The Fab Five of Healthy High-Performance Teams: #3 - Dependability

The Fab Five of Healthy High-Performance Teams: #3 - Dependability

KEY POINTS:

1. Dependability is being able to rely on others to complete their tasks well.

2. A dependable team is highly productive. Promises are kept, people follow through, things get done, and trust is built.  

3. The first step is to switch from time management to priority management. If every team member understands the priorities of the project, they are going to stay on track, which means the whole team stays on track.

The third element of a healthy high-performance team is dependability. This is a pretty straight-forward concept: it means being able to rely on others to complete their tasks well. We all have a pretty good sense of what “dependable” means – with our bosses, co-workers, spouses, and even with elements of the world, like public transportation or a favourite coffee shop.

Dependability matters because it draws on and leads to so many other individual and team factors. For example, a dependable team member is building positive relationships as a by-product of being responsible and reliable. That person’s word is their bond, which boosts morale and confidence all around. And of course, a dependable person – and team – is highly productive. Promises are kept, people follow through, things get done.

Most important, dependability builds trust. People who can be depended on are people who can be trusted. Faith in each other and in the mission is strong.

During parts of our climb up Mount Chimbarazo in Ecuador, the whole group was roped together. There were times, especially at night, when we had to completely depend on one another. The image of climbers tied together is perfect for a dependable team. With such a strong sense of responsibility and connection, you’re not going to let anyone down. If you did, the team could fall off a cliff! In our case, it felt amazing to be tied to everyone else. It was empowering. It’s also empowering for other kinds of teams.

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How can you ensure that you and your teams are dependable?

My strong suggestion is that you pivot from time management to priority management. If your team works from a sense of priority, it is going to be highly reliable when it comes to reaching stages and benchmarks. If every team member understands the priorities of the project, they are going to stay on track, which means the whole team stays on track.

I shifted to priority management awhile ago in my life. Long story short: after I ended up in the cardiac ward of a hospital with a heart infection, I reset my priorities: health first, then family, then work.

At the outset of a project, align everyone’s priorities around what is mission-critical. Cut out anything that isn’t essential. As a result, you’ll see dependability rise. People naturally become more reliable when they are engaged in mission-critical activities rather than distracting minutiae.

When my health became mission-critical as my first priority, I was able to complete an Ironman a year after my heart infection knocked me out. Right now, my priority is building great relationships with my family. I spend time with my wife and kids from dinner through to bedtime. I do it every day. That mission-critical focus has made me highly dependable and has been great for the health and strength of my family. The same happens on work teams.

On your teams, spend time at the outset of a project and then periodically afterward asking, what is mission critical? What are the right priorities? You will find that the dependability of each member and the whole team skyrockets.

Today's POWER UP: Priority Management and the Mission Critical Question

The key to dependability is actually doing what you say you are going to do. In a team context it is having the confidence that people on your team will get their jobs done. Despite how obvious this sounds, it is not a given that people will be able to finish what they commit to. I believe that is the result of so many of us being inundated with urgent requests to do tasks that make us busy cause us to get side-tracked from doing our important work that will advance our work and / or our lives. There are 2 critical actions that can help you be dependable and to ensure that your teammates are dependable as well.

The first is to do priority management not time management. Most people manage their calendars and not their priorities. When you are clear on your priorities and then you assign time to get your most important things done each day (rather than the other way around) you set the stage for achievement and dependability.

The second way to improve dependability is to ask a very powerful question at the beginning of each day / meeting / block of work. The question is “Is this mission critical?” That simple question will give you and your teammates perspective that you need to make decisions about what you are actually going to do. 

Most of us have too much to do and not enough time. Therefore, we often cannot get everything done. This causes a lot of stress and anxiety, especially when your teammates are depending on you. Priority management and the mission critical question are two ways that you can ensure that you are getting your life most important work done despite the challenges and demands that you’re faced with on a daily basis.

