Avocados & Cold Showers: Some Lessons In Performance

It’s been a busy year. Time has flown by and very soon the team and I will be shutting up shop and taking some time off to recharge the batteries over Christmas. With 2019 just around the corner I’ve repeated the process I have been following for the last couple of years and have taken some time out to reflect on what I’ve learned over the last twelve months. What follows is not a list of achievements but a list of lessons. I think it’s essential to celebrate wins so I’ll be undertaking a separate review internally to document our successes but as someone that champions individual and organisational growth I think it’s most important to take stock of what you’ve learned . Which habits have had the biggest impact on your performance and what do you need to continue to work on going forward? 

The list below is what has worked for me. It’s by no means an instruction manual for success and some of the things on it may seem extreme. The important thing is to find what works for you. So, my hope in sharing this is that it may provoke you to experiment with some new ideas in the year to come. After all, if you always do what you always did you’ll always get what you’ve always got! 

  1. Cold Starts - I begin my day with a cold shower. Every day. No matter what. I start hot, then turn the dial to cold. Ice cold. not lukewarm. 1-2 minutes. I love it and I hate it! The health benefits are numerous and from a mind set perspective it means I’ve already achieved something before I eat breakfast (especially as most mornings I don’t really want to do it!).

  2. Sleeping In - I’m a night owl. I desperately wanted to be part of the 5am club. One of those amazing people who’ve been to the gym and written 3 blog posts before the sun has risen. This year I’ve come to terms with the fact that that will never be me. I’ve taken the test and I’m not an early bird, so I’ve embraced it. I enjoy my sleep and I’m good at woking late. I’ve found my rhythm and I’ve removed the guilt.

  3. Weekly Accountability - At the beginning of each week I set my self some targets and at the end of each week I review them. I’ve become a lot more realistic about how much I can fit in and I’ve also become a lot more focused as a result. I’ve been working with the very witty Matthew Kimberly to keep me accountable. His Single Malt Mastermind is brilliantly simple and extremely effective. 

  4. Late Breakfasts - If I’m not in the training room or giving a speech I don’t eat breakfast before 09:00 which normally means I’ve had at least 12 hours of fasting. I’ve also swapped out the cereal and the toast for eggs or something high in protein. It’s changed my metabolism and has got rid of my mid morning hunger pangs. 

  5. Eating Fat, Getting Thin - I’m in my best physical shape of the last 10 years. I’m not on a diet and I only exercise once a week. The book Eat Fat Get Thin has changed my whole approach to food. If you want more energy and don’t want to ever have to count another calorie I highly recommend it. 

  6. Listening More - Audible is one of my new best friends. I travel a lot and it’s far too easy to while away the hours on face book or reading the news on loop. I love listening and learning whilst I’m on the move. Non fiction if I want some stimulation. Fiction if I want to relax. 

  7. Growing Our Own - We’ve turned our garden into a veg path. If I’m working from home I try to spend a couple of minutes out there each day. It’s very relaxing and completely different from my day job. I have a salad most days for lunch and I’ve found huge pleasure in stopping work and going out into the garden to pick what I’m about to eat. It’s made me much more present and helped me to take a proper break. I’m more productive in the afternoon as a result.

  8. Staying On The Wagon - I’m having a year off booze. I’m four months in and it’s been much easer than I imagined. Social occasions have been very easy and I can’t say I miss having a hangover. What I’ve enjoyed most about not drinking is an increase in my energy levels and an improved quality of sleep 

  9. Standing Up - We got standing desks in our office this year and I love them. I sometimes sit down mid afternoon but I spend most of my day standing and I’m much more focused and productive as a result. 

  10. Planning Downtime First - In 2018 we put all of our holidays in the diary by the middle of January. 90% of 2019 is planned already. Not just the summer break but all the little staycations too. It gives me something to look forward to and protects some time off in my busy schedule. In years gone by time off has been a nice to have. In reality it’s essential to high performance. 

In the spirit of full disclosure I’ve also listed a few things I’m still working on. Things that I’ve tried and have had some success with and that I want to integrate fully into my life next year.

  1. Detoxing Digitally - I had some success with my digital detox plans this year (How To Break Up With You Phone is a brilliant book) but my phone checking habit has crept back in a little. I want to be much more rigorous next year about how much time I spend “connected” and find a better balance.

  2. Saying No - I like to be liked and I’ve said yes to a few things this year that I shouldn’t have. Time is my only finite resource so next year I’m determined to maintain my focus and say no to things that don’t fit in with my plans. 

  3. Stretching Often - I’m getting older and I’m definitely getting tighter. My wife was a professional dancer and is now a bit of a yoga bunny. Whenever I do make time for a stretch I feel brilliant but it hasn’t become part of my routine. We’ve booked a yoga retreat for next summer though so I better get practicing! 

  4. Blocking Time - I get easily distracted. I’m a bit like a magpie. If I see something shiny I have to play with it. The Pomodoro Technique also known as time blocking has been really useful for keeping me on track and focused on the task at hand. I plan to use it more religiously in 2019. 

So that’s my year of learning. I hope it has spiked you curiosity and tempted you to try something new. I’d love to hear what tools and techniques you use that make a difference to your performance. Please share them with me and I’ll add them to my list of experiments for 2019!

Happy Holidays