A colleague and I were preparing for a workshop this week about how best to manage your energy levels to enable peak performance. Peak performance being those moments when you’re at your absolute best, firing on all 4 cylinders, you are focused, efficient and effective, doing your best work with clarity of thought and a clear goal in mind.
How often do you feel your mind is clear enough to do your best thinking? You know, when you feel completely ready for the task at hand and there’s nothing else getting in the way. If you’re anything like me, it feels like it doesn’t happen very often!
Operating at maximum, the new normal
We got talking about how our bodies seem to be more highly strung than they used to be. In my grandparent’s era there were lots of stresses and strains and extremely difficult things to overcome, some of which I can’t bear to imagine, world wars and rationing to name but a few. However, somehow their lives seemed less busy day to day, or maybe less busy from a cognitive stimulation point of view. There wasn’t a constant flow of information bombarding them 24hrs a day from multiple different directions, there was less pressure to be involved in everything, to be constantly multi-tasking, less of a pressure to work 60- or 70-hour weeks, less of a pressure to be “experiencing” everything, and DOING IT NOW!
We all have a great deal going on in our lives and there is so much stimulation from one source or another, that adrenalin is pumping all the time. Operating at maximum has become the new normal. This can cause a degree of stress, some good but some that causes us to become agitated, overly anxious and to feel overwhelmed. This may lead to indecision, or procrastination, or poor performance or a basic inability to think clearly. With adrenalin pumping round our bodies most of the time, not just when we need to run away or stand up and fight, like in the olden days, it can sometimes be very difficult to calm down, clear the decks and just focus.
Clearing the decks
Do you experience cognitive overload? Brain fog, the constant thought that you’ve forgotten something but can’t remember what, the constant ping of an email in your inbox whilst you’re trying to focus, noticing a dreaded email coming in on your phone when you should be thinking about what’s being presented at a team meeting. I used to pride myself on being a top-notch multi-tasker but then I started to drop a few balls! My brain wasn’t functioning as clearly as it had before, and periods of pure unsolicited concentration on a single task became few and far between. I knew I had to start clearing the decks, more specifically clearing my head, to be able to focus on my priorities.
Clarity of thinking top tips
Here’s a few ways you can start creating more room to think clearly:
- Keep your work space clear – I always find a good tidy up creates a feeling of space and calmness. Tidy desk, tidy mind! In fact, de-cluttering generally is one of my favourite obsessions 😊
- Write it down – I love lists! Once it’s written down you can stop worrying about forgetting it!
- Prioritise – seriously, all those things floating round your head aren’t as important as you think they are. Get tough with yourself, get clear on what you can and want to achieve, and the time you have available to do it. You might like this blog about on prioritising what’s important. Focus on those things only. If you could only do or think about 3 things, what would they be? I’ve written another blog about the power of 3 if you want to find out more.
- Exercise – I find running helps me to process my thoughts and clear my head, giving me the energy to focus on what it is I want to get done
- Give yourself enough time – don’t book lots of things in the diary. Give yourself plenty of space in between tasks / meetings to think, reflect and re-group before you go again!
- Say yes to the things that enable your priorities, say no to the things that don’t!
- Practise relaxation techniques – yoga, mindfulness or deep breathing might help to calm your nervous system down and lower the levels of adrenalin and cortisol running around your body.
- One thing at a time – Do you think Roger Federer is thinking about anything else when he hits that ball from one end of the court to the other? No, of course not! Plan, organise, prioritise and enable a ‘one after another’ kind of approach.
- Turn off your email / phone notifications – simple but massively effective!
- Ask for help – delegate tasks, share lifts to football with other parents, ask your friends if they mind postponing just this once, collaborate more often.
How do you keep your head clear to do it’s best thinking? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.