The Fab Five of Healthy High-Performance Teams: #2 - Psychological Safety

The Fab Five of Healthy High-Performance Teams: #2 - Psychological Safety

KEY POINTS:

1. Psychological safety is when people feel that there are no negative consequences for risk-taking, such as being viewed as ignorant, incompetent, or disruptive. They also feel they will not be embarrassed or punished for making a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.

2. Here are two questions that help co-workers, students, or your family members feel that the environment is a psychologically safe place: What went well? Where do I need support?

When it comes to building healthy, high-performance teams, the Google study identified psychological safety as most important to team success.

If you’ve ever been in a perfectionist work environment or on a less than great team, you may have experienced things like this: people getting shot down for having wacky ideas, or being criticized for not having the right answer, or being afraid to speak up because someone might roll their eyes or snicker.

I would call that a psychologically unsafe situation! People feel under attack and protect themselves by clamming up or playing it safe. Kids do this in classrooms all the time – maybe you did too, when you were a student. No surprise that careful contributions – lacking in original insight or creative whimsy – lead to uninspired learning or weak solutions.

Let’s define psychological safety so you can start to integrate it into your teamwork:

·       A person’s perception that there are no negative consequences for risk-taking, such as being viewed as ignorant, incompetent or disruptive

·       Teammates feel they will not be embarrassed or punished for making a mistake, asking a question or offering a new idea

I think Saturday Night Live is a perfect example of psychological safety. Actors come together during the week to generate new ideas, and they pitch them constantly – basically, competing with one another to get their ideas on the air. Obviously, only a few get picked and make it to Saturday night. Once the final skits have been selected, the highly competitive atmosphere switches to a highly cooperative one. Everyone comes together to work on them. Both in the competition stage and in the cooperation stage, there is a high level of support. Just because you want your idea to win doesn’t mean you’re trashing everyone else. And if your idea doesn’t win, you join someone else’s to make it the best it can be.

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On any team, you want members to feel free to offer new ideas without penalty, to stick their neck out. That’s a vulnerable position. The creative flow will shut off if disapproval results. People protect themselves from harm, whether emotional or physical. It’s a survival instinct, and we need to have it for situations that really risky. A great team isn’t that situation.

Psychological safety is what got Melissa McCarthy to her Sean Spicer impersonation. It’s one of the best SNL characters ever. In order to be so creative, the support has to be greater than the risks.

This is true for the workplace, for schools, even for families. Co-workers, students, even your own teenagers need to feel that the environment is a psychologically safe place. Here are two questions that help make that happen: What went well? Where do I need support?

Those two positive questions can lead to amazing outcomes. Try it in a team meeting or at the end of every work week and see what happens when you go around a table and everyone asks and answers these questions. Or do it with your family or your spouse. What went well this week? Where do I need support?

When we talk about these things in a safe environment, everyone wins. And every team gets better.

Today's POWER UP: Daily Reflection

To ensure that you are creating an environment and culture where support is greater than risk there is an exercise that works wonders. 

Ask your teammates two questions at the end of each week that you are working together on a project. The first question is “What went well?” And the second is “ Where do you need support?”

I learned these questions from my friend and colleague Alex Charfen (you can check him out at www.charfen.com). 

Add these questions to your meetings and routines and you will create a powerful positive culture in your teams.

The Fab Five of Healthy High-Performance Teams: #1 - Clarity

The Fab Five of Healthy High-Performance Teams: #1 - Clarity

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KEY POINTS:

1. High-performance teams have clarity of vision and dream. A healthy high-performance team starts by asking, what’s the dream? What’s the vision?

2. Clarity involves three aspects: understanding job expectations, understanding how to fulfill those expectations, and understanding the consequences of job performance.

3. When team members can “see” what they need to do, how to do it, and be able to assess how well they’re doing it – that’s clarity.

Now that you know that each element of a healthy high-performance team is also a critical element in your (and my and everyone’s) overall mental health, let’s jump right into the first one: clarity.

Clarity basically involves three aspects: understanding job expectations, understanding how to fulfill those expectations, and understanding the consequences of job performance.

