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The basics for peak performance – sleep, diet, and exercise

This morning I read a fantastic article by Professor Baba Shiv, award winning teacher and Stanford Graduate School of Business professor, about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, eating a well balanced diet, and regularly exercising, in order for our bodies (and minds) to operate at optimum levels.

One could argue these fundamental factors for success are simply common sense.  After all, everyone knows how and why we need to get enough sleep, eat good food, and exercise daily, right?

This maybe true, however for most of us, achieving just one of these principles (let alone all three) can be a challenge.

The same could be said for so many seemingly obvious things in life.  Just because we know something is good for us, it doesn’t necessarily mean we do it.

However, as leaders these basic principles are essential to not only remember, but to practice, model and encourage, if we wish to not only reach our own full potential, but to build organisations which encourage people to reach and maintain their full potential as well.

So, how do we follow the basic principles for peak performance?

1.  Get a good night’s sleep.

The basics for peak performance - The Leader's Digest

For our creativity to flourish we need the right neuro-chemical combination to be present, which means high levels of both serotonin and dopamine, and the best way to achieve this winning cocktail is getting a good night’s sleep.

Take a hot shower or bath, and allow your body time to wind down in the evenings.  This does not include drinking alcohol, in fact, studies have shown if you’re partial to a nice glass of merlot before bed it could be seriously impairing your ability to achieve quality sleep.

Ensure all lights, including screens (yes that means the i-pad too), are switched off, and eat only a light meal in the evening, as digesting a big meal at night can be stressful for the body to deal with, thus affecting sleep patterns.

2.  Eat a well balanced diet.

Dr Baba Shiv also talks about how diet can affect our neuro-moderators, and the best brain food is a high-protein breakfast – a high-carbohydrate breakfast won’t have the same effect.

Swap your morning toast or bagel for an omelette, protein shake or unsweetened plain yoghurt, with LSA and fresh fruit.  If you’re in a rush, a protein bar works a treat.  With a healthy dose of morning protein your brain be more well equipped for the barrage of morning meetings – and you will most likely feel a whole lot calmer and happier right throughout the day as well.

3.  Exercise daily

The neurotransmitter serotonin is known as the happy hormone, because of the effect it has on our moods and sense of well-being.

Exercise helps to produce serotonin, so if you are not a morning person, try and work it into your daily routine.

Work exercise into your day - The Leader's Digest

Dr Shiv talks about how Steve Jobs used to hold ‘walking meetings’, which is something Mark Zuckerberg also follows.

Other ways to build in incremental exercise are to take the stairs instead of the lift, parking in the non-metered zone – which is just outside the CBD (and better on the wallet too); and joining a nearby gym for a quick lunchtime workout.  Thirty minutes for most people is achievable during the lunch hour, and if it’s  blocked out in your diary, the commitment is already made.

What are your tips on achieving the basic principles for peak performance? 

Do you believe it is your responsibility as a leader to be encouraging better sleep patterns, nutrition, and exercise habits – or is it none of our business?

Click here to read Professor Shiv’s article ‘The Rx for Innovation’

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1 Comment

  1. […] I know, I know – we all know it and its been said time and time again (I even wrote a blog post about the importance of exercise), but that’s because collective wisdom shows exercising most days for a minimum of 30 minutes […]

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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