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The Summary at the end of the book is more than all you need from the book. So here goes:
1. SYSTEMATICALLY GROW BY ALTERNATING BETWEEN STRESS AND REST
A) Seek out “just-manageable challenges” in areas of your life in which you want grow
•Just-manageable challenges are those that barely exceed your current abilities.
•If you feel fully in control, make the next challenge a bit harder.
•If you feel anxious or so aroused that you can’t focus, dial things down a notch.
B) Cultivate deep focus and perfect practice
•Define a purpose and concrete objectives each time you set out to do meaningful work.
•Focus and concentrate deeply, even if doing so isn’t always enjoyable.
•Remove distractors such as smartphones; remember that out of sight is truly out of mind.
•Do only one thing at a time. Next time you feel like multitasking, remind yourself that research shows it’s not effective.
•Remember that quality trumps quantity.
C) Work in discrete blocks
•Divide your work into blocks of 50 to 90 minutes (this may vary by task). Start even smaller if you find yourself struggling to maintain attention.
•If deep-focus work is new to you, start with blocks as short as 10 to 15 minutes. As you cultivate a deep-focus practice, gradually increase the duration you go deep.
•For almost all activities, 2 hours should be the uppermost limit for a working block.
D) Nurture a growth or challenge mindset
•Keep in mind that how you view something fundamentally changes how your body responds to it.
•In situations when you feel the sensation of stress, remind yourself that this is your body’s natural way of preparing for a challenge. Take a deep breath and channel the heightened arousal and sharper perception into the task at hand.
•Push yourself to view stress productively, and even to welcome it. You’ll not only perform better but also improve your health.
Have the Courage to Rest
A) Grow your mindful muscle with meditation so that you can more easily choose rest
•Find a time when other distractions are minimized, such as first thing in the morning, after brushing your teeth, or before going to bed.
•Sit in a comfortable position and, ideally, in a quiet space.
•Begin breathing deeply, in and out through your nose.
•Focus on nothing but your breath; when thoughts arise, notice them, but then let them go. Direct your focus back to the sensation of the breath.
•Start with just 1 minute and gradually increase duration, adding 30 to 45 seconds every few days.
•Frequency trumps duration. It’s best to meditate daily, even if that means keeping individual sessions short.
B) Apply your growing mindful muscle in everyday life
•Have “calm conversations” during stressful periods; remember that you are separate from the emotions and sensations that you are experiencing.
•Realize when you want to “turn it off” and then choose to leave stress behind. Taking a few deep breaths helps because it activates the prefrontal cortex, your brain’s command-and-control center.
C) Take smart breaks and let your subconscious go to work
• When you are working on a strenuous task and hit an impasse, have the courage to step away.
- Step away from whatever it is you were doing for at least 5 minutes.
- The more stressful the task, the longer your break should be.
- For really draining tasks, consider stepping away until the next morning.
• During your breaks, perform activities that demand little to no focus.
- Go on a short walk.
- Sit in nature.
- Recover socially.
- Listen to music.
- Take a shower.
- Do the dishes.
• You may have an “aha” moment of insight during your break. If you do, great. Even if you don’t have an “aha” moment during your break, your subconscious mind is still at work. When you return to whatever it is you were doing, you’ll be more likely to make progress.
D) Prioritize sleep
• Reframe sleep as something that is productive.
• Aim for at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. For those doing intense physical activity, 10 hours is not too much.
• The best way to figure out the right amount of sleep for you is to spend 10 to 14 days going to sleep when you are tired and waking up without an alarm clock. Take the average sleep time. That’s what you need.
E) Take extended time off
•Regardless of the work you do, take at least one off-day every week.
•To the extent that you can, time your off-days and vacations strategically to follow periods of accumulated stress.
•The more you stress, the more you should rest.
•On both single off-days and extended vacations, truly disconnect from work. Unplug both physically and mentally and engage in activities that you find relaxing and restorative.
Optimize Your Routine
A) Develop warmup regimens for important activities/performances
•Determine what state of mind and body your performance demands.
•Develop a sequence of activities that puts your mind and body in that state.
•Be consistent: Use the same routine each and every time you engage in the activity to which it is linked.
•Remember the impact of mood on performance; positivity goes a long way.
B) Create “a place of your own”
•Find physical spaces to dedicate to unique activities.
•Surround yourself with objects that invite desired behaviors.