When you add it all up, high-performance teams have clarity of vision and dream. Those aspects above are the individual parts of that clarity.

Let me give you an example:

About 18 months ago, I was in a group of grad students, doctors and serious mountaineers who wanted to climb Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador. If you take into account the equatorial bulge, Chimborazo is actually two kilometers higher than Everest. We wanted to be closer to the stars than any other humans (those up on the International Space Station don’t count!).

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It’s a challenging climb: steep, dangerous in parts, and a very high altitude of over 6,000 metres at the peak. Plus, the climb begins at the memorial site of those who have failed. The psychology of starting from a graveyard is pretty bleak. Also, I developed some altitude sickness on the climb and experienced tunnel vision, dizziness and confusion. There were some tough times.

In the end, two of my grad students got onto the summit while we older people stopped just below, wanting to survive to return to our families!

We were all able to participate in that expedition because of our clear vision: we wanted to be the humans closest to the stars. We focused on that during extensive training and the climb. That clarity kept us focused. It got us up and it got us back.

Over time, exercising your clarity and focus appears to change a structure in the brain called the inferior frontal cortex, which is involved in decision making and the interpretation of information from the environment. It becomes strengthened when you focus repeatedly. The structure of your brain actually changes. And so, of course, does your ability to maintain focus.

Think of others with exceptional focus and vision, like Elon Musk. SpaceX is about making humanity a multi-planetary species. Tesla and SolarCity are about a carbon-free future. Those very clear visions drive those organizations forward rather than, for example, merely making a car. Or consider J.K. Rowling, a single mother living in poverty and struggling with depression. Her first Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by 12 publishing houses, one of whom suggested she get a day job since she had little chance of making a living with children’s books. But she had a clear vision and stayed faithful to it.

A healthy high-performance team starts by asking, what’s the dream? What’s the vision? When team members can “see” what they need to do, how to do it, and be able to assess how well they’re doing it – that’s clarity. That’s the vision and the dream.

Today's POWER-UP: Clarity of Vision 

The foundation of great team performance is for leaders (you can always lead without a title - anyone on a team can and should be a leader) to be absolutely clear about what their vision is for the project that the team is seeking to complete or achieve. The vision can be a dream if it is big picture or a goal if the task is more concrete and time-limited. The outcome of the project should be articulated and stated. The vision should be stated verbally and in writing at every opportunity. 

Some examples include:

1. When we were climbing Chimborazo volcano in Ecuador our objective was to become the humans who were the closest to the stars.

2. Elon Musk is creating a carbon-free future through his companies Tesla and Solar City.

3. A school in Baltimore changed their school culture by using meditation instead of detention.

So what is your vision for your key project for this year? Let’s get that written down and test it out by saying aloud in meetings and presentations and writing it in blog posts or other communications.

There Are Teams…. And Then There Are Healthy High-Performance Teams

There Are Teams…. And Then There Are Healthy High-Performance Teams

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. A less functional team might make you feel low, doubtful of your own ability, and emotionally damaged.  A really great team delivers a boost of energy and confidence that lasts beyond the time you spend together.

2. How a team functions is far more important than who is on a team.

3. In this module, we'll look at "the fab five" secrets of building a high-performance team - in your workplace or even at home with your family.

It’s common knowledge that productivity increases when people collaborate well. That goes for businesses, schools, universities, even social groups like book clubs. High-functioning teams are good for profitability, student achievement and even fun get-togethers.

But what makes a terrific team? Is it putting the greatest minds together? Socializing outside of work? Grouping people by experience? Having the same level of education? Having a strong leader?

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Good teams might have some or all of those things. But so do bad teams. When you take the time to review the research, none of those factors explain what makes a great team great. So that’s what I’m going to do in this series – offer some answers so you can build healthy, high-performance teams.

But first, let me ask you this: when you think back over some of the less functional, less productive  teams you’ve been on, what comes to mind? What was it like? How did it make you feel?

