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How Thinking Like an Athlete Can Help You Improve Work Performance

Overloaded schedules, competing priorities, and a never-ending list of tasks and deadlines: If you asked most professionals today, they’d likely admit to facing these struggles daily. While we’d all like to take a few responsibilities off our plates, that sometimes may not be an option. So, do you have no other choice but to plow through your work with brute force and exhaust yourself in the process?

Not necessarily.

When it comes to work performance, it’s not about how much you work but rather how you work. Consider the approach of an athlete. Athletes don’t perform at their all-out capacity 100% of the time. Instead, they strategically move through a cycle of warm-ups, followed by intense effort, followed by rest and recovery. This method allows them to perform at their best when it counts and avoid burnout when it doesn’t.

You can use these same principles to help you accomplish more of what matters and achieve better business results by focusing your energy on the right projects at the right time.

Warm Up: Set your priorities

Not all tasks are created equal. Take a few minutes at the start of each day and week to prioritize your to-dos and set your performance goals. Rank them by category to help you organize, using the Eisenhower decision matrix to choose which ones are the highest priority.

Sprint: Give your all-out effort

During which hours are you most productive? That’s when you want to focus your energy on the toughest tasks that require creativity, decision-making, and problem-solving.

To discover your optimal working time, ask yourself: When do I have the most focus and energy, and the least amount of distraction? Tracking how you spend your time for a few days can help you arrive at a clearer answer. (Hint: It might not be during the traditional 9-5 timeframe.)

Once you know your peak productivity window, block out segments of time to zero in and get focused. No checking emails. No scrolling through Instagram. No phone calls. Remember, this is when you’ll accomplish your most difficult tasks and expend the most effort, so treat this time as sacred.

Recover: Tackle the small stuff

Once you’ve expended most of your energy on high-priority projects, give yourself some time to recover. Take a break, then tackle those projects that don’t require a lot of thought, such as checking emails. This might be where you actually accomplish the bulk of your tasks, but you can do so without feeling guilty about putting off the more challenging or mentally-draining ones … because they’ll already be done!

Strategically focusing your energy and time on the right tasks is key to helping you achieve the better business results. When you think like an athlete, you'll achieve more of what matters, avoid fatigue, and feel a sense of accomplishment that will motivate you to keep moving forward.


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