•Consistently work in that same place, using the same materials.
•Over time, your environment will enhance your productivity on a deep neurological level.
C) Condition yourself to perform
•Link key behaviors to specific cues and/or routines.
•Be consistent and frequent; execute the same cue/routine every time prior to the behavior to which it is paired.
•If possible, link key activities to the same context (e.g., time of day, physical environment, etc.).
•If your pursuit requires variable settings, develop portable cues/routines that can be executed anywhere (e.g., a deep-breathing routine, self-talk, etc.).
Design Your Day
A) Become a minimalist to be a maximalist
•Reflect on all the decisions that you make throughout a day.
•Identify ones that are unimportant, that “don’t really matter” to you.
•To the extent that you can, automate those decisions that don’t really matter. Common examples include decisions about:
- What to eat at meals
- When to complete daily activities (e.g., always exercise at the same time of the day so you literally don’t need to think about it)
- Whether to attend social gatherings (It’s not always a good idea, but during important periods of work, many great performers adopt a strict policy of saying no to social events)
•Don’t devote brain power to gossip, politics, or worrying about what others think of you.
•Consider the second- and third-order effects (e.g., commute, financial pressures, etc.) of larger life decisions, such as where to live.
B) Match activities with energy levels
•Determine your chronotype (e.g., whether you are a morning lark or night owl).
•Design your day accordingly—be very intentional about when you schedule certain activities, matching the demands of the activity with your energy level.
•Protect the time during which you are most alert for “the most important work.”
•Don’t fight fatigue! Rather, use this time for recovery and to generate creative ideas that you can act on during your next cycle of high energy and focus.
•Remember that working in alignment with your chronotype not only maximizes performance, it also ensures an appropriate balance between stress and rest.
C) Surround yourself wisely
•Recognize the enormous power of the people with whom you surround yourself.
•Do what you can to cultivate your own village of support so that you surround yourself with a culture of performance. Positive energy, motivation, and drive are all contagious.
•Remember that by being positive and showing motivation, you are not only helping yourself, you are also helping everyone else in your life.
•Don’t put up with too much negativity or pessimism. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
D) Show up
•There is no replacement for showing up, day in and day out, to hone your craft.
•Remember that attitudes often follow behaviors; sometimes the best thing that you can do is to simply get started.
A) Overcome your ego
•Remember that your “ego” or “self” or “central governor” serves as a protective mechanism that holds you back from reaching your true limits. When faced with great challenges, your ego is biologically programmed to shut you down, telling you to turn in the other direction.
•By focusing on a self-transcending purpose, or a reason for doing something beyond your self, you can override your ego and break through your self-imposed limits.
•To the extent you can, link your activities to a greater purpose. This way, when you are faced with formidable challenges and your mind is telling you to quit, you can ask yourself why you are doing it. If the answer is “for someone or something greater than myself,” you’ll be more likely to push onward.
•Thinking less about your self is one of the best ways to improve yourself.
B) Enhance your motivation
•Recall that you are constantly balancing perception of effort, or how hard something feels, with motivation. Thus, if you want to endure more effort, you may need to increase your motivation.
•To increase motivation, link your work to a greater purpose or cause.
•Not only will focusing on activities that help others make the world a better place, it will also help make you a better performer.
•Think about why you are doing what you are doing, especially when you are feeling fatigued.
•Find opportunities to give back in the context of your work. These can be more intensive activities like coaching and mentoring, or less intensive acts like posting sincere advice in online forums.
•The only criteria is that the giving is closely linked to your work and that you give without the expectation of getting anything back.
•While giving is especially powerful for preventing and reversing burnout, you should still aim to avoid burnout by supporting stress with appropriate rest.
Develop and Harness Your Purpose
A) Develop your purpose with these steps:
•Select your core values.
•Personalize your core values.
•Rank your core values.
•Write your purpose statement.
B) Strategically call upon your purpose
•Use visual cues to remind yourself of your purpose when you are most likely to need a boost.
•Develop a mantra based on your purpose and use it for self-talk when the going gets tough.
•Reflect on your purpose nightly (try using expressive writing). Think about how closely you lived in alignment with your purpose, striving to move closer to consistent alignment over time.
Do all of this, and do them well,
When all about you are watching Netflix,
And you will be ready for Peak Performance, my son.
— Rudyard Kiping