How To Access Your Peak Performance And Not Burn Out

There is a feeling some people call “being overwhelmed.” It makes them unsure about where to start because there are a trillion things requiring their attention. Others call it “being off-balance.” Something feels just not right. And then there are those who keep repeating what nobody can hear anymore because everyone is feeling the same thing: “I am so stressed. I don’t even know where to start.”

Do You Know Your Priorities?

Whatever you call it, the feeling is prominent these days, and it is often a sign that you are not living by your priorities. Maybe you live on autopilot and take care ofwhatever others require you to do, what you are supposed to do, or what your family or boss requested that you do. Isn’t it time to get your balance back, to be your own master and complete those to-dos that bring you closer to your desired goals? To do this, it is critical that you define which priorities you have for your life, specifically right now, for this exact moment in your life.

Between Stimulus And Response, You Have The Freedom To Choose

Maybe you’ve heard of Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a Nazis concentration camp but survived and wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. It was during these agonizing days when Frankl became aware of what would later be quoted a million times: “Between stimulus and response, you have the freedom to choose.” Frankl realized that whatever happened to him (the stimulus), he himself (and nobody else) had the freedom to choose his response to the stimulus.

Saying No To Everything — Almost Everything

Transferring this idea to our daily struggle means that at any given moment, you have a chance to choose. Say yes or no; do or don’t; go left or right. Most importantly, once you have identified your vision and your key priorities in life, you should say no to everything that distracts you or takes away time from your priorities.

Assuming you have a clear vision of where you are going with your life, and you have defined your goals, then you can judge which activities help you go in the right direction. In assessing whether something presented to you is a priority and should get your time and attention, ask yourself only two simple questions:

1. Is this really my subject, my problem, or somebody else’s? This question should help you identify who has the ownership of this topic and if that subject is important for you or has an impact on your bigger goals.

2. Will there be consequences that affect my goals if I choose not to respond? This question should help you understand how to prioritize this task, as well as lead you to consider what action is required.

If one or both of these questions is answered with no, there is no required action from you, so either disregard the task/topic presented to you or put it on your “maybe of interest someday” list. Answering both of these questions with yes means that you need to deal with the subject, allowing for your time and attention. Finally, consider the three-minute-rule. If the required action derived from this request takes less than three minutes of your time, and you can do it right away — get it done. If the task needs more than three minutes, delegate it and make sure it shows up on your “waiting for” list.

You can also put a date on the task to indicate when you will schedule time in your calendar to work on it. I learned from true productivity masters to schedule meetings for less time than you might otherwise. For example, 15 minutes instead of the commonly used 30 minutes. Without question, this allows you to fit many more potential discussions or meetings into your calendar and helps participants focus on what really matters. Last but not least, you could place this task that takes more than three minutes on your “next action items” list. Maybe you structure this list by topic or project. This “next action items” list is your No. 1 go-to place when it comes to defining your day or your week.

This article was first published with Forbes®.com

Who Scores Highest In The Digital Game?

Despite all the technological innovations taking place, we need to keep in mind that there is a human factor that plays a vital role in the digital industry. We can automate processes, we can have robots as new team members, and we can work with smart, connected, shared devices that tell us what we want before we even know it. But there is no organization—to date or in the future—that can operate without any human beings at all.

The true success factor for companies in the twenty-first century will be human maturity at the right key positions of an organization.

So the questions of the day are—Who are the main actors in this disruptive digital game? What distinguishes these up-and-coming talents of generation Y from their parents and grandparents? The makeup of the global workforce is in the middle of a massive change, where today half of the employees in the world are considered millennials or generation Y—born between 1980 and 1997. Millennials are the children of generation X and the large group of baby boomers, the majority of whom is about to retire. This Y generation has been strongly influenced by the impact of the Internet on our daily activities: work and life are strongly interwoven, personal opinions are expressed directly and openly, and their new personal lifestyle shapes how entire societies think, act, and collaborate.

Understanding how these most important players of the future workforce tick and what makes them perform and live a purposeful life is essential for a successful digital revolution in any industry.

One could fill a bookshelf with articles and studies that have been published on this markedly different generation of millennials. Yes, there are differences that are worth remembering, and yes, there are still a lot of values, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and desires that remain the same as in previous generations. Being a millennial myself, I once was asked in a plenary discussion to introduce myself as “the typical gen Y / millennial.” Here is the transcript of my answer:

I (as a millennial) favor the entrepreneurial spirit, a high level of independence, and yes, I’m digitally savvy with strong objections to micromanagement. I love empowerment, I love challenge, and I love excitement, thus I have a more unorthodox approach to my career and my daily job performance that does not parallel traditional paths. I view traditional hierarchies and authorities skeptically, but I bring an impressive portfolio of academic credentials and skills to the workplace. What do I want in return for putting those skills into action? I aim for fast-track promotions, nice salary raises to fuel my nonprofessional areas of interest/hobbies, flexible work arrangements to combine professional and family life, and yes, there needs to be a reason, a bigger purpose, and, of course, fun in whatever I am supposed to be doing. I want meaningful work that adds value, and I appreciate constant feedback, flexibility and recognition. I am also very impatient, so don’t you dare promise a distant pay raise or promotion—this will not get my attention.

