“Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.”
– Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, The Power of Full Engagement
When your energy levels are high, your performance is high and you get your best work done. But when your energy levels are low, you’re tired and your performance is bad.
When your energy levels are getting a bit low and you need some rest. Do you choose?
A. Take a nap, quick break or walk around outside.
B. Grab a cup of coffee and continue working.
If you choose A, your energy levels begin to rise back up again. After the good rest, you sit back down at your desk, refreshed, high in energy and ready to perform at your best.
But if you choose B, you’re not taking much care of yourself. Clearly you’re tired and your body is shouting at you in the form of drowsiness, loss of focus or fidgetiness that it needs a rest after working long, continuous hours at your desk without breaks. We’ve been taught that if we want to succeed we need to work long continuous hours to the extent that if we’re regularly taking breaks and not grinding away at work we come off as if we’re slacking off or not busy. But that advice is very counter-intuitive.
Yes, you get a quick energy boost from the caffeine but enter emergency energy survival mode aka “fight or flight”. After your 3rd or 4th cup of coffee and continuous work, the side effects of too much adrenaline cause you to feel nausea or collapse.
Our bodies need rest. But we choose to ignore this fact and continue working. No wonder our society always feels overworked and burnt out.
How Long Should You Work For to Maximise Peak Performance?
In this game of peak performance, the human body, operates in 90 minute rhythms of high and low alertness. When the wave is high, we have peak energy and performance. When it’s low we’re tired, our performance slumps and needs rest.
Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University studied elite performers across several different fields including athletes, actors, musicians and even chess players and also found that the best performers typically practice in high focussed, uninterrupted sessions for no longer than 90 minutes. After this, they take a break and rarely do they work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.
As shown by research, 90 minutes and no more than four and a half hours a day are the magic numbers for maximising productivity and peak performance.
Get Some Rest
There are two factors to the equation of peak performance.
Highly focussed, uninterrupted sprints of work paired together with sufficient amounts of rest and recovery.
If we look at professional athletes and why they’re able to perform at the very top level we come across an interesting finding in which they spend about 90 percent of their time training in order to just perform 10 percent of the time.
Their training consists of building routines to expand, sustain and renew their energy in every aspect of their lives including eating, sleeping, working out, resting, emotional and mental wellbeing, focus and regularly connecting with their mission.
After competing under extraordinary pressure for several months, most professional athletes enjoy an off-season of four or fives months a year, in which this time is used for rest, recovery and growth. Rest and recovery are also critical pieces to the puzzle of peak performance.
But if we look at ourselves we’re expected to perform at our best for eight hours plus a day, with little or no training at all, with our “off season” being a few weeks of very rushed vacation a year, not completely resting and recovering. No wonder, we never go back to work feeling completely refreshed and often burn out, lose passion for our work and get sick too many times.
You want to perform at your best right?
Well, what if I told you that the difference between the top performers and lower performers were, that the lower performers did not have any recovery routines at all. Would you still ignore recovery if you wanted to be the best?
By building highly efficient and focused recovery routines, you will recover faster and gain extraordinary energy in shorter periods of time.
Rest and Recovery. The Absolute Minimum Dosage.
1. Sleep – seven to nine hours per night for optimal function.
2. Eat and drink well – highly nutritious meals and sufficient water for high energy.
3. Exercise – interval training in this case is more effective than steady-state exercise because it trains you how to recover more efficiently.
4. Enjoyment – frequently accessing pleasant and positive emotions and seeking experiences that are enjoyable, fulfilling, challenging and adventurous.
1. Learning to manage negative, self-sabotaging emotions as these are very costly and energy inefficient for peak performance
2. Exercising mental muscles through mental preparation, visualisation, positive priming, creativity and variety of activities.
Given the number of benefits from training, the majority of people just don’t do it. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable and pushes us past our comfort zone. But in order to expand our capacity we need to be willing to endure some short-term discomfort in order to reap the long term rewards.
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