Time is the new currency. Time is precious. It is something we are all running out of, something we all have the same of every day, and most of us also feel that we don’t have enough of it. I think it is safe to say that we are all trying to figure out how to make better use of time.
In our technology-driven world, we are working longer hours and harder than ever before, and yet technology is supposed to help us by taking over some of the tasks we would otherwise be doing.
So, what is happening?
Studies suggest that we are happier than we used to be about work. Could it be that technology helps us by taking over the most tedious task, and we can focus on digging into more interesting work? Well, perhaps, but work has also taken over our social life and has become our place of community.
That is great news for business, but how does it affect us?
Well, the studies also say that we are feeling more stressed than ever, less secure at work, and our work/life balance is more of a concept than a reality.
That is not great news for our health, and it is not how we create sustainable success, and it is also now how we achieve the best engagement or contentment at work either.
Stress isn’t working
We cannot change time, but we can change our relationship with time.
We can change how we use it and what we focus on in the time we have. We don’t actually get stress from what we have to do, and we get stress from what we believe we will not get done. Stress and our relationship with time go hand in hand.
We have become so used to stress that we consider it normal, yet we cannot work under chronic stress. And we know it. Almost 50% of the workforce leave their jobs because of stress.
Sure, we cannot completely un-stress, and some stress can be good stress, but let’s not get caught thinking that is how we perform better.
We, humans, are designed to push through under stress. It makes us feel sharp and focused; it gives us energy, makes us feel stronger. It is how we have survived for centuries. It is how athletes reach past their own records. It is how we get out of danger and do things we would otherwise not have been able to do.
There are two problems with that, though:
1. we cannot do it 24/7, or it will wear us out
2. we only focus on what is urgent, not what is important.
Let’s be very clear about this. Chronic stress is not required for performance!
No hacks, tips, and tricks.
We find solutions for our rushed lives to overcome reality, or at least time, by working smarter and faster with hacks, tips, and tricks. They are very popular, as you know, because just like dieting, hacks for the stressed promise that this solution will be the ONE that will change everything. It will cure your time-crunch and take your pain away without any effort on your part.
In the world of superfoods, there is always a new food that has been found or rather re-found, and it cures everything, or at least it tends to promise so. When applied, there are so many other factors that play in, and there is never just one answer to a complex problem.
And let’s face it, you know that already.
There is no one quick cure for stress either. Or for overwhelming or exhaustion or burnout. But there is change.
We can change how we work, and we need to, because stress isn’t working, and more hacks, tips, and tricks might make us even more stressed rather than helps us figure out how to work better because our very own body is our most essential tool for us to do our best work every day. As our team is our best resource, we need to be a team with our own bodies.
Time, stress, and self-care.
We are looking for hacks, tips, and tricks to work harder and push our performance to new levels, but that is not the answer to working better; self-care is.
We think self-care is taking time, but that what we are getting wrong. Self-care does not take time; it gives us time. We tend to think of work/life balance as two different ways of being, at work and home. But that is not how our society works anymore.
Self-care is not a treat after work or on weekends, so we can recover from stress or bounce back from burnout. Self-care is what we do AT work, so we avoid burnout.
Eat your lunch
At one point, I was working with a stressed-out broadcasting executive. She was felt her body was failing her and to no surprise really, because she did not eat any food all day and her body was running on empty.
The three most basic human needs or just surviving every day are water, food, and sleep, and it is the first three things we neglect when we are busy, which then pushes our bodies into survival mode, which is also our modern-day version of stress.
She argued that she did not have time to stop for lunch, but I got out of her that since her boss did not eat lunch, she felt she could not either.
She agreed to take a stand for herself and break for 30 minutes to have lunch.
Just a couple of weeks later, she came back and told me that she had a lot more energy felt, better overall, and her mood had improved. She also felt more clear-headed, focused better, and could keep her attention for much, much longer.
She added that since she started eating lunch, so did the rest of her team, and with that, team-work had improved!!
So, eating lunch had not only increased her wellbeing and productivity, but everyone else had taken her lead, and they were now working better too!
We need to change the way we work because our best resource is still a human resource, and it is our job to take good care of it. We are the guardians of our very own bodies.
Sustainable success and performance
To create sustainable success and perform at our best, we need to take advantage of our complete human resources. Our body is a tool, not a liability, and even though we give our mind so much credit, our body is still the essential tool. We have to do our best work every day. It takes a healthy body to have a healthy mind.
Instead of using up our human resources, we can be a team and take care of it instead. We need to nurture and nourish our bodies. We need to be a team.
Fuel your Performance
So how can you fuel your performance and your wellbeing all at the same time? When we realize just how very important it is to take good care of our bodies so they can be there for us, we can change our relationship with how we spend our time.
The key here is that we get more time when we take better care of ourselves because we lose less time not feeling great.
