fighter pilots don’t hop into their aircraft and fly around looking for something to do.  They go on a mission.  The mission has a clear objective.  The objective has been defined, evaluated, and approved.  It is worth doing and worth doing right.

* What is it that requires your focus?
* Is it more important than other uses of your time and resources?
* Is there a clear, desired outcome?

2. Meticulous preparation

Pilots train incessantly.  They analyze their missions.  They consider risks and unexpected scenarios.  In addition to their mental preparation, they prepare physically and emotionally.  They follow checklists to eliminate needless errors.

* Do you know how to achieve your mission?
* Have you outlined the steps required and practiced those steps?

3. The right tools for the job

Every pilot doesn’t take on every mission.  They take missions suited to their training, their aircraft, and their ordinances.  They don’t just take any weapons, they take the one best suited to the mission.

* Do you have what you need to do your job right?
* Do you have the requisite training, skills, equipment, software, and support?

4. No unnecessary distractions

This one is HUGE.  Fight pilots don’t fly a mission with email, text, and instant messages popping up on their screens or buzzing in their pockets.  They don’t have an open line of communication to all of their colleagues, friends, and family.  They communicate only with their wingman and mission control.  They respond only to critical warnings.

* Have you eliminated distractions during your focus time?
* Have you closed your door, put up a sign, and shut out the world?
* Is there someone who can reach you in case of emergency?

5. A thorough debrief

The mission doesn’t end when the wheels touch down.  Pilots perform a careful review of the entire mission.  They look for the things that went right, the things that went wrong, and the things that could have been done better.

* Are you taking any time after your focus sessions to assess what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve?  Don’t miss this valuable element just because you are busy.

Please comment. What have you found that works to create greater focus?  Have you hid your phone?  Turned off your computer?  Shut off your router?