Have you ever wondered what the difference was between those who went pro, and those that still just throw the football around on Sundays with friends? It’s not hard to guess: focus. But how do you actually give 100% of your attention to the task at hand?

If a goal isn’t your key priority, it won’t get done – that’s just a fact of life. That’s not to say any goal is less worthy than another; if you had talent in a sport when you were a teen, and chose to pursue a professional career, a rich family life, or both, those are all valid pursuits. But I doubt you wonder why you weren’t drafted to the professional leagues!

As Will Smith famously said, “hard work trumps talent, every time.” But it’s easy to have every intention of putting in the work, only to be derailed by distractions. So what do professional athletes do to stay focused and motivated? Here are the top three principles they follow:

Find Music That Centers You

You see it on TV almost every weekend. In the lead up to a big sports event or game, be it the NFL, NHL, MBA or even an MMA match, you’ll see the NFL Patriot’s Tom Brady or the NBA Cavalier’s LeBron James getting off the plane or training, head engulfed in a set of state-of-the-art, over-ear headphones. But why?

The answer is simple: they’re staying focused.

By tuning out distractions and staying focused on what they have in front of them, they’re able to stay motivated, train harder, and ultimately, perform better. Winners are less distracted. Think about it – when was the last time you saw or heard about a titan of industry, a celebrity or a professional athlete that was easily distracted from their job? Ever seen one of the greats accidentally waste twenty minutes checking Twitter because they lost their drive?

Great headphones paired with great music is a proven strategy to improve productivity for anyone, which is why you’ll see every major athlete – and most effective professionals in any industry – sporting a pair of high quality headphones.

But, as much as we’d love to say otherwise here at LIVV, there’s more to staying focused than just the right music:

Privacy Promotes Productivity

So why does music help productivity? Your first answer may be that the beat gets you energized, and that’s true, but there’s a more important one: privacy helps productivity. It’s a fact that many office planners have had to come to grips with in the past few years, as the trend of open-offices peaked – and many companies found that constant noise and chatter just didn’t work for their needs. Many other office planners are still struggling with this realization.

Headphones, especially over-ear headphones, promote privacy both by blocking out sound, and serving as a social cue to those around you that you’d rather not be disturbed. It’s not that the people wearing them are indifferent or antisocial. But there is a very good chance they’re intent on the task at hand.

Visualization Really Works

Have you ever been told to picture yourself at your goal? Did you think it was a silly thing to do? Well, guess what, it isn’t!

Visualizing yourself completing a task is scientifically proven to help in many scenarios, especially physical. Think of visualization as a way to give your central nervous system a dry run practice session, without actually exhausting your body.

However, if your task is mental, visualization can still work. For example, if you’re trying to finish a tedious task, such as data input or research, picture yourself focusing – and finishing. Focus on that feeling of completion, but don’t mentally reward yourself with it until you’ve actually finished.

If you’re working on a task that needs approval from another person, visualize yourself as them, as they’re approving your work. This can be anything from a doctorate, where you’d likely visualize yourself as part of the committee approving, to a viral marketing campaign, where you’d imagine yourself sharing the content. By visualizing the person who approves, you’ll be less likely to forget a key requirement, and will be better suited to imagining how you can produce the best outcome possible.

Make A Habit Of It

The accepted statistic is that it takes 21 days of continued routine to form a habit. The common wisdom is that if you’re applying that statistic when thinking about an activity, it’s probably going to at least kind of suck for those first few weeks, and then it will start getting better. You’ll either learn to enjoy and find meaning in The Thing – usually true of exercise, healthy eating and productive hobbies – or you’ll at least stop focusing on disliking it, if it’s something more in line with being diligent with household chores or flossing.

So why prolong the pain? The best athletes, and the highest achievers in society do the thing they’re good at most day, not just a few times a year. If you want to learn to enjoy running, for example, you wouldn’t only run once a week! Everyone knows intuitively that would be slow torture, and that running three to five times a week would be much easier.

Feeling prepared? Put on those headphones, blast your favorite music, picture your goal – now go practice!