Priming for Peak Performance

From Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success, last week’s post focused on how a combination of challenge and rest provides the impetus for growth. Authors Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness also discuss the importance of preparation for priming the field for success. Here are strategies they recommend.

Optimize Your Routine. Great performers set themselves up to operate at the top of their game every time they take the field. They identify the specific conditions that evoke their personal best and then integrate these elements into their daily routine. They don’t wait for the zone to magically appear. They know what they need to bring it on predictably, day in and day out.

priming for peak performanceWarm Up Your Mind. Elite track and field athletes don’t step into the starting blocks cold. They warm up off the field to ensure that they are ready to go when the starting gun sounds. In like fashion, great thinkers create a positive mood by thinking good thoughts about their projects and coworkers. When bolstered by a harmonious environment, this frame of mind improves problem solving and creativity.

Fashion Your Environment. Famed author Stephen King has said, “most of us do our best work in a place of our own.” Our brains engage with the objects with which we surround ourselves; they bring forth specific behaviors. If we want to elevate our creativity or productivity, we’ll want to manage the stuff in our space, adding things that help us, and getting rid of things that don’t.

Establish Your Routine and Stick To It. Don’t make it difficult for the muse to find you. When you set a consistent schedule, she’ll show up! An established routine doesn’t just prime us for work. It also alters our biology in a manner that increases strength, energy, confidence, creativity, attention, and memory. In short, routines both condition us to perform AND enhance our performance.

Minimize Distractions. Great performers choose where to focus their time, energy, and attention. They eliminate activities that are either extraneous to their work or injurious to their health and harmony. While they remain open to new ideas and relationships, they are vigilant in their use of precious personal resources.

Eliminate Trivial Decisions. We all have a limited amount of mental energy. When inundated with a gaggle of small decisions, we lose our train of thought, wear out our mental muscle, and become vulnerable to procrastination. Consider making a routine out of every decision that isn’t core to your central mission – e.g., what to wear, what to eat.

Be Sensitive to Your Chronotype. Some of us are early birds; others are night owls. Take note of when you experience your peak energy, creativity, and productivity, and set your schedule accordingly. There’s no sense fighting your body’s internal clock.

Choose Your Friends Wisely. Motivation spreads among close knit groups; feelings are contagious. Through mirror neurons, we’re hard-wired for empathy. The emotional landscape in which we dwell prompts actions and behaviors. As such, the people with whom we interact regularly will have a profound impact on our performance and mood.

Show Up. As the authors tell us, “The best performers aren’t consistently great, but they are great at being consistent.”