You want to perform your best no matter what you do, but having the energy, discipline, and focus can be tough. Some days things flow, you’re on a roll, and others you just hit a wall. So how do you consistently bring your A-game? If you study the world’s best athletes, artists, and achievers then you already know peak performance doesn’t happen by accident. There are specific practices that will unleash anyone’s potential and bring forth their best.
In this guide you’ll learn exactly how to make the most of your time, improve your productivity, and maximize your energy to unlock peak performance. Let’s get started.
- To make the most of your brain power, save cognitive tasks for the morning, mundane work for the afternoon, and creative projects for the evening.
- Use music between 120-145 bpm to tap into peak performance states.
- Meditate for five minutes a day to help your body recover faster and improve stress resilience.
- Actively practicing gratitude can increase your performance at work.
- Wearing certain clothes can significantly improve your productivity and ability to focus.
- Ashwagandha, L-theanine, and rhodiola supplements can help you improve your mental performance and alleviate fatigue naturally.
- To get better sleep create a “wind-down” routine, dim the lights, and avoid beer before bed.
Maximizing Your Time
Quote: “Timing isn’t everything, but it’s a big thing.” Daniel Pink
If you want to get more out of your day, you need to master your time. The challenge is, not all hours are created equal. Your decision-making power and energy levels vary throughout the day, so you need to plan accordingly. A good rule of the thumb is to take on highly cognitive tasks in the morning, mundane work in the afternoon, and creative projects in the evening.
Morning: Cognitive Work (8 am – 12 pm)
Your brain power is at its peak about two hours after rising. Use these hours to work on your toughest tasks. By scheduling your most cognitively demanding tasks earlier in the day you’ll be able to bring your best to them.
Afternoon: Mundane Tasks (12 pm – 4 pm)
According to a study out of Penn State, you’re likely to be more distracted between the hours of 12 pm and 4 pm. Use this time for mundane tasks that don’t require as much critical or creative thinking.
For example, instead of writing something new, use the afternoon to edit. Instead of scheduling project review meetings in the mornings reserve them for the afternoon.
Evening: Workout & Creative Tasks (4 pm – 8 pm)
Studies suggest that your strength and endurance peak between 4 and 6 pm. Plus, scheduling your workout later in the day allows you to release any lingering work-related stress. Pro Tip: avoid working out past 8 pm; working out too close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep.
Between the hours of 6 pm and 8 pm most people experience a rebound of energy. During this “second-wind” research shows that “people are at their most creative.” So, use it to your advantage, and save tasks that require imaginative thinking for later in the day.
Mastering Your Mindset
Quote: “Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your two ears.” Laird Hamilton
The connection between what you eat and how you feel is obvious. Down a glazed donut and you’re going to feel the rush and inevitable crash. But, what about your mental diet? Is what you’re consuming feeding peak performance or damaging your mental health?
Scientists say we’re living in the greatest time in history, so why are we seeing massive spikes in anxiety, depression, and stress? Overstimulation. Our ancient brains often overreact to our modern world. You’re not designed for constant pings from social media, sensationalized headlines that trigger your nervous system, or ads designed to push your buttons. It’s a lot to process.
To block out the noise and get in the “zone” you can’t just feed your mind, you need to nourish it. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to ditch the mental junk food, and prime your mind for success.
Peak Performance Rituals
If you study the top athletes, artists, and achievers you’ll find that most of them have personal rituals that bring out their best. The good news is you don’t have to wake up at 4 am, run 10 miles, drink four shots of wheat grass, take an ice bath, and read 1,000 pages to reach your peak. All you need are a couple of consistent practices that work for you.
Music isn’t just a mood changer; the right song can also snap you into the right mindset for peak performance. Researchers have found that listening to certain songs can bring out specific emotional responses.
Take it from Jamie Anderson, the most decorated female snowboarder in X-Games History. Before hitting the slopes for a major competition, Anderson listens to “I Know I Can” by Nas. The Olympic champ says the positive lyrics help her build her confidence and get into flow.
