To be successful requires much more than just your intelligence and talent. There are basic needs which have to be met to function at your peak. These basic needs are neglected by most, impairing their capacity to rise to those elusive higher levels of success and happiness in life.
Many strategies for achieving high performance in sports and the arts apply beautifully in business. Without question, the most underutilized factor in achieving higher productivity and effectiveness in the workplace is the management of internal energy.
To be in top form, you have to make yourself your most important investment.
1. Get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation means peak performance deprivation. Without proper sleep you wake up to meet the day feeling scatterbrained, foggy and unfocused. You grab your cup of coffee to get a charge on your brain, which completely depletes your brain function over the course of the day, making your brain even more exhausted.
Good sleep improves your ability to be patient, retain information, think clearly, make good decisions and be present and alert in all your daily interactions. Sleep is your time off from problem solving.
When you get the proper rest your brain becomes awake, alive and ready to generate the cognitive prowess and emotional regulation you need to function at your peak performance.
2. Don’t be busy, be productive
Great results come when you spend time focusing on doing the right things, in the right way, for the right business reasons and with the right level of focus. Focus is the secret—and stands for staying on course until you’re successful.
Working smart is all about output and outcomes. You have a limited number of hours in a day, spend them wisely. Dedicate your time, energy and mind to tasks that are aligned with your goals. If you find yourself becoming busy but not productive, start by creating a “not-to-do” list.
3. Surround yourself with people smarter than you
Make sure you hang around with people who you can learn and grow with. Hire people smarter than you. Keep challenging yourself and be open to new thinking, ideas and paradigms. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you get people who drag you down. This is toxic, and you must take action by removing such people from your ecosystem. It’s brutal, but necessary.
Life is too short to associate with people who are negative, uninspiring or demotivating. The longer you stay around them the more you become like them. Let them go.
4. Manage your energy and attention
Staying focused on a task for 60 or 90 minutes isn’t easy. Maintaining focus is a skill that can be cultivated.
To improve your focus and attention, stay mindful of your body:
- Keep both of your feet firmly on the ground. This will help you stay centered.
- Observe your posture. Relax your shoulders.
- Keep your spine straight. Many of us hunch our bodies over our desk. This collapses the lungs and reduces oxygenation. Less oxygen translates to faster fatigue. More fatigue equals less focus.
- Stay mindful of your breath. Breathe slowly and steadily. This will also help ensure proper oxygenation.
Stay mindful of any tensions in your body, especially your face, shoulders, and upper back. Any tensions we hold due to stress saps our energy and reduces our focus. The more conscious we become of these tensions, the more they will resolve naturally.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff
You are in charge of your life and career and will do what it takes to achieve your dreams. The routes you take to your destination will be ever-changing. There is stuff within your control, and stuff outside it. Remember, you can only change the present by taking action and not pontificating over the millions of possibilities. Worrying is your enemy. Keep it a billion miles away. “What could happen” or “What if” won’t help you focus on getting things done, here and now. Instead it will distract you from doing the real stuff—strategizing, planning and executing
6. Have emotional support
Having healthy, loving relationships increases your happiness, success and longevity by promoting your capacity to function in life as your best self. Social connectedness and love gives you relationships to be motivated for and people to be inspired by.
A strong social network decreases stress, provides you with a sense of belonging and gives your life the deeper meaning it needs. When you are loved and loving, and carving out quality time to cultivate these relationships, you are exalted, elevated and encouraged to live your dreams fully.
7. Only say yes to things that really matter to you
Saying no is liberating. If you find it hard to say no it is likely you will take on excessive stress, become irritated and even face depression. This makes it challenging for you to own or take charge of your life and career. Learn to say no. It will allow you to breathe. Many find it hard to say no, and see it as a loss of opportunity, or feel they may offend the recipient. Avoid vague responses like “I am not sure I can”, or “I don’t think so.” Be clear. Be decisive, yet polite.
8. Work in 90 Minute time blocks
Research suggests that even top performers—including athletes, musicians, and novelists—can only maintain their focus and concentration for periods of four to five hours. Most of these performers, however, practice and train for only two hours at a time.
While overachieving executives may pride themselves on working nonstop throughout the day, this is an ineffective way to get results and achieve peak performance.
Humans are not machines. We work and think best in short sprints rather than long marathons. (And even computers overheat after prolonged, uninterrupted use.)