Reach Your Optimal Performance in Times of Adversity

7 April, 2020

Today most of us feel overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks, scared by the scale of the disease tearing the world apart and highly anxious not being able to anticipate what the future holds.

On top of it, we are demanding ourselves to be as productive and as efficient as we used to be. It is absolutely insane. We need to change our approach as our outer circumstances have changed dramatically. “Give me the formula!?” I hear you. I felt the same until I started asking the right question – “Where does my energy go?”.

Let’s look at Human Performance Curve below to really understand what is happening here.

Most of us are on the red side of the curve right now because mentally/emotionally we are all over the place. We are wasting our energy on things that are beyond our control, getting distracted by everything and everyone in our environment whilst trying to pile up even more tasks on our “to-do” list. Our old methods of dealing with everyday life are no longer working.

Whilst we still need some stress in order to reach our optimal performance, why not opt for positive stress such as aiming to do more when we are exercising, completing an important goal/project/task, learning new ways of working, communicating – overcoming “I’m not good with technology” lie we have been telling ourselves. Let’s be honest, we are not good at things we haven’t been practicing much.

Few simple things each one of us can do to move from red (distress) to green (eustress/optimal performance) part of the curve.

  • Focus on what you can control at the moment. You can’t control the economy, but you can control what you and your family are eating, how much sleep you get and how you spend your day. Thinking about things we can’t control drains our energy.
  • Be present. Present moment is all you have anyway. Place your attention on what you are doing right now. Start practicing – read every word with complete presence instead of allowing your mind to deviate into making shopping lists. We miss opportunities for learning, valuable insights and potential solutions when we are not present.
  • Include some form of exercise in your routine and schedule it. Block time in your diary every morning, i.e. from 7am until 8am, to set yourself up for a day. Our energy becomes stagnant if we do not move.
  • Set SMART weekly/daily goals. Don’t just make up massive “to-do” lists. Be clever about this. What is your objective/goal and what is the purpose behind it? Long “to-do” lists tend to overwhelm us even more. Working towards a goal with a strong “why” behind it – the anticipation of it coming to fruition – will give us a hit of dopamine, celebrating the achievement or completion of that goal will release oxytocin. We need the cycles of dopamine and oxytocin in order to feel like we are moving forward, achieving something. Ultimately, to feel motivated. If your goal for this week is to do your front garden, schedule some time every day to work on it. Once it is finished, say on Saturday, celebrate it. Celebrating it means enjoying the result. You may have a coffee or lunch outside admiring what you have created.
  • Always do something for you. One of your weekly objectives should be about you and what would give you joy/nurture your soul/make you grow. In this chaos it is easy to prioritise everything else rather than self-care. It is an upside-down perception. You need to take care of the most valuable “asset” (you!) that makes things happen. If you are not taken care of, nothing gets done.
  • Schedule mundane tasks such as house cleaning. Otherwise, the need to clean the house will be creeping in in the worst possible moments, i.e. when you really need to finish a work project. It is easier to ignore the dust when you know that you have some time dedicated for this, i.e. on Friday afternoon.
  • Withdraw from all the conversations about the “doom and gloom we are in” and conspiracy theories. This is massively adding to your stress. Ask yourself “What is the outcome of me participating in this?”. Limit watching the news or reading tragic stories.
  • Use this time wisely. There are two possible outcomes at the end of this. Some people will end up chubby and miserable after Netflixing their sorrow away and eating up their anxiety, the others will learn something new, discover more about themselves, come up with new business ideas, get fit and ready to take off.
  • Get some support. You are not alone in this and there are plenty of people out there ready to help (including myself). Reach out!
  • Shift your focus from what you don’t want to what you want. You probably heard this one before – “Where focus goes, energy flows”. Wouldn’t it be better to invest our energy into a positive outcome rather than into more misery?

This is the time for all of us to start focusing on solutions, not on the problems. It begins with each one of us individually. Shift your own thinking, lift yourself up, get into your optimal performance and then, from that resourceful and inspiring place, help your team, your family and your friends.