We are less distracted and more focused when we have food in our bellies because our survival instinct is not constantly looking for where the next meal will come from. Now you might not be doing this, but your nervous system and your unconscious mind are. And both are needed for you to be focused on the task at hand and optimal performance.
That is why we save time by being nourished!
The five core ingredients for fueling your performance is:
- Create a rhythm of consistent routines.
To perform and be at our best, we need to create routines that support us and take over from what we have to think about. This is where it gets tricky because one of the significant reasons leaders don’t take care of themselves is exactly because they don’t want to have to think about it. The difference between habits and routines that don’t work for you and those that do is that the accidental ones, the mindless ones, drain your energy rather than make it better. So, set up routines that support you in building, maintaining, and recovering your energy every day. Not after the day is over, during the day.
2. Rest and sleep.
Sleep: In order to do our best work, we also need to rest. That means we need our sleep; anything from 7-9 hours per night has been proven to boost performance, and joy for that matter too. The key is that not getting enough sleep will kick us into survival mode, which is also stress mode. So, before we even start our day, we are fighting against the clock. Sleep has been shown to improve athletes’ performance, not training, rest. And even though we are not competing in the Olympics (at least not most of us), we are still athletes every day at work.
Breaks: We also need breaks throughout the day. Our mind does its best work when it focuses for 45-90 minutes at a time. Our nervous system and bodies also need a break from the persistent, consistent, and continuous action we are doing when working. Studies have shown an increase in performance after just 5-15 minutes breaks. These breaks are NOT to check email; they are so your mind can wonder, and your body can move. If you cannot get outside in nature for a quick spin, looking at nature photographs gives your brain the same nourishment as if you were outside. Now your body still needs to move, so perhaps this is the perfect time to walk off for a water-break.
3. Drink water—lots of it.
Generous helpings of pure fresh water several times a day. You don’t have to sip it constantly, but you need about ½ your body weight in ounces. Drink it between meals, especially in meetings where you need to keep your hydration up and your mind clear. Our bodies are about 80% water, and even though we might not be thirsty, we need water to keep our bodies at optimal performance and out of survival mode. We are constantly losing water, which is why drinking a glass of water a day is not enough to keep the body replenished. We lose water when we sweat, go to the bathroom, and even when we exhale. When we are active, we lose even more water. When we get dehydrated, we start losing our focus; we get more easily confused, irritable, and impatient. We get tired and even exhausted, headaches, sugar cravings, which can be pretty distracting, especially if we go for it and end up in a sugar high and crash or our sensitivity gets numbed out, which makes us less attentive and also far less able to discern good choices from not so good choices. Drinking more water increases our energy, our ability to feel sharp and have clarity. And the of-course better mood and better able to stay focused.
4. EAT good food.
A: Create a rhythm and routine where you eat your food during the day when your body needs the fuel, and your brain needs the nourishment. Choose the ingredients in your meals, so they align with the performance you need every day. For most, that means they do more focused work in the morning hours and need to concentrate, which means feeding their mind (carbohydrates). In the afternoon, they do better with inter-active and creative assignments and provide their body-centered activity (protein). Too often, people rush through meals all day, eat too little, or whatever is available, instead of what would help keep steady energy, focused mind, and balanced mood.
B: The biggest meals should be the first two of the day. For most, lunch would be the most appropriate one to fuel up with energy for the rest of the day, and it is a perfect mid-point to take a longer break.
C: Focus on 80% plant-based foods, 20% if any, animal-based. For as many meals as possible, for optimal energy and vitality, ½ your plate full of leafy greens, green and cruciferous vegetables. ¼ plate starch only and ¼ plate protein. If you are eating entirely plant-based, get at least 10% of your meal from a source of good plant-fat.
5. Be mindful
Mindfulness is about being aware, paying attention, and honoring what is happening inside and around you. When we want to eat better, live better, and work better, it starts with intention. What is the intention you have for creating change? What we focus on becomes our experience of life. If we keep telling ourselves that we are not going to make it happen in time and come last, we will never give ourselves the time to make sure we create the foundation for performing better. But if we can trust that giving ourselves the time for self-care, we take back that time repeatedly by being more focused, having more energy, better mood, and overall better health.
Getting more time
When we are taking better care of ourselves, we will still not have more than 24 hours in a day, but when we fuel our performance from the inside out, we will spend the time we have better, free up more of the time we have and we will make it matter more, and we will feel that we are getting more out of our time. And yes, we might also get more time in terms of longevity, both of our careers and our life. Now the challenge will be to spend all that extra time free up for something that matters to us. Remember, instead of focusing on what is urgent, we can focus on what is important
when we come out of stress. Now, what
matters to you? Doing
more or doing better? And if not now, then when?
Jeanette Bronée is a performance Strategist and Leadership Coach, Nourishment Expert, Speaker, Author, and Founder of Path for Life.
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