How do you get focus and flow in a chaotic sport competition environment?
I would suggest the following 9 techniques based on what I’ve learned in the field of sports performance:
Be prepared. Practice. Put yourself in a position to win.
Slow breathing to relax
Attention & focus (mentally prepare before the tournament happens)
Visualization of winning
Mindfulness, Yoga, etc.. You could also try tensing and relaxing.
Be the winner. Act confident. Dress confidently.
Create a soundtrack in your mind which is comforting (this is a bit like singing in the shower)
Some of this echos what Hemanshu Desai said above. When all else fails music and ear plugs. You could also focus in an environment similar to the one you will encounter in the real world. You may not want to do this all the time, but may help to provide you with strategies for your chess tournaments. Finally, investigate books on sports performance and mental preparation written by athletes, coaches, or even chess players (aka the mental game of performance).
Occasionally practice in chaotic environments. Hopefully this can give you a “game day” feel. For instance, pick the loudest and most active coffee shop to practice in which is close to your house.
Use music to tune out the distractions.
Practice other activities which require focus in chaotic environments. For instance, reading in a coffee shop.
Ask how the top players do it. You can also read.
Also research how other top performers do it–for instance athletes like Olympics stars.
Tape record the sounds of a tournament and play that in the background in 10% or so of your chess matches.
Do any of the 7 earlier suggestions. Then do them 10 to 15% of the time with external
Oddly, I think the asking & researching question….as well as the taping the noise question may be the most effective, because it most directly gets at what the question is asking. I think using other tools to narrow your focus–or to ignore your context in the chess setting may be helpful–and will likely serve as a decent 3rd level strategy.
As an aside, I have slight ADD I think. I’ve never been diagnosed, but I require extra-media or sound stimulus. Personally it sometimes helps me to have extra noise–as long as its not utterly annoying.