How to Increase Focus, Energy and Productivity – 5 Tips for Busy Executives and High Achievers
With long fast paced days, constant deadlines and too many balls to juggle - remaining on track, performing at our best and never missing a beat can become challenging. Even if we are ‘putting out’ at our peak, it is likely that beneath it all we will feel frazzled at the least and at worst, burnt out and grumpy. Our mind can know what it wants to achieve, and the calendar can tell us what we must be doing, yet our body can have other ideas - unable to cooperate leaving us behind and bewildered.
Do you ever feel frustrated with yourself for not being able to complete your tasks any faster, or that your brain doesn’t keep up with the myriad of meetings, projects and responsibilities? If so, I’m not surprised. Since it is likely you didn’t get to where you are in your career today by taking the easy route or doing the bare minimum, I imagine you are familiar with high achievement, you know how it feels to be top of your game, and you thrive on it – hitting targets, doing big things and getting massive results is what brings you to life!
It is easy to lose our footing though, especially as our personal responsibilities increase just as quickly as our professional ones do. Either way, since we know for certain that we are fully capable, and that there is always room for more – bigger and better, here are some quick and easy tips to help you rekindle your excellence and maximize your time - and your potential.
Turn it off
Big job titles, targets and visions come with big responsibilities and workloads. This is an indisputable fact. Add to that being in leadership of other people, the development and progression of radical results, there will always be some emergency, launch, or ‘big’ deal or project on the go. Switching off for the evening, weekend or even for lunch can seem criminal. Going home from work after a long day does not mean the same that it did a couple of decades ago since we are always connected and reachable through our devices, whether we want to be or not. This is where I ask you to practice discernment – I cannot tell you when to check your emails or when to turn your phone off, only you can know the practicality of such decisions. However, it is a good idea to segment some time each day to not only tap out from your work, but also, if you can, turn your focus all the way in – inwards, towards your own inner world.
Mindfulness, meditation, emotional health and self-awareness are now known to lighten our stress loads and light up our minds. Being still, silent and coming back to your breath, body and mind is a potent practice to develop, leaving you feeling as though you’ve plugged yourself in to be powered up, just like your smart phone. Choose a time each day that better suits your schedule, five to fifteen minutes will do, and give yourself permission to cut off from the outside world. You will likely need to be strict with yourself at first, the logical mind will try to convince you to feel guilty or that something will go wrong if you are not ‘on duty’; so set a daily reminder in your calendar - and a timer on your phone that will let you know when it’s time to resume business as usual!
Carry it with you
I know – it is nothing new, telling you to drink water; but honestly, are you drinking enough? I put out a poll recently on my social media and over three quarters of the responses were ‘no I am not drinking enough water and thank you for the reminder’. I won’t take up your time by giving you facts and science here, you can Google that if you’re interested, rather I’m going to suggest that you make it a habit to start your day with a large glass of it and end your day that way too.
Then, always keep a bottle on your desk – and drink it throughout the day. Dehydration is not on par with an energized, full power mind and body - in fact quite the opposite, so start with this super simple rule. Optimal water intake could reduce body aches, clear your mind, help you concentrate and reduce the number of headaches you suffer with, so is worth the effort.
Watch out for your other beverage habits too that may reverse the good effects of plentiful water intake. There is nothing wrong with enjoying coffee, wine or any other drink of your choice on occasion, it is what we do regularly that leaves the biggest mark, so approach it with a balanced view. No need to give up what you enjoy but do carry a small bottle of aqua with you when possible and maybe start a trend of fresh warm ginger, lemon and honey water at the afternoon meeting in place of coffee!
Collaborate to elevate
It can be lonely at the top. Unsociable hours, unimaginable responsibility, excessive pressures, not to mention the pressure we put on ourselves. Since we are designed as humans to need other humans to create, gain perspective, be supported, grow and thrive, building a solid and trusted support system around us is paramount. Ensure you are fully utilizing all available recourses available to you - for example an assistant, performance coach or experts in particular fields, such as IT or marketing. It may seem time consuming and a waste of your efforts to train and teach others how you like things to be done, it can be tough to trust that others will carry out a task to your standard, but in the long term, it will free you up to focus on the things you are good at.