It is typical for us millennials to find different and rapidly changing workplaces over the course of our careers. What will remain constant from one job to the next, however, is that we have certain expectations of ourselves, our supervisors, and the organizations we work for. To start with ourselves first, generation Y wants to learn technical or core skills in their areas of expertise because they fully understand how necessary those skills are in a digital environment. We are also extremely interested in learning skills focused on self-management and personal productivity as well as leadership skills, which are needed to solve current management challenges. All this should come with some sprinkles of industry or functional know-how and should be presented in a creative, innovative form or environment.

Our expectations toward the company we work for include the development of skills needed for the future, paired with ongoing professional coaching as we have been used to since our childhood days: whether it was our parents, neighbors, family members, or friends, there was always a good “coach” ready for a good conversation geared toward finding the best solutions. We also want a company with strong values and individualized offerings and benefit packages: from B as benefits to S as salary and W as working time. Organizations ready to gain and retain Y talents have to allow for—but not require—blending work with private life, and a clear career path must be presented.

Last but not least, the question remains of what millennials expect from supervisors or “the boss”—a term Ys would never use because of their dislike of hierarchy.

The “boss” is supposed to help navigate the career journey and provide constant, timely, and thorough feedback. This person should not only help guide but also coach and mentor on an informal basis and act as a sponsor in formal development initiatives. And, by the way, he or she should not have an issue with flexible work arrangements.

In a nutshell one could say that millennials are not willing to trust “old-school” schemes and sources such as preachy old advisors or traditional career tracks.

Given that generation Y will make up more than 50 percent of the global workforce by 2020, any company succeeding in attracting and working with millennials sits on a gold mine for future business success. Gen Y’ers are ambitious for thriving careers and charged lives, thus they will see progress in their professional lives, will see income growth, and see an increased possibility to pay for premium services. So if an organization has not yet disappointed them and manages to be attractive to them as customers and employees, chances are high that these organizations are well prepared for future success.

This Internet-savvy generation Y, with its focus on speed, openness, transparency, and global reach, is contrary to current management representatives who value quality, safety, privacy, and personal relationships. This changed mind-set, paired with a changed approach and a changed set of values and beliefs, will allow for taking on new perspectives and even generating new job descriptions such as a “generation integrator” or “digital disruption specialist.” Whether an organization can then motivate all generations to join forces in creating innovative and successful solutions remains another differentiating yet critical factor for high performance of any business in the digital future.

A Digital Diet to Enhance Productivity

You read diet and you think of losing weight? How come? Well, simple answer because that’s what we normally want when we are interested in reading something about a diet, right? But what if I told you that the next sentences won’t be about reducing your calorie intake, lowering your blood sugar level, doing more exercise and taking the stairs instead of the elevator? What if there are simple steps you can implement in your daily life as of today that won’t hurt, won’t make you change long-existing habits immediately and that will still help you improve, feel happier and get closer to your desired professional performance?

It’s somehow ironical that we live in a world of plentifulness, yet we suffer disease and conditions that were unheard of in our grandparent’s teenage years. Despite all the lifestyle choices available, we have difficulty doing the simple, most powerful things first! Why simple? There must be a complicated solution for sure, after all, we live in a constantly changing, digital world where being overstrained is the norm! If you continue reading, be prepared that those ideas might sound too simple but take me at my word and implement them today….and let me know how much positive change you experienced!

The world’s best diet doesn’t cost you a penny!

This is the best diet you have ever taken! Whether your body mass index screams for a calorie reduction or is in brilliant shape, this diet is just perfect for you: for the next 3 weeks you will go on an information diet! Yes, an information diet! Avoid all the distraction and the time taken away by reducing all the unnecessary information you consume daily. So for the next 3 weeks, do not read any newspapers, do not listen to the radio, don’t touch any online news channel or news on TV, don’t touch your smartphone or computer for pure surfing online, no Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram or any other social media you frequently use! Don’t even watch TV! Give it a try and you will find out how much more time you will get back into your life that you can use for working on projects that bring you closer to your big life’s objectives by enhancing your productivity!

“25” is your new time slot.

Structure your work time and your productive time in blocks of 20-30 minutes. Those time-blocks you dedicate to one topic each and work without distraction on what needs to be done. A very powerful technique to structuring your work in time blocks is the Pomodoro® technique: you set a timer to 25 minutes where you spend your undivided attention on subject A, then have a five-minute break before you go into the next Pomodoro-session of 25 minutes. After four Pomodoros you deserve a bigger break of 15-20 minutes. It is all about working WITH your time, not AGAINST it. It helps avoid burnout and trains you to focus and get rid of distractions, subsequently helping you fight procrastination and foster happy, successful and productive days.

Just close your eyes and recharge.

Forget about all the myths regarding sleeping before midnight or those adults are fine with 6 hours of sleep only. Make sure you get 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night because a rested body is a baseline for performance. Without enough sleep, you can nurture yourself with all good ingredients but your internal system is simply not rested well enough to make use of all the good stuff you put in. Sleeping time is also renewal time for your body, needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. If it helps, get yourself a sleep app or some smart wearable device that measures your actual sleep time and then make it a priority to push this time in bed to 7+ hours.

I know this is not the typical dietary change or exercise recommendation that you would expect. The digital era is different, traditional answers won’t stick to currently burning questions and that is true for business as well as for private. We need to take care of ourselves again because digital transformation takes place at a fast speed and those who will master this – on an individual as well as organization level – are the ones who realize that innovative ideas don’t grow on trees but in the minds of healthy, high performing talents!