People report feeling pretty low, doubtful of their own ability, sometimes even emotionally damaged when they’ve been part of a low-functioning or failing team. On the other hand, a really great team delivers a boost of energy and confidence that lasts beyond the time you spend together.

Don’t confuse a bad team with a really tough situation or problem to solve. On one of the best teams I ever formed, we all experienced freezing conditions, physically gruelling 18-hour days and rough working conditions (as in, setting up an “office” on the side of a cliff using solar panels to run a satellite network). We were 12,000 feet up in the Andes Mountains. We were often cold, hungry, tired, sometimes even sick….and happy. And successful. The living was hard but the teamwork was fantastic. We were high when we got back from the expedition, not low.

We had quite a few things in common, including some fancy credentials and unusual expertise. But that wasn’t why we worked. It’s not enough to have “the best people” in order to have the best teams. There’s much more to it than that.

How much more? That’s what Google asked itself about five years ago when it embarked on Project Aristotle. Google studied hundreds of its own teams and discovered this: how a team functions is far more important than who is on a team. The team’s “communal health” matters the most. It’s not about how smart the members are – it’s about how they view their task and treat one another.

I’m going to share with you what that means. In the next five articles, I’ll draw on Project Aristotle and other research to help you build healthy, high-performance teams – in your workplace or even at home with your family.

I’ll be covering “the fab five” of healthy, high-performance teams: clarity, psychological safety, dependability, meaning and impact. And what’s really interesting is that all five areas are also critical for overall mental health. In other words, if you incorporate these five aspects into your teamwork, you’ll also be building your mental health (and that of your colleagues) for all parts of your life.

Work Cycle Your Way to Success

Work Cycle Your Way to Success

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Like elite athletes, too much work without sufficient rest leads to decreased energy, compromised health, and impaired performance (otherwise known as a "burnout"). 

2. “Work Cycling” is a structured approach to living and working that embeds sufficient recovery into your schedule.

3. If you give yourself enough rest in between hard working bouts, and if you take care of your physical and mental health through proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise, you can consistently perform at a higher level.

The prevailing mindset in high performance training in the 70s, 80s, and 90s was for athletes to do as much training as possible, as hard as possible, for as long as possible. The survivors would end up champions and everyone else was training fodder.

Where this approach failed was that it led athletes to consistently train at about 75-85% of their capacity. There is no way to hit 100% or real race-pace in practice if you are always pushing. You just can’t sustain or attain that level of performance. As a result, many athletes never truly prepared their bodies and minds for competition-level performance.

The overall effect of not getting enough rest and recovery is a slow downward trajectory of energy, performance and health. It can happen over a day, a week, a month, a year or a lifetime. In sports, it’s called “downward spiral over-training.” Outside sports, it is often called burnout. And it’s a huge issue.

Then, in the early 2000s, a new training philosophy emerged that was based on creating world-class performances as often as possible. The key focus was on training intensely (85-100% of capacity) followed by a period of training at 50-60% of capacity to ensure proper rest and recovery. The result has been better, faster performances and, interestingly, healthier and happier athletes.

When I was translating my experiences with Olympians into a model for succeeding in life, I developed something called “Work Cycling” – a structured approach to living and working that embeds sufficient recovery into your schedule.

Borrowed from the best thinking in high-performance athletic training, the premise of Work Cycling is that by laying out how you spend your time at work and being deliberate about taking breaks, you can consistently perform at a higher level.

Research shows that performance declines over time as tasks, meetings, reports, exams or workouts drain your resources and tax your system. In particular, it’s important to have enough time between bouts of stress to bounce back. For example, your performance will suffer if you don’t have time to eat well, take mental breaks and get enough sleep so you can regenerate and integrate what you have learned.

Techniques like Work Cycling and single tasking are designed to ensure that you optimize your performance. Go hard – at peak capacity – when you need to and take it easy when you can. And always make sure you mix it up. That’s the key to a consistent world-class performance.

Make the decision that taking care of yourself is an essential part of fulfilling your various responsibilities and you will never look back. It’s how every high-performing person I know attacks their life. And once you try it, you will see why it is so effective.  

