Do you ever find yourself in the middle of doing something when you suddenly realize that you’re thinking about something else entirely? You know the scenario; you walk to a room intending to get something and forget what it is you’re looking for once you’re there. Somewhere along the way to the room your mind wanders to something else so that when you get there you can’t quite recall why you’re there at all. It can happen in conversations, when someone’s talking and they say something that gets you thinking about something else. It can be so annoying for both you and the person you are trying to listen to.
These momentary lapses in concentration or attention can pull focus from what you’re intending or supposed to be doing and leave you distracted. There can be so many different thoughts going on in our heads at any one time.
I know music can be my kryptonite. I can be easily distracted by a good song, so I don’t usually have it playing while I’m driving the car for instance. I remember once losing time altogether while listening to a song on the radio that had me in a trance. When it ended I was brought back to reality with a bump (thankfully not literally, or this story might have had a tragic ending) but I remember being really worried about the past few miles as I had no memory of them happening.
What’s really super annoying is when you’re giving a performance of a song and find yourself thinking about what that guy in the 3rd row is doing, or the person that just snuck in at the back, or the person walking past you to the bar. I’ve sometimes found myself wondering about how I might be looking to the audience at that moment, or if I’m singing well. These have often been my least favorite performances and to be honest the best ones are the ones where I recall very little of what went on onstage.
So what can we be doing to keep from getting distracted during a performance?
What does that look like in a performance? Well it means being fully engaged with the experience you’re trying to give or share with your audience. What do you want the audience to feel? What significance does the song have for you? Why do you want to share it?
Being present for other people is something you can practice in your day-to-day life. Make it a habit to be really attentive in conversations, keep eye contact, listen carefully and keep curious about whatever it is you’re discussing. If your mind wanders just bring it back to the moment and continue. It can take a bit of practice if you’re not used to it. Hang in there, not only will it help your focus when you’re singing, but you might also find it gets results in other ways too.
Practice with distractions
Try practicing your songs in front of the TV or some other distraction, whatever works for you. I’ve used this to test my focus and concentration when it comes to learning words. I know that if I can keep the words straight while I’m distracted then those lyrics are deeply embedded in my memory. If I do find myself distracted at any time, then I bring my attention back to my words and continue.
Close Your Eyes
Some singers find it helpful to close their eyes. It can help direct your attention away from what you can see and focus it back on the music. Lots of singers close their eyes from time to time. The eyes are the windows of the soul as Shakespeare once said and so you don’t want to keep your eyes closed all the way through a song, but sometimes it can help you find your concentration again.
Simple steps like keeping well hydrated can affect your attention as can some prescribed medication you may be taking. Even a horror movie can’t keep my attention when I’m tired, so it’s also important to be well rested. Although you’re likely to get a boost of adrenaline before a performance, don’t rely on the adrenaline to get you through it.
Your focus can also be helped with meditation. There are lots of meditation samples available in books, online and in podcasts. Try some out, be patient with yourself and practice being mindful of your body as it relaxes. I love it as a tool I can use to check up on what’s happening in the way of physical tension as well as calming the thoughts that might be running through my head.
Get an audience
Getting a few people to be your audience can be super helpful in testing your concentration. Notice what’s happening for you and then, if you’re struggling with your focus, ask yourself what’s getting in your way of remaining focused? If you’re focusing well, then perhaps try making a game of it and get your audience to do something distracting.
Try out some of these tips and see what works for you in training your mind to keep its focus on the ‘game’.