For leaders who want to achieve peak performance, it is essential to understand, examine, and be willing to release what you think you know about one very important topic: time.
To master peak performance, many believe, is to master time. While this is a true perspective, this post is not about increasing efficiency or doing more work with less time; rather, it’s about how achieving peak performance is about finding a state of flow. In a state of flow, time can feel like its depth increases, is frozen, or as if it ceases to exist.
Imagine you are on a deadline and are constantly distracted with emails popping up, your phone dinging, and multiple meetings to attend. How often are you noticing time elapsing without your productivity increasing?
Now imagine the opposite: where you are singularly focused on the task at hand with little to no interruptions and the feeling like you have all the time you need. How much more thoughtful, creative, and free can you be? Can you achieve much more in the same amount of time and with a greater sense of ease as when you were distracted and perhaps overly focused on time?
Peak performance and time are undeniably intertwined, and it is not just deadlines, technology, and colleagues that can be distracting. Distractions like being tired, experiencing stress or anxiety, or even being overly excited, can and do occur on an inner level. I invite you to consider adjusting your relationship to time to have more of it as you aim for peak performance. Here are three ways to create meaningful time:
1. Get Clear on What You Want. How clear are you on what you are aiming to achieve? Keeping your aim top of mind will help you maintain the bigger vision and not get lost or drown in the minutia of the details unnecessarily. To stay focused and connected to the bigger picture, I encourage you to write down your goals and place them in highly visible areas — like at the top of a notebook.
2. Take a Mindset Inventory. Before you begin work that requires your talent and skills, take a moment to be present and take an inventory of your energy level, emotional state, and mindset. Doing this can help clear any internal barriers to achieve a high level of focus.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- How am I feeling in this present moment?
- Where are my thoughts focused right now?
- What is my energy level on a scale of 1–10? One is you are dragging yourself around and ten is you are fully energized.
- What do I need to process now to focus on the work at hand?
Carrying out this inventory can help you refresh and reset your energy level and focus back to the moment so that you can drop into a state of flow and move through your work.
3. Prime Yourself Physically. Be mindful of your sleep and exercise routine. What physical activities can you do before, during, and after your work to maintain healthy levels of focus? Going for a walk, stretching, or engaging in diaphragmatic breathing exercises are ways to prime your body to be in an alert yet a relaxed state. Developing these routines can support healthy habits that allow you to move into a state of flow and increase focus regularly.
It’s common in our society to equate performance with time. However, when you give yourself more time and space for reflection; and tune into your mind, body, and vision, you become more efficient and focused. You can accomplish more in less time by setting yourself up for peak performance.
Remember this: you likely do not need more time. However, what you might need are more opportunities to perform in a state of flow.