Recovery is an integral part of a high-performance life. Take it seriously and you will be on your way to your dreams. Taking time to rejuvenate isn’t about slacking off from your goals. It’s about doing what is needed to achieve them.

Today's POWER-UP: Try these Work Cycling techniques to optimize your performance.

Move regularly: Your brain uses glucose for fuel but it has very little stored energy to call on, so you have to make sure that you are creating sufficient blood flow for a steady stream of energy to the areas of your brain that do the thinking. How? Get up and move at regular intervals. I recommend 15 minutes of walking or stretching three times a day and 20 seconds of stretching for every 20 minutes of sitting.

Chunk your day: I try to set up my day like this: a 90-minute block of intense work followed by 15 minutes of movement and a 15-minute break to re-energize and eat something healthy. Repeat. This gives me 4 or 5 blocks of great work over 8-10 hours. I finish the day with enough energy to go home and play with my kids for a while before we settle down for the night, and I haven’t been grinding through a sugar and caffeine haze that has left me tired and unproductive.

The 1:3:2 Rule: To ensure proper recovery and regeneration, disconnect from your life – including unplugging from all forms of technology – for an hour a day, three days each month, and two complete weeks each year. Do things that make you happy and give you energy like yoga, exercise or time with your family – entirely without screens. Take a monthly weekend ‘retreat’ from email, work, and chores. Set up a yearly vacation of two consecutive weeks doing whatever version of ‘nothing’ fills you up. 

Are You Single Tasking Yet?

Are You Single Tasking Yet?

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. We need to change the mentality that multitasking is effective and efficient, and switch to single tasking.

2. Single tasking is starting with the most important task (remember priority management) and working on it exclusively until it is either complete or you are out of time. Then move on to the next task.

3. By managing how you spend your mental energy, you're setting yourself up for success.

What are you doing while you read this? Do you have your mobile phone, a desk phone, a tablet and a laptop all on the go at once? Probably. We all tend to. After all, multitasking is the sign of a highly effective and efficient mind – right?

Wrong. And it’s time for a reminder about a topic we covered earlier in the program: single tasking.

Doing several things at once might make it seem like you are working hard but it’s actually an illusion. Your body and mind are not designed to work that way. Switching from task to task reduces your proficiency. Why? Because of how blood flows in our brains.

It’s like a firefighter trying to put out multiple fires at once by spraying water from a hose quickly across several burning houses rather than extinguishing one blaze and then moving on to the next.

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New research from the UK shows that when workers are distracted by phone calls, emails and text messages, they suffer a greater loss of IQ than a person smoking marijuana! Dr. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King’s College, London University, conducted 80 clinical trials where he monitored the IQ of workers throughout the day. He found that multi-tasking could decrease IQ by an average of 10 points (15 for men and five for women – and, yes, that is evidence that women rule the world!). This is the equivalent to missing a whole night’s sleep!

The concept behind single tasking is that you start with the most important – not urgent – task and work on it exclusively until it is either complete or you are out of time. Then you move on to whatever is next. By managing how you spend your mental energy, you ensure that you excel at whatever you do. I recommend avoiding email first thing in the morning so that you don’t get derailed by something urgent but not important. I also suggest checking messages at two or three specific times of the day and doing nothing but messages for that period of time. 

The myth of multitasking is deeply embedded in our mindset, so you might find it hard to change the way you work. But if you do, you will be putting the science to work.

Today's POWER-UP: Set aside time to single task

Set aside a 90 minute block of time each day when you have time to completely focus and really drill down into a task that you have to accomplish – writing a report, analyzing some data, preparing a speech, or whatever is the highest priority on your list.

During that time, turn off your phone or put it on silent and disconnect from the Internet. Be completely focused on that one task with no distractions. Build this into your schedule and add it to your calendar so you can defend this critical time for your highest priorities.

The Myth of Multitasking

The Myth of Multitasking

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Multitasking is common practice in today's world, however it goes against how our brains work. 

