“You’d better scale back on your outside activities,” my mentors said when I embarked on what we expected would be a complex, two-year-long project. I knew when they offered that advice, they had my best interests at heart.

So did I scale back?

Not exactly. I signed up for an Ironman Triathlon. You know, where you swim 2.4 miles, race a bicycle for 112 miles, and then run a marathon—back to back to back, on the same day. Training for an Ironman takes about a full year, so I eventually ran two of them—one for each year of the project.

Crazy? Maybe. But exercise feeds me. And we all need something that feeds us outside of work, even—maybe especially—when work gets intense.

Training 10 to 25 hours a week forced a more defined structure to my schedule. I had to be more disciplined to fit it all in. I noticed I gained more energy, an outlet from stress, and a sense of focus, which made me successful in the triathlon as well as in what was a very difficult two years of work—all because I added more of something I’m passionate about.

Between work, training, and time with my wife and our two young kids, I can’t say I slept a whole lot during those two years. But it was probably the most productive, happy, enjoyable time I’ve had. I knew I would have to bring my best self to that long project, and my best self is a guy who is physically active every day. Exercise really feeds my well-being. If I start with my body and put in the exercise, my mind is more relaxed. I am then clearer and more focused and more purposeful in my work and what I need to accomplish. In fact, if I skip a day my team will know it within 10 minutes of my getting to the office. They’ve been known to tell me to go take a run and then come back!

Body, mind, and purpose are equally important. And for me, physical activity is my cornerstone for bringing together all three of these elements. It not only energizes my body, it also sharpens my mind, and keeps me centered around my purpose.

If exercise isn’t your thing, what is?

Reading? Volunteering in the community? Taking a class?

One of the people I mentor meditates every day and it’s the foundation for their energy and overall well-being. Actually, that’s one of my goals for this year—to learn the patience of meditating.

Figure out what feeds you and make it a priority—by which I mean “put it in your calendar.” Right now. (Seriously.) Your work will always get done. But you’ll do it better and more joyfully when you don’t allow it to take over your life.

So when you start to feel crunched at work—add something to your schedule, something you love.

Find ways to increase energy levels with the Managing and expanding your energy infographic.

Please read our disclaimer information here.