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How to perform at your peak

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Resilience expert Joao Bocas has some great insight into peak performance for the TZ community.

We all know that life is challenging at times. You will experience many demands in one given day. And above all, you are expected to cope, to perform well and meet all the demands with a positive attitude. (As if you have a choice). This article will give you the opportunity to learn about peak performance strategies, and you might also find yourself reflecting on the way you do things. As you know, the world is changing at a dramatic pace, and a good example of this is the technological market. You can see new gadgets being launched and then a few months later, they are considered 'old'. A culture of being busy is now the norm for most of us, and this leaves people feeling guilty if they are not very busy and at the same time out of balance with poor energy levels if they are too busy. Understanding the dynamics of energy is fundamental in order to manage your energy effectively and stay fully engaged for long periods of time.

There are four types of energy: Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Physical energy is the fundamental source of fuel, even if your work is completely sedentary. This form of energy is derived from the relationship between glucose and oxygen. Eating, breathing and sleeping are the sources of physical energy; to attain sustainable physical energy you must focus on quantity and quality of sleep, and the same applies with food. The frequency with which you eat will influence your capacity to stay fully engaged and sustain high performance.

The other forms of energy must not be neglected, as they are extremely important to get the right balance and achieve full engagement in order to perform. You need to find positive emotions, pleasant feelings and enjoyment in order to perform at your best. Emotional muscles such as patience, empathy and confidence can be trained in the same way you train a bicep or tricep. Mental energy is the type of energy that we use to make decisions and focus our attention, and the key to mental energy is achieving the right balance in pushing our mental capacity and recovering efficiently. This is where many of us go off kilter - we just push, push, push with no recovery time. Finally spiritual energy - the force for action in all dimensions of our lives. Spiritual work can be demanding and renewing at the same time. However, finding our deepest values and making a commitment to go beyond ourselves to follow our purpose can bring endless spiritual energy to our lives.

"Mental energy is the type of energy that we use to make decisions and focus our attention, and the key to mental energy is achieving the right balance in pushing our mental capacity and recovering efficiently."

When it comes to human performance, you must have recovery and renewal strategies in place in order to meet the high demands of modern society, an era that keeps you connected 24 hours a day (apart from sleep). How do you feel about your human performance at work and how do you manage your energy to meet those high demands pose on you throughout the day? How do you actually perform in a 24 hour period ? What are your energy levels like in the 24 hour window ? (Do you feel as energetic at 7am and 7pm?)

One of the main strategies to achieve sustained high performance is implementing periods of recovery. So, work at your full capacity for 90 to 120 minutes followed by a short break of 10 to 15 minutes for recovery and renewal. To use elite athletes as an example; they train hard, they are committed, they push themselves to the limit but they take time out to rest and they consider the recovery process as important as the performing and training phases. If you consider the average athlete, they train 90% of the time and compete 10% of the time - or even less depending on the sport or competition goals. In the business world it's the other way around. You perform 90% of the time and train 10% of then time. I would go even further and say that most train less than 10% of the time.

Let's say an average executive works 12 hours a day - 5 days a week - 240 days a year. How many days a year do you have in training or preparation to deal with the demands of your job? Three, four, five days a year- that means your training and preparation is about 2% of your time. Well that explains why performing is so unhealthy - less time to loved ones, less energy, less patience, less time and in many cases poor health.

In practical terms, for each 90 minute session working take a 15 minute break to recover. You give your body a break from the position you were in (physical), you give your brain a break and renew oxygen levels (mental), possibly talk to a colleague about something relevant (emotional) - but no conversations about work please. Make sure that your recovery breaks are also energy management breaks, so eat something every 90 minutes too - remember your energy comes from sleep and food. The reason why you might burn out it is not due to the intensity of energy expenditure, but rather the duration of expenditure of energy without recovery.

The second strategy for peak performance is to incorporate physical activity into your busy schedule. Whether you decide to exercise first thing in the morning, at lunch time or straight after work, this action will help you to manage stress levels, improve cognitive capacity, gain more energy and build resilience to face all your life's demands.

In life we perform like athletes without realising it. If we apply the principles of sports performance we will be able to perform better and protect our human body from being depleted of energy, purpose and motivation.

Joao Bocas is CEO of Sports13

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