No matter how competent we are as leaders or powerful we are as visionaries, we can all have blind spots, and areas that aren’t our strong points and bouncing ideas off others and delegating tasks that aren’t second nature to us will save time and rapidly accelerate our results. Accepting that our position does not require us to lose all our authentic human qualities in case we present as weak or feeble is a wise and powerful move. We do not need to let our title or position back us into a corner, feeling as though we must have everything handled ourselves.
Letting others in and sharing with honesty and vulnerability can feel uncomfortable at times, but having supporters and confidantes is tantamount to taking out and contributing regularly to an insurance policy – no matter what happens, we know we are always taken care of. Look at what might be weighing heavy on your time and energy and explore if there is a different way tasks and responsibilities could be organized and delegated. One of my favorite sayings is ‘together we are better, stronger and more.’
Trust in your power
It is not necessary to follow a complicated diet to maximize your potential. Although a large part of our energy comes from food and sleep, an equal amount comes from our outlook, mindset and mental activity. If we are engaging in a regular mindfulness or meditation practice, it will, by default, enhance our ability to perform at our best. I am a big advocate for ‘keeping it simple’ and have seen many people ‘fail’ in their attempts to overhaul their lifestyle and eating habits completely in a short space of time. Too many changes and too many intricate ‘rules’ to follow at once can add stress to the mind and body which counterbalances any positive affects good food would have in the first place.
The great thing is, when we are more connected to ourselves due to a regular practice - when our mind is calmer and our body more peaceful, our food choices are likely to iron themselves out organically, leading us to choose and crave foods that give us health and vibrancy over depletion and disease. To enrich this process even more, I recommend developing your inner compass by explore simple natural ingredients and super foods (foods which are dense in nutrients) - choosing two to three that you can easily incorporate into your daily diet without too much fuss or work.
For example, throwing a handful of greens into your fruit smoothie, a hot cacao drink in place of your coffee, a cup of good quality Chinese green tea or a good squeeze of fresh lemon into your water bottle. Follow your intuition, notice and trust the foods your body is leading you towards, but do it the justice it deserves by following through too. You are the hub of your success – so it pays to place your self-care nearer the top of your daily to do list when at all possible.
We all know the importance of moving our body for health and wellness. We also know how difficult it can be to fit exercise into our days and feeling motivated or energetic enough to do so is another topic all together. When we can look at it differently though, our relationship with movement changes quite quickly. Since our theme here is to maximize our productivity and increase our energy, let’s take a look at it from this angle.
Movement that makes you feel good, releases tension and gives you a break from the busyness of the mind will certainly positively contribute to your productivity. When we feel good, we do good – so not only are we achieving more in our days, we are actually raising the quality of the work we are producing and the decisions we are making. Movement clears away blocks in the mind and body, creating a flow of momentum, like removing a large fallen tree trunk lodged in the river, stunting its flow – once it is removed, the water can flow fast and free again.
I urge you to start your day with some kind of movement and add in another short segment in the afternoon or evening. Depending on you, your schedule and your preferences, (if you’re not a ‘run 3km before breakfast’ kind of person) then consider light stretches that will encourage you to start the day slowly, take stock of where your mind and body are and connect with your breathing - this will instantly re-calibrate your inner state and release any residue from the stresses of the day before.
Incorporate regular walk breaks into your day, go outside at least once a day, consider a stability ball instead of your office chair (which keeps your musculoskeletal system happy) and never be afraid to strike out into some spontaneous stretches through the day. If you can get to an exercise class or gym, great, but in my opinion, when we can train ourselves to exercise at home or at work, of our own volition, in between our responsibilities, using an app or online video, we are less likely to slack off due to extreme weather conditions, sick children, business trips or looming deadlines – your workout, whatever it consists of for you, is as portable and transferable as you are!