Work, and your own daily life are demanding a high performance that seems to increase every year. But longer days at the office don’t work because time is a limited resource. Did you know that personal energy is renewable by fostering simple rituals that help you regularly replenish your energy? That way you can manage your high performance life a bit better. If executives were to perform at high levels over a long period of time, they would have to train in the same systematic, multi-level way that World class athletes do. To sustained high performance you must consider the person as a whole, your body, emotions, mind, and spirit. Failure to address any one of them compromises your performance.

The Ideal Performance State (IPS)

To reach your Ideal Performance State means to bring your specific talents and skills to full ignition and to sustain height performance over time. To do this you have to build your capacity for what might be called supportive or secondary competencies. Among them are endurance strength, flexibility, self control, and focus. The foundation of the Ideal Performance State is the capacity to mobilize energy on demand, Effective energy management, and consists out of two key components:

  1. Rhythmic movement between energy expenditures (stress) and energy renewal (recovery), which we term “oscillation” and;
  2. Rituals that promote oscillation, rhythmic stress recovery.

Physical Capacity

In this context your energy can be defined as the capacity to do work. Effective energy management begins at the physical level because the body is our fundamental source of energy, the foundation. The main problem on this level is not stress as most people think, but it is linearity – the failure to oscillate between energy expenditure and recovery. Here are some basic strategies for building a strong physical foundation and renewing energy at the physical level:

  • Food – Eat well and on time, preferably smaller meals every 3 hours, and drink enough of water;
  • Workout – Build regular workouts into you schedule. For instance: three to four 20- to 30-minute cardiovascular including at least two sessions of interval, and at least two weight training workouts a week; Walking , swimming or cycling daily is a good workout too to increase your stamina.
  • Sleep – Going to bed early, waking up early, and sleeping for at least 8 hours helps you dealing with the demands of today’s business world. Maintaining a consistent bedtime and wake-up time help regulate your biological clock; Good sleep is essential for high performance during the day.
  • Recovery – Seek recovery(take a break) every 90 to 120 minutes while working, consistent with the body’s natural stress-rest cycle.

Emotional Capacity

Emotional capacity is the internal climate that supports peak performance. Positive emotions ignite the energy that drives performance, where negative emotions drain energy and can lead to other mental and physical problems. To manage your emotional capacity you need to be able to transform your inner experience of stress, into one of challenge. You can regulate this by burning of tension during a workout or by becoming more aware of your body’s signals when you are on the edge – physical tension, a racing heart, tightness in the chest – so you can steer yourself in another direction.

Your body language also influences emotions. Manipulation of your emotions by body language is very easy because your body can not make any distinction between spontaneous body language or you consciously creating the look on the outside that you want to feel inside. Above all others, close relationships are perhaps the most powerful means for prompting positive emotions and effective recovery. Close relationships can induce a profound sense of safety and security.

Mental Capacity

The cognitive level is where most traditional performance-enhancement training is aimed at. The usual approach is to focus on improving competencies, while the most notable areas of improvement lie in your focus, time management, and positive critical thinking skills. Focus simply means energy concentrated in service of a particular goal. Meditation, although mostly viewed as a spiritual practice, can serve as highly practical means of training attention and promoting recovery. Time management is crucial if you want to renew consistently with your body’s need for breaks every 90 tot 120 minutes. So try to build in some renewal time in the form of 15 minute breaks.

The last tool you can use to increase your mental capacity is visualization. Visualization produces positive energy and has palpable performance results. It can literally reprogram the neural circuitry of the brain, directly improving performance.

Spiritual Capacity

Spiritual capacity is the energy that is unleashed by tapping into one’s deepest values and defining a strong sense of purpose. This capacity serves as sustenance in the face of adversity and as a powerful source of motivation, focus, determination, and resilience. The inclination for most people is to live in a perpetual state of triage, doing whatever seems most immediately pressing while losing sight of any bigger picture. Working hard under stress, using more than 100% of your capacity, thinking that sleep and rest you will do sometime later. Many people who do this end up in a burn-out that lasts usually months or even years to get back to their previous state of activity.

Burn-Out

Rituals

Rituals that give people the opportunity to pause and look inside include meditation, journal writing, prayer, and service to others. Each of these activities can also serve as a source of recovery – a way to break the linearity of relentless goal-orientated activity. In an environment that is changing at warp speed, performing consistently at high levels is more difficult and more necessary than ever. Narrow interventions simply aren’t sufficient any- more. We can’t afford to address our cognitive capacity while ignoring our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. When you feel strong and resilient – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – you perform better, with more passion, for longer. You win and your family wins.

The idea in Practice

Physical Energy

  • Enhance your sleep by setting an earlier bedtime and reducing alcohol use.
  • Reduce stress by engaging in cardiovascular activity at least three times a week and strength training at least once.
  • Eat small meals and light snacks every three hours.
  • Learn to notice signs of imminent energy flagging, including restlessness, yawning, hunger, and difficulty concentrating.
  • Take brief but regular breaks, away from your desk, at 90- to 120-minute intervals throughout the day.

Emotional Energy

  • Defuse negative emotions—irritability, impatience, anxiety, insecurity—through deep abdominal breathing.
  • Fuel positive emotions in yourself and others by regularly expressing appreciation to others in detailed, specific terms through notes, e-mails, calls, or conversations.
  • Look at upsetting situations through new lenses. Adopt a “reverse lens” to ask, “What would the other person in this conflict say, and how might he be right?” Use a “long lens” to ask, “How will I likely view this situation in six months?” Employ a “wide lens” to ask, “How can I grow and learn from this situation?”

Mental Energy

  • Reduce interruptions by performing high concentration tasks away from phones and e-mail.
  • Respond to voice mails and e-mails at designated times during the day.
  • Every night, identify the most important challenge for the next day. Then make it your first priority when you arrive at work in the morning.

Spiritual Energy

  • Identify your “sweet spot” activities—those that give you feelings of effectiveness, effortless absorption, and fulfillment. Find ways to do more of these. One executive who hated doing sales reports delegated them to someone who loved that activity.
  • Allocate time and energy to what you consider most important. For example, spend the last 20 minutes of your evening commute relaxing, so you can connect with your family once you’re home.
  • Live your core values. For instance, if consideration is important to you but you’re perpetually late for meetings, practice intentionally showing up five minutes early for meetings.

If you want to go further into this subject I would advise you to buy and read “The Power of Full Engagement”. This book contains a load of tools to help you on your way to a more energized and balanced life.

 

References

  • Loeht, J. & Schwartz, T. – The Making of a Corporate Athlete – Harvard Business Review, January 2001
  • Schwartz, T. & McCarthy, C. – Manage your Energy, not your Time – Harvard Business Review, Oktober 2007

First published on July 19th 2013, updated in 2019