Executive Leadership Coaching

High Performing Habits, Part 2

In an earlier post I wrote about research showing that the most effective leaders go beyond time management skills to use high-performing habits throughout their workday. These are meaningful at work, and yet, the activities that impact our effectiveness do not end when we go home. In fact, the habits we create during our “off-work hours” can be some of the most impactful on our focus, creativity, resilience and physical and mental energy – all of which we need in large supply to successfully navigate the the average workday.  Many of us tend to downplay how much time we are willing to give ourselves for our own “self-care”.

But, think about how sleep, nutrition, mental and physical fitness impacts your daily effectiveness.  It makes sense that when we aren’t optimizing these aspects of life, we aren’t performing at our best during the day. 

Consider sleep.  Recent research at Hult International Business School indicates that lack of sleep can fundamentally hinder managers’ ability to perform at their peak, including impacting memory, mood and stress (to name just a few).  Additional research suggests that healthy adults should get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night, with a recommended range of between seven to eight hours. However, Hult’s research revealed that the professionals surveyed averaged only six hours and 28 minutes.  How much sleep do you get?

In addition, research from the Brigham Young University found that employees experience better job performance and lower absenteeism when they had good nutrition and exercised on a regular basis. In fact, absenteeism for those workers was 27% lower, and workers who ate healthy the entire day were 25% more likely to have higher job performance.

The same research shows that workers who exercised for 30 or more minutes on three or more days a week were 15% more likely to have higher job performance. Additional, new research shows that even 7 minutes of a high-intensity workout can have a positive impact on both body and mind. 

Think about your personal experience with sleep, nutrition and exercise.  Which daily routines are detrimental?  How can you create a “high-performing habit” in your sleep, food and daily fitness schedule? 

Some suggestions:

  • Catching up on sleep on the weekends isn’t sufficient. Can you prioritize sleep this week, adding 30 min to an hour to your nighttime sleep, and notice what changes as a result? Positive impacts can be the best evidence to make a permanent shift.

  • How you eat affects you physically and mentally all day. What is one positive nutritional change you can make each day? It might be eating a balanced breakfast, or replacing an afternoon high-fat snack with a green juice.

  • Finding time to get to the gym each day can be a challenge. What is one short, high-intensity activity you can include in your day? Or, alternatively, where you can add low- to mid-intensity physical activity as a replacement? One example would be getting off the subway a few stops earlier and walking to the office.

  • If you have never tried meditation, consider it. The effects go beyond stress relief into greater memory, less cellular aging and greater feeling of happiness. Even 10-minutes per day can have significant benefits.

Convinced yet? We don’t often prioritize taking time for self-care; but thinking about these activities as “high-performing habits” – which they are -- can be useful to create motivation and encourage determination and persistence on a daily basis.