Stephen Covey calls it “Sharpening the Saw”, in “The Corporate Athlete” Jack Groppel explains it through sports; Olympic Athletes spend 50-60% of their time training, the remaining time resting and only 5% at peak performance. Compare that to the corporate worker where they are expected to be at 95% peak performance and it’s a no-brainer. However we define “It”, we all need to re-dress the perform-train-rest balance. Most of us can’t hide away in a monastery or radically change our work lives at the drop of a hat, but we can add a few things in to our daily work patterns to make the whole experience more balanced. These three daily techniques will help you, step by step, to do that. They are short, practical and surprisingly powerful.
1) Make your feet and breath work for you.
When I was coaching in India last year the only time I could take a break from the windowless training room was in a windowless bathroom. In those minutes, I sat upright and planted my feet shoulder-width apart, facing forward, like they were on skis. Then I breathed in. As I breathed in through my nose, I imagined my breath shooting down to my feet, giving me a feeling of rootedness and stillness. As I breathed out, I breathed out the adrenalin. As I breathed in a second time, my body kicked into deep-rest mode. Just two minutes of rooted feet and breathing calmed me and prepared me for the next section of the day. If we can learn to plant our feet in the correct neutral posture anywhere we are – tube, lift, bathroom, boardroom – it will help us to sit up/stand up straight and breathe right. This allows us to re-connect with ourselves and find moments of rest every day.
2) Be kind to your voice – Drink hot water with a slice of lemon/mint tea instead of an extra cup of tea or coffee.
I was working from Second Home a couple of weeks ago. I was on meeting number five of the day and about to order another flat white when my friend suggested the mint tea. It totally revitalised me and rested my voice at the same time. It transformed how I felt about that meeting and increased the productivity for the rest of my day. The voice is one of the most powerful tools we have and if we over-use it, we will blunt it. An extra flat white, even de-caff, would have dried out my throat and made me work harder in that meeting; by drinking hot water at a point in the day where we feel we need a caffeine injection, it will keep our vocal folds from drying up and power-up our voice. It will bring energy and rest at the same time.
3)Hum where you can!
As part of my coaching, I use vocal warm-ups. The most embarrassing and therefore most fruitful (!) exercise is humming the voice. You can do this quietly, but you still have to make a noise. I find toilets, cars, escalators, pavements are great places to do this. Take a breath in through your nose, close your mouth and make a “Mmmm” sound, imagining that it is filling your face, making your nose and mouth tingle. This warms up the voice and means that when you speak you will be 30% more projected than you normally would. It means your first words will count and you will have to work less harder than previously. Psychologically it is training you in those brief moments in between meetings and resting you from the curse of the 95% peak performance.
These three techniques can be done at any time in the day with little change needed to your schedule. They provide pockets of rest and I use them with my clients all the time. They are tried and tested and they work!