4 Ways Leaders Can Boost Their Productivity and Performance the Way Professional Athletes Do

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‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ used to be a popular joke among entrepreneurs. No one’s laughing anymore.

March 22, 2019 8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I am deeply passionate about peak performance and constantly searching for ways to completely transform my performance levels and productivity on a daily basis. As a former professional athlete, I made this my daily life. Every day, I would work out, eat right, prioritize my recovery and seek out the best trainers and doctors in the world to help me tweak my performance, even if that meant just a small increase.

Related: Meet the Man Taking Anytime Fitness Global

As I say all the time, I think that one of my biggest competitive advantages when it comes to growing my business is how I take care of my health and being the best I possibly can be.

That belief system contrasts sharply with the traditional view. In fact, for the longest time, the emphasis in the business world has been on leaders sacrificing their health and getting ahead in their line of work. I will sleep when I am dead” was a popular motto among business leaders for years.

Fortunately, the shift in recent years toward health and fitness and the recognition of how that directly impacts performance in the business world has fomented positive change, but a lot of leaders still underestimate how health and fitness can be their greatest asset for growing a business, leading it through challenges more effectively and living a more fulfilled life.

I recently had the privilege of talking with the CEO of Upgrade Labs, Martin Tobias. Tobias is a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Upgrade Labs is the world’s first human upgrade center for the mind and body. Its proprietary protocols utilize the latest science-backed technologies in physiology and neurobiology to deliver superior quantifiable recovery and performance results in less time.

The two of us discussed the importance of health and fitness for anyone who’s an entrepreneur and business leader. Here are four ways Tobias outlined that leaders can use to transform their productivity and performance like a professional athlete. 

1. Have a cognitive reset program.

When I asked Tobias how busy leaders and entrepreneurs can increase their performance, he responded with no hesitation. “Most CEOs are overly stressed and don’t even think twice about having a game plan as to how they are going to defeat that stress,” he said. “You need to have a cognitive reset program, a way to help yourself be in the present moment and take control of your thoughts.”

A cognitive reset program is so crucial to Tobias that he won’t even personally invest in a company whose CEO doesn’t meditate. Such a program can include a daily meditation practice, time spent in nature, or the simple act of unplugging from one’s electronic devices for a select period of time. In my own life, having a cognitive reset program has been a game-changer.

I know, for instance, that I can alter my state and improve cognitive function in an instant by urning on The Calm app on my phone and going through a guided meditation. I come back more refreshed with a different perspective. 

In this context, Tobias advised that, “A great place to start is with the app Headspace. Whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour a day, having a cognitive reset program will increase not only your performance, but also your resiliency.” 

2. Track your performance and collect data.

One of the biggest mistakespeople make for sticking to a health regimen and seeing the results they are looking for is failing to collect data on their performance.

Related: How Augmented Reality Can Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals

“You have to know if your biology is fragile; that’s one of the first things that needs to happen because that will determine the course of action you need to take from there,” Tobias said. Consider Upgrade Labs; it’s got a full blood panel and mitochondrial function test that can pinpoint certain areas of weakness for clients, so the program that they create is completely customized.

Regardless of where you get your tests done, ask your doctor to prescribe a full blood panel test. It might also make sense to visit a functional medicine doctor who can dive a little deeper. The Institute of Functional Medicine has a list of functional medicine practitioners you can search for in your city.

My own workouts, business and overall performance drastically improved when I started to collect data on my biology and track my performance moving forward. I discovered things about my body I had no idea about before getting the tests done. The data you collect could potentially save your life by helping you become intentional about getting the proper tests done and seeing what’s not functioning properly.

Then there are the products, like Fitbit and Apple Watch  that can help you collect data and track your performance. When you take the time to do that, that’s when you can really start to improve it.

3. Become obsessed with sleep.

Valuing sleep used to be very hard fbecause I thought that I could catch up on sleep once I got to a certain level of achievement or hit a new goal. And, as an entrepreneur and business leader, it was easy to make sleep a non-priority. This old way of thinking is flat out wrong and will hurt you in the long run.

When I asked Tobias about this, he said, “The ‘sleep when I’m dead’ concept is way out of touch. You can’t change the world or grow your organization to the level you desire if you drop dead because you didn’t sleep.” When you have an enormous vision that you are working toward, it can be difficult to get the rest that you need because you believe there is more for you to be doing the second you lie down. I know that was the case for me.

Things didn’t change until I changed my entire perspective about sleep. I began to view it as a tool that would maximize my day and help me become the best version of myself. Consider the mindset that some of the world’s best athletes use when it comes to sleep. Here is LeBron James talking about it’s important as well as his biggest recovery tool.

So make a sleep for your own life: I go to to bed and wake up at the same time each day. I stay off social media and don’t check email for 30 minutes before sleep. Do as I do: Become obsessed with sleep and watch your productivity and overall health skyrocket.

4. Make fitness a priority.  

Making fitness a priority in my life has been part of the foundation for growing my business at rapid levels and do my job to the best of my ability.

As a keynote speaker constantly on the road, I find my days are never the same. Twelve years ago, I learned the importance of putting my workout on my calendar before anything business-related. Now, the night before, I sit down and prioritize when my workout will be completed the following day and lock it in as non-negotiable.

This simple habit has transformed my energy and impact when I am on stage speaking. It has helped me get the most out of each and every day, regardless of where I am in the world. 

The most important thing is to make fitness a priority. So many entrepreneurs and leaders in the business world think that they can get to their workout at the end of the day only if finish everything else on their plate. As Tobias told me, “Work doesn’t come before fitness. It’s the other way around.

“It’s not an extra thing you have to do throughout the day,” he added. “It’s something that makes you more effective and increases your ability to get more done.” Certainly, you don’t have to train like a professional athlete, but you should make your workouts and fitness a priority the way professional athletes do. I tell people all the time that working out and making it a priority is one of the biggest productivity hacks in the world.

Related: The Fitness Industry Boom May Not be Making us Fitter

So, think about this: Instead of waiting until an unfortunate circumstance occurs that makes you realize how important health and fitness truly is, take action now. Check out the 6th Annual Biohacking Conference coming in April. Or just get out of the office and go for a run.

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