Achieving Success: How to be a Business Athlete

Achieving Success: How to be a Business Athlete

Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

Athletes don’t just ‘show up’ to the race-track and expect to achieve their best. Their work starts off the field using training, coaching and discipline. Success in the world of business is no different. Turning up to your desk will only get you so far. Get sporty - start thinking and behaving like an athlete.

Getting some perspective

The Pareto principle states that 80% of effects result from 20% of causes. This means that two of the 10 items on your to-do list will move you towards your goals more efficiently than the other eight combined.

Before you can behave like an athlete you need to think like an athlete and that means being clear on what you want to achieve so that you can focus on the 20%, rather than the 80%.

Setting SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) goals will help you focus on what matters the most. Helping you to prioritise, make decisions and create a sense of fulfilment.

Have a task management system and trust it

A system helps you gain control. This control helps you be productive and builds trust that you have a way forward.

A task management system must capture everything you need ‘to-do’ and it can be as simple as an Excel spreadhseet. No more scrappy pieces of paper and notes in your phone. Everything is in one place. List all of your tasks, the date you need to start them and the date you need to finish them. Then prioritise everything on your list, delegating wherever possible.

Establish a morning and evening routine

Successful athletes use routines to physically and mentally prepare themselves for their best performance.

A morning routine will help you prepare your body and mind for the day. It will also help you get the most important work done before your distraction-filled day begins.

Morning rituals should include: exercise to get your heart pumping, a breakfast that nourishes you, meditation to calm your mind and journaling to reflect on yesterday and plan for today.

An evening routine will help you to wind down and prepare you for a good night’s sleep. Start your evening routine one-hour before you plan to go to sleep. This means turning off all electronic screens which emit blue light and prevent your mind from switching off. Taking a bath and reading a book will also help you to relax and calm your mind.

Avoid distractions

Although you might feel highly productive when you respond immediately to a new email or work request, your brain is not functioning at peak performance while multi tasking or task switching.

It is impossible to establish a focused work mind set while being repeatedly interrupted with tasks perceived as ‘urgent’ (but usually are not). It can take up to 20-minutes to focus on a task after you have been interrupted.

It is essential to block time in your calendar to think deeply and achieve the flow state required for high productivity.

This also means creating the conditions for productivity. Sit yourself in a place where you cannot be disturbed. Turn off your phone and put it away. Switch off all notifications on your computer and close any unnecessary windows. Only have those documents or tools in front of you that are needed for the task in hand.

How to say ‘no’

Be ruthless. Don’t say ‘yes’ immediately to requests for your time. Think about them and whether they really align with your goals. Practise saying the words, ‘no, thank you’. It’s easier to say something when you’ve rehearsed it. Always be polite when you decline an invitation and don’t feel like you are letting people down. You will need to be selfish sometimes to achieve great things.

Prioritise looking after yourself

When you use energy you need to gain some too. Rest and recovery is often not a high priority for people. There is a trend to keep going and being busy is seen as a badge of honour. To perform at a high level you need to look after yourself. Athletes know when to stop. They are well trained and well rested. Recovery includes sleep, diet, exercise and mindfulness. Along with a good evening routine it’s important to take regular breaks throughout the day and to eat foods that will nourish you rather than harm you. Use your breaks to quieten your mind. Put down your phone and let your mind be empty and free.

Getting to the finish line

Achieving your goals requires goal setting, a task management system, and ruthless protection of your time. It also requires self-discipline and a growth mind set i.e. a love of learning and resilience. Working out which tools and systems work for you is the first step. Maintaining them and developing them is the next. Taking this approach will get you to the finish line efficiently and healthily.

If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.

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