You can use the same practice to prep for your day. Have a big meeting coming up? Trying to get the most out of your gym session? Want to kickstart your Monday strong? The research says to blast upbeat songs between 120-145 bpm.
Here are a few science-backed playlists to get you started:
The Alter-Ego Effect
Improving your mindset isn’t just an internal process. Whether you’re at the gym, in the office, or WFH, the clothes you wear can make or break your performance. Researchers call this effect “enclothed cognition” and they suggest it holds the key to unlocking potential.
In a study done in 2012, participants wore identical white lab coats to while they competed on attention tests. The only difference between was how the coats were described. Group one was told they were wearing painter’s coats, while group two was told they were wearing doctor’s coats. In every test, participants wearing “doctor’s coats” were able to focus longer and outperformed the other group. Scientists say “the combination of wearing certain clothes and their symbolic meaning” led to superior performance.
Similarly, elite performance coach and author of The Alter Ego Effect, Todd Herman, suggests using “totems” or items of clothing to help you tap into different mindsets that improve performance.
Your totem could be blue light work glasses that tell your brain it’s time for focused work, a headband that brings out your athlete, or a special hat that taps into your creative side. For best-selling author Bob Goff, it’s the latter.
When he’s working on a new book, he’ll put on his “writer’s hat”, literally. By simply dressing the part, you too can signal your brain to get the in zone and perform even better than you would otherwise.
Meditation has some surprising benefits when it comes to recovery and performance. According to a study published in the Journal of Sleep, “Athletes who consistently practice meditation can help their body to recover quicker from training, racing, and even injury.”
Studies have also shown that practicing meditation can help you remain calm under stress and improve your focus and concentration.
Look, the benefits of meditation are undeniable but actually getting yourself to do it is a different story. Who’s got time to sit down and think zero thoughts for an hour? The truth is, meditation might actually be easier than you think.
If you come back to first principles, meditation is the practice of focusing on the present. As you bring awareness to your breath each time your mind wanders, you’re training yourself to stay in the moment. It’s as simple as that.
So, when you focus on your breath that’s meditation. When you sit still for a few minutes that’s meditation. When you close your eyes and think about what you’re grateful for… meditation.
Five Minutes of Mindfulness
To reap the benefits of meditation, start with five minutes of mindfulness for the next five days.
1. Find a Quiet Space
Sit comfortably, hands on your lap, somewhere you won’t be interrupted or distracted.
2. Set a Timer
All you need is five minutes, especially when you’re getting started.
3. Focus on Your Breath
Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose.
4. When Your Mind Wanders
Gently nudge your awareness back to breathing in and out.
5. Wrap It Up With Goals & Gratitude
After your five minutes is up, think of three things you’re grateful and say them out loud.
Next, think of three things you want to accomplish today, visualize yourself achieving each one.
Gratitude: The 3x3x3 Method
One of the most powerful ways to get yourself in the right headspace is with gratitude. Several studies have shown that exercising thankfulness reduces anxiety and stress but what you might not know is it can also improve your performance.
In a study done the by University of Turin, it was discovered that “workers who practiced gratitude performed at a higher level than their less grateful counterparts.” Plus, the gratitude group reported greater job satisfaction. To get started with gratitude, try the 3x3x3 method.
When you wake up in the morning, write down three things you’re grateful for. Keep it simple. In the afternoon, write down three more things you’re thankful for. Before bed write down three things you experienced during the day that you are grateful for. It’s simple, but it makes a difference.
Optimizing Your Energy
Quote: “Keep it whole, organic, and fresh.” Jamie Anderson
You could have the best mindset and motivation in the world but if you’re not eating right, you won’t be able to sustain your performance.
What To Eat & What To Avoid
While there are many competing nutrition philosophies, one thing most researchers agree on is sticking to a diet based on whole foods. So, we went ahead and put together a list of the healthiest foods you can eat to support your energy and performance.
