Happy New Year! Whilst 2021 may not have begun with the social freedom that we were hoping for, I hope that despite the ongoing challenges, you are optimistic for the year ahead. We can only control what is within our personal sphere, so to give yourself the best chance for a successful and fulfilling 2021, here are seven strategies (trends!) that will contribute to brain-friendly peak performance:
- MINDSET & THINKING
It is no accident that my company focuses on Brighter Thinking. How you think (and feel) impacts everything, including “doing” or “not doing”, not least your daily habits, behaviours, and results.
If there are areas of work and home life that you desire to enhance, concentrate on improving your thinking first. Your brain and body are involved with the quality of your cognition, therefore, in addition to mindset, looking after physical health will pay off, in the short and long term. The tactics below will support you to achieve both.
- MOVE MORE
Instead of creating time for additional structured exercise sessions in already too busy schedules, focus on simply moving more throughout the day. Expect to hear more about this, as research backs up the benefits. For example, I am writing this whilst standing up, using an ironing board as my eco-friendly stand-up desk (i.e., I have not bought an extra plastic contraption). I am also moving to get my cup of tea!
How you move in between tasks is up to you e.g., burpees, dance, planks, squats, steps, stretching etc. All movement will prevent sitting disease and increase energy and attention. I predict that Walk and Talk meetings (and executive coaching sessions!) will become prevalent, so how about suggesting it at work?
- MONO FOCUS
Prioritising fewer goals (outcomes / targets / projects) at any one time will mean that your brain is less likely to get overwhelmed – and then distracted. Plus, you will more likely achieve 100% completion. Focusing on one single task at a time is the most energy and performance efficient approach. Whilst willpower will increase as you practise this, fortunately, there are now apps, buttons or functions that can assist in switching off distractions. Not yet available for human interruptions though! 😉
- SLEEP BETTER
Prioritising sleep is a peak performance hack improving overall health, memory and disposition and enables the brain to carry out its essential housekeeping. It is now known that insufficient shuteye contributes to a marked decline in cognition later in life. Humans are great at thinking about their future selves (we do it daily) but not so good at taking action now to prepare for them e.g., hence a reported lack of retirement planning and current unhealthy habits.
- LET IN MORE LIGHT
The brain responds to darkness to switch off for sleep and requires the stimulation of natural daylight to increase energy, mood and regulate the circadian rhythm. In the western world, we have got this upside down as we stay inside dark buildings during the day and turn on artificial lights at night. Going outside, especially in the morning will support the ideal functioning of your natural body clock which will optimise your performance at work.
Your brain is wired to attend to what is novel in your environment – and loves to make new, neural connections. Learning something new is extremely rewarding and increases confidence. The pandemic may have already forced you to adapt and do new things, however if not, relish the challenge of leaving your comfort zone and know that you are contributing to the long-term health of your brain, plus short-term satisfaction. Gamifying learning and making it fun will augment your experience.
- FIND MEANING AND PURPOSE EVERY DAY
Knowing why you are doing something and recognising that you are contributing to a bigger picture aids motivation and action. We can all have days where we feel that we are not meeting our own expectations. When this occurs, focus externally – on others – and do something nice or helpful for someone else instead.
Which strategy(ies) would you like to do more of?