2. When we think, problem solve, or create memories, the brain needs oxygen and nutrients to work. This “fuel” is provided by blood flow to whatever part of the brain is working on the specific task. 

3. If we try to multitask, we end up shifting the blood flow between locations and never giving the brain what it needs to get a single job done properly.

4. Make it a daily routine to carve out an hour each day to focus completely on your most important work.

As we discussed in the Mindfulness module, we live in the age of distraction. The problem is that distraction and multitasking go against how our brains work. 

A functional magnetic resonance imaging scan of the human brain. We can't activate all our brain at once, and the more effectively we can focus our attention, the more efficiently and powerfully our brains can work.

A functional magnetic resonance imaging scan of the human brain. We can't activate all our brain at once, and the more effectively we can focus our attention, the more efficiently and powerfully our brains can work.

Here’s why you can no more multitask than fly to the moon:

The nerves that make up the brain have very little stored energy. When we think, problem solve or create memories, the brain needs oxygen, glucose and nutrients to work. This “fuel” is provided by blood flow to whatever part of the brain is working on the specific task. But blood flow to the brain is limited and can only be delivered to a few small areas at once. If we activate different parts of our brain by trying to multitask, we end up shifting the blood flow between locations and never giving the brain what it needs to get a single job done properly.

Yet people try to multitask all time. And when I ask people to carve out an hour each day to focus completely on their most important work, they look back with panicked stares. But world-class performers in all disciplines make this a key part of their daily routines. And that’s how they stay in their Zones.

As mentioned earlier in the Program, leadership guru Robin Sharma recommends the 90/90 formula. For 90 days, spend 90 minutes on your passion project. If you do that I promise that you will see a massive change for the better in your life.

Today's POWER-UP: Read up on the daily routines of geniuses

Here are 3 amazing articles for you that dive deeper into the routines of geniuses and how to start your day for success:

Daily Routines of Geniuses

How to Spend the First 10 Minutes of Your Day

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Use Your Circadian Rhythms To Build Your Ultimate Day

Use Your Circadian Rhythms To Build Your Ultimate Day

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. We naturally have a circadian rhythm, an internal biological clock that regulates sleep, eating patterns, mood, hormone regulation, and everything your body does during the day.

2. Because of this internal clock, there are times when we feel more awake, have a spike in energy, or are able to concentrate better. Alternatively, there are times when we feel more sleepy or lethargic. 

3. Think about how you feel at different points in the day and then align your schedule to take advantage of the peak times. For example, maybe you get your most creative work done early in the morning. Or maybe you prefer to exercise in the morning because that's when you have the most energy.

4. Take advantage of your circadian rhythm to optimize your health and performance, and build your ultimate day.

Humans are innately aware of the rhythms of the day, month and year. We are awake during the day and asleep at night. We experience times when we’re more or less alert, hungry, energetic or fatigued. Often, these feelings are influenced by our circadian rhythms – the natural changes in our body’s internal chemistry. Once aware of these natural rhythms, we can take advantage of them to improve health and performance.

Our circadian rhythms are controlled by a structure in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is located in the hypothalamus. The SCN is the pacemaker, and it is so powerful that it can control your behaviour and even your genes. For example, it controls the release of melatonin (the hormone that regulates your wakefulness and sleep) and also cortisol (the primary stress hormone).

If you pay attention to your own bodily rhythms for a while, you can start to plan based on them. Ask questions like this: When are you at your best mentally? When do you have trouble concentrating? When do you feel most energetic or lethargic? When are you most likely to want to do some exercise? Then make a plan for your living and working that takes those patterns into account.

Also, keep in mind that your body loves consistency. Back in the sleep module, we learned that going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day is good for your brain, body and emotional state. Consistent times allow your hormones and other chemical-producing organs to get into a groove. If you change that pattern, it takes time for your body to adapt. That’s what happens when you fly across time zones and get jet lagged. Changing your sleep-and-wake pattern changes your body’s circadian rhythms and gives you micro jet lags every day. You feel awful and your performance drops.

