Ever wake up in the morning with a low-grade buzz anxiety about all the things you need to get done?
Some days it can feel like we’re sprinting a marathon, reacting quickly with no time to reflect. This can lead to unintended consequences for our relationships and results. Not only that, but in the United States where we have one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the world, the increased stress load has led to a decline in our longevity.
When we’re playing a big game, we can’t expect the intensity to abate; the waves of work will keep rolling in. Rather than waiting for the breaks in the tide to come, it’s critical to our success (and life span) that we create them.
My new book, Choosing Greatness: An Evidence-Based Approach to Achieving Exceptional Results, is packed with strategies to help you quiet the chaos. It captures the daily choices required to leverage the brain as your greatest resource, weaving in self-care as a daily requirement for performance.
“Highly successful people have the same level of discipline around renewal as they do around the expenditure of energy,” says Eric Severson, executive vice president and chief human resource officer at Neiman Marcus. “After all, sprinters only run fast because they rest between sprints.”
When the flight attendant instructs us to put on our oxygen mask before worrying about the rest of the plane, it’s time to look up and take notice. The sooner we figure this out, the smoother the flight through this lifetime will be. Here are three strategies on how to do just that.
Choosing your Focus
An occupational hazard of being an overachiever is that we chronically bite off more than you can chew. Our calendars end up looking like Miami beach during spring break – absolutely packed. We can’t control what people ask of us, but we can control what we take on. Setting boundaries and being choosy about what we say yes to is critical to high performance. I know you can do it all (I have tried on many occasions myself), but you can’t do it all and achieve exceptional outcomes.
Instead, figure out what to say yes to, and delay, delegate, or delete the rest. Spend 30 minutes a week curating the calendar with high impact activities to make the most of every ounce of energy invested. If something doesn’t line up with your goals, it’s has to go, and it’s nothing personal. And above all, let go of the guilt. No more thinking, “That meeting’s a waste of time, but Dave may be upset if I am absent.” Who knows, Dave may grow by you not attending because he’ll lean into his own leadership skills! Create the daily conditions required to achieve your version of greatness, choosing the activities that drive the highest value in relation to your goals.
Moments of Meditation
When you think of meditation, you might imagine people chanting with candles. But meditation is a research-backed approach and needn’t be a big production. Find moments in the day when you can simply sit quietly and look inward – or look nowhere at all. Closing your eyes on the train, or in the parking lot at the grocery store, can go a long way to rejuvenating your mind and energy.
There are many ways to wade into the world of meditation, so I would recommend exploring various techniques online. Regardless of the method you choose, it can quite literally create lasting change in a matter of weeks. A recent meta-analysis of 20 studies found that consistent practice for two months not only enhanced overall mood but also optimized the brain by altering the regions related to memory, learning, cognitive skills, emotional control, and awareness.
The Power of Sleep
We all know that getting adequate sleep improves how we feel. But did you know it also enhances our emotional outlook, our ability to concentrate, our critical thinking skills, and the body’s ability to repair itself? Heck, it even boosts our sex drive and helps prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This is one area of our lives we simply can’t ignore.
A few tips on getting enough shut eye:
- Start working through that stack of books you have on your night table. Reading a book before bed has been shown to improve sleep by up to 22 percent.
- Create at least a 30-minute window between work and sleep, giving the brain a chance to disengage.
- When you struggle to stay asleep, get out of bed and move if you find yourself lying there for more than 20 minutes. This can relax your mind from distracting thoughts and avoid the brain associating sleep time with rumination.
- Ask your physician for recommendations on a personalized approach to getting more rest.
Making time in the day to recharge is neither a gift nor a luxury—it’s a necessity. All of us need to carve out this time. Only then will we have the energy to show up at our best and be in true service of others. Perhaps American novelist Anne Lamott has said it best: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
Based on Chapter 11 of Christina’s forthcoming book, Choosing Greatness: An Evidence-Based Approach to Achieving Exceptional Outcomes.