Sleep Diet and Exercise of Top Office Performers
By the time I went on my first professional work trip I was a little older than my peers. I had already been in the military for four years and lived through a war. I was quickly glad to see that work trips were no different as civilians with a heavy flow of booze. It was interesting to see that conferences were extension of college fraternity parties.
I continued to travel with work and to drink heavily. It was easy to justify it as an important networking time, right? Though the day after always consisted of struggling through hangovers during important meetings.
I’ve found that the work trip is where the important work happens. Giant steps as an organization are made. If it wasn’t important, you’d do over a phone call. Later in my career I must then ask, shouldn’t you be at the top of your game during work trips?
Life in the military and later at my first professional job, a lack of sleep wasn’t just a badge of honor, it was the ticket into acceptance. Multiple times I would hear that those that needed additional sleep were the weak ones. In the military I could operate consistently with only a few hours of sleep per night. I carried that into my post military career. I was always working with a sleep deficit. As it turns out, so is 70% of all of America.
Sleep gives your mind and body a chance to reset. An opportunity for your brain to derive insights and increase your ability to process information. Sleep provides you with a hormonal balance and even regulates your insulin. All the science points that the more rest you receive, the better off your mind and body will be.
While the right amount of sleep varies for everyone, the target is around seven to nine hours per night. The first thing to figure out is when does your mind prefer to work its hardest? Are you a morning person, a night owl, or someone in-between? Sleep scientist, Matthew Walker, believes that this timing is hard wired into us based on our evolutionary pattern of taking guard shifts throughout the night. The first key is to find your right time of when to be awake and when to go to sleep. Then developing a plan to not only follow that sleep schedule but to take a little extra time there.
I’m not a nutritionist, yet it is easy to see that different bodies need different types of fuel. Each body uses fuel differently leading to various body shapes and sizes. Some can engorge during meals and not gain weight while others can live on a restricted diet and still be unable to lose weight.
This focus isn’t on the vanity of appearance though, it is on what gets your body to operate well. Food is a source of fuel and of enjoyment. You individually know what you can eat to feel great afterwards. You also know when you eat to excess or what foods hinder you.
It is easy to say go light on the sweets and eat more vegetables. Or to fight the urge to eat fast food or processed snacks when stressed or short on time. However, this is a book on peak performance, identify the foods that help your brain and body fire on all cylinders. This is how you get out of a stressful situation, clear thinking, not becoming groggy from overindulging.
Throughout the numerous workshops I’ve participated in, the typical side benefits were coffee and doughnuts in the morning and a pasta lunch. These were monetary constraints for the food, an afterthought. Doughnuts and pasta are very cheap. They would also lead to sugar spikes and afternoon crashes. I then interviewed a facilitator that spent great effort and cost to put on events that provided vegetables and high protein meals. His focus was on energy management and getting a steady flow of interaction throughout the entire day.
My favorite vice drinking. The social lubricant. The barrier breaker. The peace offering. It can also mean the opposite of all those things depending on who is doing the drinking, but it isn’t marketed that way.
As much fun as drinking can be, it takes a toll on the body. It causes sleep issues. It slows your thinking and increases inflammation in your body. If we could write an entire book on the negative impacts to drinking alcohol, then why do we still drink?
We still drink in work settings because with regulation it is a form of bonding with your team. We just want to limit the effects it has after the event. The only advice I have for team events is focus on control. Don’t drink too much where you can’t drive if you are the driver. Keep from drinking too much that your sleep pattern will be thrown off for a few days. Don’t drink too much that your performance is impacted the next day. Simple in thought, hard in practice.
Unfortunately, we no longer have recess during the day. We miss the chance to get fresh air and our body moving to get our mind going. It is also a mental reprieve and chance to reset before tackling the rest of the day.
Even though we don’t get workday breaks, our bodies still crave activity. The better the body operates, typically the mind follows. Current studies by Christopher Moore are exploring how blood activity modulates how neurons process information. In layman’s terms, the increase in blood flow improves your thinking.
Look at exercise in two separate models. The first being the maintenance of your body. Put time aside each day on taking care of yourself. This could be walking or finding life hacks around the office to get mini workouts in to participating in triathlon. The second model is mixing in activity during your work to get the benefits of increased brain functions. For example, walking during conference calls or using the company gym when stuck on a problem.
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