So I’d like you to defend the last hour of your day so that you can fall asleep quickly and deeply. Set up a routine that allows you to decompress and relax. Many of my clients who have trouble staying asleep are the ones who work late in the evening right before they collapse into bed. You can avoid this by finding a calming activity you love and doing it before bed.

At the other end of the day, think about when you get up and what you do first thing. Leadership Guru Robin Sharma swears by “The 5 a.m. Club.” Waking up early lets you get a head start on the day. You won’t be bothered by emails or messages. The world is quiet. There’s less traffic if you’re going to the gym. You can run on empty roads. You can read a book in peace. You can meditate or do yoga. But most of all, you can get to the important things you need to do for you. And nothing will get in your way.

Also try to program your day so that you are doing your most important tasks at the time of day when you naturally have the most energy. I workout first thing in the morning on waking. Then I do Power Work for 4.5 hours (3 x 90 min). That's my best time of day. I put less important tasks like admin, checking email into my afternoon when I have less energy.

Today's POWER-UP: Use your circadian rhythms

Think about how you feel at different points in the day and then align your work tasks and schedule to take advantage of the peak times. Also control the beginning and end of each day to keep your high-performance rhythms consistent.

To help you figure this out, you can complete section 4 and 5 of your Priority Management Workbook

Dive Deeper: Your Brain's Ideal Schedule

Check out this article in Harvard Business Review by Ron Friedman, Ph.D., author of The Best Place to Work, on how to structure your day to get the most done.

The Awesome Day

The Awesome Day

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Switching to priority management isn't hard, but it takes discipline to execute. 

2. The first step is to make a list of your priorities. By figuring out what's important versus what's urgent, you can figure out how to pursue and complete your dreams. 

After 7.5 hours of sleep, a woman wakes five minutes before her 5:30 a.m. alarm. She takes a few deep breaths, stretches, sits up in bed and says an affirmation: “This is going to be a great day!”

She heads down to the living room for 15 minutes of power yoga. Body active and mind calm, she then makes a morning smoothie of almond milk, berries, vegetarian protein powder and coconut, with extra to take in a thermos. She drinks some hot water and lemon and fills a second thermos.

After showering and dressing, she and her husband put together healthy lunches for herself and the family with organic tofu and tempeh, loads of vegetables, and nuts and berries for snacks. She kisses her family goodbye and heads to work at 7:15 am.

In the car on the way to work, she listens to a podcast from one of her favorite thought leaders. She drinks her water and lemon to rehydrate after her morning yoga workout.

At her desk by 8 a.m., she replenishes her nutrients by sipping on the rest of her smoothie as she prepares for the most important task she has to do today – her presentation. She is clear headed and notices how tired and frazzled everyone looks as they race into the office.

Having worked for 90 minutes on her most important task and feeling well prepared for this presentation, she takes 20 minutes to clear her email inbox. She then plans the afternoon to make sure it is organized based on priority of tasks.

At 10:30 a.m., she goes for a brisk 15-minute walk, drinks the rest of her water and picks up an espresso. She reviews her presentation as she sips her caffeine shot and then delivers it with energy and confidence.

Before heading out to lunch, she eats the berries and nuts she brought with her. At lunch, she drinks water, skips the bread, and enjoys a large mixed vegetable salad with a double order of organic salmon. She finishes with a green tea.

After lunch, she goes for a quick 10-minute walk and then takes the stairs to her office. Brain supercharged on neurotransmitters generated by the protein she ate at lunch and the quick bout of exercise, she attacks her prioritized task list before heading home.

In the car, she listens to a great concert and takes a few deep breaths to let the day go. At home, she engages with her kids and husband. After dinner, homework and getting the kids to bed, she and her husband read for a bit before turning off the light at 10 p.m. They quickly fall deeply asleep.

Does this sound like a different approach to work? It’s not hard, but it takes discipline to execute. She has energy. She’s getting healthier every day. Yesterday’s exhausted guy thinks he’s working super hard when in fact he’s spinning his wheels. He’ll be the one draining the company benefits plan with medical problems. He’ll be the one whose kids one day wonder where their dad was as they were growing up. You don’t have to live like that.

