Your ability to perform and be effective is often dependent on how you are feeling. We’ve all had days where, despite our best intentions, the neurons are simply not firing and it’s a struggle to accomplish mental tasks. Then there are days where tasks seemingly fly off the to-do list. We wonder why we waited so long to get them done. These two types of days are in such stark contrast that we have to ask ourselves, “how can we get more of the zip zip and less of the slog?”
Here are seven tips that I have found to help me live more in the realm of peak performance:
1. Self awareness:
This is what I have found to be at the root of reaching top gear. Knowing where your current performance levels are, what your goals are and how you want to be living all form the foundation to drive you forward. Knowing ‘what matters most’ is what can power you throughout your day. If you need help figuring this out, we have resources and programs geared toward helping you determine what matters most to you and how you can live the most fulfilling life possible.
2. ZZZ Sleep ZZZ:
Are you getting enough? Sometimes there are so many things that we want to do in a day that the first area we cut is sleep. I know I often wake up extra early to exercise only to find that I am completely useless and need to take a nap later in the afternoon. What are you trading your sleep for?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults receive between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, and the Gallup Organization says that 40% of adults are getting less than what is recommended. If you expect be at your best, then getting enough sleep is key to allowing your brain to function at optimal levels.
3. Monitor your energy levels:
Pay attention to your energy levels throughout the day and do your most challenging work when you are feeling the most fresh. Knowing what time of day you do your best work or have your best thinking is what you should plan your schedule around. I used to be able to set a clock by the dip in my energy levels around 3:00pm. I quickly learned that doing any heavy cognitive processing in the afternoon was not ideal…
Quick hack: Need a boost of energy to complete a task when your eyelids feel like they weigh a 1000lbs? Stand up, get a drink of water, and do 1-2 minutes of intense exercise (like pushups, chair dips, bicycles, etc.) This jolt in activity will make you more alert. Need extra motivation, text a friend for a quick physical challenge)
4. Build momentum:
When I am feeling like the day is draaggging, I’ll do a 30-minute sprint on my small tasks and see how many of them I can get finished. This is a great way to boost the energy level for tackling some of the big and daunting challenges that we face. While I agree with the advice of many productivity experts to get the most important thing done first, some people need to get in zone by building some momentum before tackling The One Thing. Just make sure you don’t let the day slip down the rabbit hole of reactive tasks.
5. Time boxing:
One of the most powerful strategies for me has been to put a time estimate on my tasks. By establishing and enforcing non-negotiable deadlines, time boxing is designed to eliminate the potential for procrastination and perfectionism. As a result, I focus much more quickly and get more done.
6. Conserve willpower for difficult tasks:
Willpower is like a muscle that can become fatigued from overuse. As such, we need to be conscious of where and how we allocate it. I find it best to sequence my most important tasks first thing in the morning when my willpower is at it’s greatest strength.
7. A/B testing:
This is the simple concept of coming up with two ways to solve a problem, attempting to use both of them independently, and identifying which one was more effective. Many of us do this naturally, but when it comes to peak performance it requires intentional effort. Again, A/B testing begins with having a clear idea of what problem you are trying to solve – see tip one.
Let’s say you are trying to determine the best ways to get through your emails. You might decide that you are going to try batch responding, or answering every email as you receive them. After you have done one method, switch to the other, and see which worked best for you. Continue working through other tasks and processes in your life and you will find that as you optimize each task through A/B testing your overall productivity increases naturally.
So, if you are looking for ways to increase your performance levels this list should set you on the right track. Hopefully, after implementing these tips, you will find that more of your time is spent “in-the-zone”. Then with this new found efficiency you can use your time to live more fully in all areas of life, at home, work and play.