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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Secret to Increasing Personal Capacity

Most of us when we get loaded down with work or start coming up against a deadline typically hunker down and work non-stop, until we get the work accomplished. And like myself, I imagine many of you find that the tasks took longer than you thought and you feel completely drained at the end of the accomplishment. If we would all just listen to our bodies own natural regulatory signals, we would be better off.

When you need a break, your body sends you clear signals, including fidgetiness, hunger, drowsiness and loss of focus. But if you’re like most people, you override them. Instead, most of us find artificial ways to pump up our energy: caffeine, foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates, and your body’s own stress hormones - adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol.

Relying on these hormones for energy prompts the state we all know as “fight or flight.” It’s great for escaping danger, and terrible for long term performance. In fight or flight, people become less capable of thinking clearly and reflectively, more emotionally volatile, and burn down their energy at a rapid rate.

The Value of Working in Sprints

The counterintuitive secret to great, sustainable performance is to work like a sprinter. What I mean by that is, working with high intensity, uninterrupted focus, for periods no longer than 90 minutes, and then taking a break to renew and refuel.

It can be a challenge if not impossible for most people in most companies to work in a series of uninterrupted sprints, so let me challenge you instead to try a smaller experiment.

For the next week, take on your most challenging task first thing in the morning, for 60 to 90 minutes, uninterrupted. Then take a break. You'll be amazed at how much your capacity to get things does increases and feel better at the end of the day as well..

Do you have any tips for increasing your capacity without increasing your time at work?

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