We need to work and live differently. I want to help you create a high performance, health improving, energy creating, and happiness enhancing day. Remember the 1% gains principle. Try to be 1% better each day. In three months, you’ll be 100% better and in a year you’ll be 365% better!

Today's POWER-UP: You can design your day

We’re working on what’s important versus what’s urgent, so we can figure out how to pursue and complete our dreams. Sorting priorities is a huge part of what’s needed to get there.

In your workbook, complete Steps #2 and #3. Completing this work will help you to see what’s most important to you and how you see yourself in those roles.

Enjoy yourself as you complete the steps! Think about who you are now and what you want to change. Appreciate all that you do, and reflect on where you are headed.

Remember to be clear about your priorities so you can act on them.

Welcome to Priority Management!

Welcome to Priority Management!

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KEY POINTS:

1. In today's society, we think we need to work harder, put in more hours, and get less sleep to be successful. However, this is leading to us to become sick, die from lifestyle-related diseases, and be unhappy. 

2. The key is to switch from doing time management to priority management. Instead of focusing on urgent activities that are usually associated with achieving someone else's goals (such as responding to emails), we need to focus on activities that are important to us and lead us to achieving our goals (such as setting aside time every day to be creative). 

A young man is woken by his alarm at 7:00 a.m. Dazed, he crawls out of bed and stumbles to the bathroom. A shower and shave later, he goes downstairs to the kitchen and preps his breakfast of cereal, juice and coffee. Fired up on simple carbs and caffeine, he heads off to work.

Before arriving at the office, he stops to pick up another coffee and a muffin to eat at his desk. Once there, he checks his email and sees a barrage of requests. It’s 9 a.m. and he has a critical presentation to deliver at 11 a.m. His heart rate is up and his cortisol is flowing as he attacks his emails to clear the backlog. At 10:30 a.m., he finally gets to preparing his presentation for a few minutes before racing out to deliver it.

Afterwards, he heads out to lunch and has some bread before the main course of pasta with chicken in a cream sauce, then finishes with a cappuccino. The whole time, he checks his mobile device every five minutes for messages.

Fuelled by caffeine, he manages to hammer through the next three hours. Because his brain can’t focus deeply, he works through a torrent of minor issues. He’s busy but isn’t able to work creatively on the important new initiative his boss asked him to prep.

Once home, his kids are super excited to see him but all he wants is to sit on the couch and watch some TV, which he does while eating dinner in silence next to his wife. Hours later, he collapses in bed, exhausted and spent, but can’t fall asleep. He’s already thinking about how much work he has to do tomorrow.

Does that sound completely screwed up? Or like a typical day? The stats say that this is how most people live. As Tony Schwartz from The Energy Project puts it, “The way we’re working isn’t working.”

We think we need to work harder and put in more hours. We think that the answer to the insanely competitive marketplace is to go longer. We take pride in how little we’re sleeping. And we’re all getting sick. We’re unhappy. We’re dying. It does not have to be this way. We can perform better.

The key is to stop doing time management.

Tomorrow, let’s try another approach to this day. Welcome to Priority Management.

Today's POWER-UP: Remember that more isn’t better – better is better.

Achieving your dreams means knowing the difference between “important” and “urgent,” because that allows you to set the right priorities and allocate your time and resources well.

Here’s the difference:

•    Important activities have an outcome that leads to us achieving our goals, whether these are professional or personal.

•    Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are usually associated with achieving someone else's goals. They are often the ones we concentrate on and they demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.

Right now, our focus is on priority management, so you can be clear about what really matters to you and what to do about it. Here’s today’s task:

1) You have a workbook attached to this note. You can download and print it. 

2) Complete Step #1 in the workbook. You’ll see the instructions on it.

The idea for today is to see your life laid out and reflect on what you see.

Tomorrow, we’ll keep building the momentum to understand and plan for your priorities.