Sustaining High Performance
If there’s one quality that we seek for our organizations and ourselves, it’s sustained high performance in the face of ever-increasing stress and rapid change. Performance is a broad term encompassing focus, motivation, mental stamina, energy, and the ability to achieve business targets. However, the source of such performance is as elusive as the Fountain of Youth. And even when it’s in our grasps, the real challenge is sustaining it. The constant expectations, demands, and deadlines lead us to depletion and exhaustion. One global study of 90,000 employees across 18 countries revealed that only one of every five employees feels energized and engaged at work. Over 60 percent of us feel stressed, depleted, and fatigued. At least 100 studies have corroborated these findings on business performance – so where have we gone so wrong?
It’s Not Working
The answer, according to Tony Schwartz in The Way We’re Working isn’t Working, is rooted in “the false assumption that we operate best in the same linear way that our computers do: continuously, at high speeds, for long periods of time, running multiple programs at the same time.” It’s just unsustainable. When the demands at work exceed our capacity, we switch into survival mode, as if we’re in immediate danger, burning out from the extremely high levels of circulating stress hormones. We urgently need a new performance paradigm. This entails a total change of mindset. We need to give up the ‘marathon- man’ method of slogging away for endless uninterrupted hours. By assuming the mentality of a sprinter, who engages intensely in short bursts followed by sufficient recovery time, we can achieve superior performance.
Human beings are not linear – we’re designed to pulse. This means we function in a wavelike manner with peaks and troughs. Every aspect of our bodies and brains goes through repetitive cycles of contraction and expansion. It’s impossible to sustain 8-10 hours of continuous output. Stress itself is not the enemy; it can actually drive and motivate us. It’s the lack of recovery that wears us down. We’re most productive when we move between expending and intermittently renewing our energy. Very short intervals of effective energy renewal are vital during the workdays, with longer periods of recovery outside of work.
The New Performance Paradigm
Here are 8 powerful yet simple ways to defuse your stress, enhance your energy, and boost your performance:
We may have resigned ourselves to the fact that stress, fatigue and exhaustion are simply parts of life in the 21st century – but they don’t have to be. The good news is that we can enhance and sustain high quality performance by changing our mindsets and implementing some of these simple and effective strategies.