My wife and daughter are fast asleep.
I lie in bed visualizing how I will choose to show up today. Rehearsing the dance from one thing to another, identifying where I will find my flow, where I will ask myself for optimum performance, and where I will create small moments of recovery.
I take a deep breath. And then I’m off.
And for the next 14-16 hours I am “on”. My day becomes a mosaic of multiple training sessions fueling my goal of throwing Discus at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, working closely with executives and the technology team’s I lead at BuildDirect, and squeezing in positive impact opportunities whether it be speaking to groups on chasing dreams and high performance or working one on one with those who are ready to step up and step out in their lives.
I admittedly have chosen to jump head first into the deep end of life. On a daily basis I find myself swimming far outside my comfort zone chasing my dreams and passions.
And it is because of all of this that I have adopted a relentless pursuit of understanding how we as humans perform at our very best and how we can maximize every single input and variable in our lives to achieve our greatest performance and highest quality of positive energy output.
As I constantly test and evaluate the choices I make, the food I eat, my “Hell Yes” and “No’s” –
There are 5 habits I have come to realize have made a profound impact on my performance and overall energy levels.
1. Turn off all notifications
We are living in the notification age. And rightfully so as social media apps have discovered the direct path to our valuable dopamine channels and ego. Unfortunately, every time we get that little addictive hit, a buzz in your pocket, a little “1” in the top right corner of the browser – it undermines absolutely everything we were focusing on in the moment before – which most likely was something significantly more important and productive than checking your phone.
I started with turning off all of my social media notification on my phone and desktop. Yes, I have missed tags on Facebook and snaps in real time and it sometimes takes me half a day to respond to a message or post. I know, big sacrifice right?
There are only a handful of sacred notifications I keep turned on – calls and texts from my wife, my team channels on slack, etc.
Then I took it one step further. One day during a meaningful conversation with a colleague, my phone began buzzing incessantly. Every buzz felt like a jab to the energy I was focusing on investing in the conversation. Finally, I had stopped my friend in mid sentence – I took my phone out, turned on “Do Not Disturb” mode and returned it to my pocket.
“Do Not Disturb” has quickly become my favorite button – whether it’s with my wife or daughter in the evening, or in a conversation or interview. Whenever I want to channel my attention and concentration I ensure there isn’t a single notification that can hijack that energy.
2. Ritualize everything
There’s a reason why you see the most successful people wearing the same clothes all of the time. They are intentionally choosing to remove all energy and cognitive load from any decision that is of little to no value.
If you take a look at your life today there are likely hundreds of decisions, whether you are aware of them or not, that require some degree of attention… but have no outcome on the big pillars you are striving for in your life.
Take an audit of what these look like for you – they are usually very simple things: what will I eat for breakfast? How will I get to work? What will I wear? How will I get from here to there? What will I make for dinner? Standardize and ritualize as many of these decisions as possible.
I realized a huge cognitive energy savings when I began making a “super breakfast smoothy” and began to do this before going to bed every evening. In the morning when I’m ramping up my focus and energy it takes all of 5 seconds to open the fridge and grab my breakfast to go.
3. Meditate & exercise
The evidence continues to pile up that proves the practice of mindfulness and meditation has significant positive effects on our energy and performance. I think the conversation we’re not having enough of is “what meditation can look like” – which from my experience can be anything from traditional seated meditation on a mountain top to an intentional walk around the block.
The goal is to design a practice that becomes an intrinsic part of your day. In other words… something that becomes an easily sustainable ritual. The goalpost I shoot for to accomplish this is to ask whether your practice adds meaningful value to your daily life. Chances are if it does, you will keep doing it.
I have particularly enjoyed Wim Hof breathing technique and the Headspace App, although just stepping outside and taking 5 deep breathes works too ;).
4. Constantly introduce “new”
I believe learning is the greatest skill we can develop and cultivate in this life. Hands down. No questions asked.
This should be a life long process ingrained in everything we do, big and small.
New experiences require our brains to stretch, grow, and work in new ways. Not only is this a long term health practice but you will likely notice it has transcending affects in all areas of your life. As you focus on a new experience or skill, many of the high cognitive load problems you push to your brain to solve during the day (and into the night), take a break from it being the center focus of your conscious brain. As you take on that new experience during the day, your subconscious is able to massage and manipulate those problems and many times you will find yourself shifting back to those problems being solved or considered in new light right before your mind’s eye.
These don’t have to be monumental efforts. It can be as simple as taking a new route back to the office from your afternoon workout, meeting a new connection for coffee, or trying a new fitness activity.
As you let you let your type A mind turn off for a few minutes and fully engage in the experience, don’t be surprised to come back to radically new insights as you shift back into drive.
5. Evening wind down practice
A good friend reminded me the other day that “there is no such thing as over-training, only under-recovering”.
As a society, we continually undermine the importance of rest and recovery. From working on our laptops in bed until the early hours, to idolizing the “busy” culture – time and time again we sabotage our own performance and energy output by falling into the rat race.
Less is more. And with recovery just like anything else, quality counts.
How we physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepare for sleep matters. Your goal in the evening should be to architect an approach that primes all of these systems for their optimal recovery. Once you’ve identified the key components that help you move into that recovery state, build a ritual that can be repeated seamlessly.
Here’s what my evening ritual looks like:
1. Turn on “Do not Disturb” and stop all email/digital connection when our family is ready for dinner.
2. Make breakfast smoothy and help Tash get the house ready for bed.
3. Take Zinc Magnesium supplement.
4. Take ice bath and Wim Hof breathing meditation.
5. Write a brief journal entry and note 3 points of gratitude for the day.
6. Make sure any tension or arguments with my wife are cleared before bed.
Turning off my email and social check-ins a couple of hours before bed was one of the hardest practices I incorporated into my life, but my quality of sleep and energy in the next day skyrocketed in almost inverse proportion to stopping the constant digital IV.
Looking to tomorrow.
I walk through the day at 8:30 PM. I say hi to my wife and on days that I’m lucky, say hi to my daughter. I realize my energy reserves are not depleted and I can show up fully to spend time with my family and help clean up the house.
In fact, I am buzzing with excitement and positive energy with another day intentionally lived. I take a few deep breathes and start thinking about my Wind Down practice. Slowing the pace and moving into intentional recovery as I get ready squeeze every drop out of life tomorrow.