Eat These: Whole Foods
- Animal Products: Grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, wild-caught fish, pasture-raised eggs.
- Fruits: Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, citrus fruits, bananas, apples, avocados
- Vegetables: Spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, brussels sprouts, green peas, Swiss chard, ginger, red cabbage, sweet potato, collard greens
- Nuts & Legumes: Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts (if you have any nut allergies, steer clear).
P.S. This list isn’t exhaustive; these are just some great options to get you started.
Avoid These: Processed Foods
- Deli meats, fried chicken, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, frozen entrees
- Processed foods, high sugar foods, fries, ice cream
- Potato chips, cheese fries, canned soup
- Honey wheat bread, white bread, bagels
- Margarine, imitation cheese, mayonnaise
- Ice cream, donuts, fondant, non-dairy coffee creamer, sugar-coated cereal, white sugar, frosting, pancake syrup,
- White Russian, cranberry juice cocktail, piña colada, bloody Mary
You might be asking yourself, “Wait, why is it always the ‘don’t’ list that has all of the good stuff on it?” I don’t blame you. Who doesn’t love ice cream? But, it doesn’t do your body or your performance any favors. The havoc sugar reaps on your health and the number of diseases it’s linked to isn’t pretty. So, while there’s nothing wrong with a cheat day, the high sugar, highly processed shit is going to stay on the “avoid this” list.
Nootropics & Supplements
Thankfully, nature has tipped the scales and given us some incredible natural herbs to boost your brain power, handle stress, and stay sharp.
- Ashwagandha: An adaptogen herb commonly used to help the body adjust mental and physical stress.
- L-Theanine: An amino-acid used to improve mental function.
- Rhodiola Rosea: An adaptogen herb used to alleviate fatigue.
- Caffeine: A natural stimulant used to improve wakefulness and focus. (We recommend consuming your daily dose between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm for best results).
Superior Sleep: The Ultimate Life-Hack
Hustle culture gets a lot of hype, and while a strong work ethic is essential to success, it’s not sustainable without proper rest. Healthy brain function, recovery, and energy all depend on getting quality shuteye. Here’s what sleep scientists recommend for getting the most from your sleep.
Keep It Consistent
Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Weekends included. Your brain has a 24-hour circadian rhythm and it responds best to regularity.
Sleep scientist and best-selling author Matthew Walker says sleep is more like landing a plane than flicking on off switch. In other words, you need to ease into it gradually with an evening routine. By taking a bath, meditating, or writing tomorrow’s to-do’s can signal to your brain that you’re preparing for bed.
Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
To trigger the release of melatonin you need darkness. Studies suggest that the blue light that emanates from your smart devices can inhibit your ability to fall asleep, especially in the last hour before going to bed. An easy practice to fall asleep faster is to dim your lamps and set your screens to warm mode as you’re preparing to get some shut eye.
Don’t Get Buzzed Before Bed
If you like a glass of wine or beer to take the edge off of work make sure you don’t go to sleep tipsy. Alcohol can negatively affect the quality of sleep you get.
Hydrate To Fight Fatigue
You’ve probably heard that you’re not drinking enough water. But, what you might not know is exactly how it affects your energy levels.
According to Harvard Medical School, dehydration and fatigue go hand in hand. In fact, 50-60% of your total body weight is made up of water. And, after getting a solid night of sleep your body loses a lot of it. So, the most important time to hydrate is as soon as you wake up. We suggest chugging an 8-12oz glass of water with 1 tbsp of lemon juice. By knocking this out first thing in the morning, you’ll hydrate, energize, and replenish what you lost overnight.
As you master your mind, make the most of your time, and give your body the energy it needs, you’ll be well on your way to performing your best every day.
Want to learn more about how to optimize your performance? Check out our new program, “Optimize You,” to get tips, tricks, and insights from masters in the fields of fitness, health, performance, creativity, and mindset.