You may be reading this post because you understand the definition of a high-agency person; if that’s you, you’re always looking for ways to optimize on the edges. Eric Weinstein so clearly defines the type that “when you’re told that something is impossible, is that the end of the conversation, or does that start a second dialogue in your mind, how to get around whoever it is that’s just told you that you can’t do something?”
High-agency people, driven by an internal motor and regardless of a pandemic (because it is just another excuse after all), know that burnout can be a real thing. Self-care and knowing when to ease off the peddle is something that we must do to perform at our peak ability. As noted on the Trello blog regarding the importance of rest, recharging, and self-care, “people that look after themselves [and practice self-care] do have better cognitive ability. They do have better focus and they do have better concentration,” says Dr. Russell Thackeray, a licensed clinical psychologist who consults on the topic of productivity.
I know that I have struggled with this as well, and there are times when I didn’t feel like doing something and did it anyway. Ultimately, I succeeded at the task at hand, but at what cost? COVID has made things harder for everyone, and when life throws another curveball at you during pandemic times, your first inclination may be to double down as a high-agency person. Before you do that, I suggest you try the following. Some of this may be new, some of it not, and just a refresher, but a different perspective may help.
Lean into your Type A/compulsive behavior
I started with cold showers and getting up even earlier. Start small, like 30 seconds in a cold shower, or set the alarm 5 minutes earlier. The idea is that you lean into what you know: it’s not about running away or bottling up difficult emotions, but rather optimizing the framework to manage them. This is not about rationalizing difficult emotions but experiencing life’s full range of them, and just not being overwhelmed. Think of this as a guard rail for dealing with life’s difficult situations and emotions.
Focus on your workouts
I realized I was going through the motions and getting bored and burnt out with at-home workouts, so I went back to basics. You need to manage your anxiety levels physically, and an intense workout five times a week can help you keep your balance. If you’re always “on” you can’t just switch off like some people, with breathing deeply or going for a long walk. Sometimes your mind is racing, and if you’re holding that stress in your body, a challenging, focused workout can make you feel a sigh of relief after you wipe your forehead and look at the mirror after an exhausting workout.
Don’t skip your journaling or gratitude habits
Now is the time to write down all that you have going on in your mind. It does not have to be something long and drawn out, a few minutes a day will do. Some days, you feel like you have nothing to write, but you need to write anyway. Clear your mind, and those days when things seem difficult or sad is the time when you’ll have the most emotional fuel for constructive writing.
I can’t emphasize enough how important sleep is as a performance enhancer. Sometimes given life circumstances, you can’t sleep much, but if you can, then adding an extra hour will do wonders. If there is one way to be unhappy, it is to not sleep enough, and when you’re going through difficult life situations such as a pandemic, your sleep may suffer. Make sure to monitor this, as sleep (and diet) are some of the first things to slip when things get tough.
Reboot your meditation practice (or start a short one)
I’m a pretty awful meditator, and one day I do dream of attending a 10-day silent retreat, but it’s worth looking at your meditation practice. Personally, I’ve used Headspace the last few years, and am debating on ‘graduating’ to a more advanced technique, though with meditation, I feel you always feel like a novice. No need to go into how life-changing meditation can be for your performance; if you’re a high-agency person, you already know.
COVID plus life hitting you hard can knock you off your game and mission, but it does not need to be that way. As someone who is high-agency, all of this adds fuel to your fire, the not “why me, but try me” mindset. But a significant life challenge does call on you to take a step back and optimize your health habits to perform at your best.
Jonathan ‘Yoni’ Frenkel heads Partnerships at Atento Capital. He aspires to be a high-agency type and is a self-professed performance optimization nerd.