This Harvard Business Review article by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz helps executives understand how to better manage their energy to achieve sustained performance. They use lessons from the training regime of top athletes to identify why our prevailing expectation of continuous high levels of performance actually mitigates against the outcomes we desire.
Increasing job pressures including greater demands and rapid change create an expectation of higher and higher levels of performance to keep up if not get ahead.
Loehr and Schwartz contend that expecting to be able to perform at high levels over extended periods of time is unrealistic and in fact mitigates against best performance. Instead, their regime mirrors that of the training programs of top level athletes.
They posit that there is an ‘ideal learning state’. To achieve this:
- Means being fit and healthy and able to mobilise energy on demand. Paying attention to increasing secondary capacities, such as endurance, strength, flexibility, self-control and focus, leads to the greatest pay-off.
- Establish a work pattern of expenditure and recovery. Use rituals to ‘turn off’ between meetings in the same way that a tennis player refocuses their physical and mental energy between sets. Recovery rituals enable avoiding negative feelings, focusing thinking and preparing for what comes next.
- Be aware of emotional states and patterns. Negative emotions deplete energy. Devote more time to the most important relationships and create clear boundaries between work and home.
- Improve cognitive capacities such as focus, time management, and critical thinking skills. One of the best ways of increasing renewal in thinking is through mindfulness practice, taking mental breaks each day.
- Align with your deepest values and sense of purpose.