As a veteran of many Half Ironman triathlons, various endurance events and being a former collegiate basketball player, I’ve learned that a key part of maintaining a sharp mind is keeping a healthy body. Unfortunately, many businesspeople fail in this area by ignoring their physical health. They spend long hours seated at computers or conference tables. They forget to eat and, when they do, they consume snacks and fast foods with tons of sugar, salt and fat. Their restless minds keep them from getting enough sleep, and they rarely exercise. In addition, many are perpetually dehydrated.
Been there. Done that.
During the start-up phases of building my company, I went through times of great eating and exercise only to follow up with several months of bad food and less-than-stellar workouts and sleep. Even though I knew that a healthy diet and consistent exercise was vital, an intense and busy work schedule can derail almost anyone. The truth is, we often overlook how powerful the extra time to eat right, exercise and sleep well can do to enhance our ability to focus, cope with stress and achieve or goals.
Now be sure to check with your doctor before doing anything but these common sense ideas are easy-to-implement and can help your mental focus and drive for success.
- Eat Healthy Foods. In a typical office, people are routinely surrounded by junk food - from doughnuts and cookies to candy, potato chips and pizza. Whether these items are stocked by the company or brought in by (or for) clients and vendors, many people find it hard to resist the tempting treats because – day after day – they’re so readily available. The biggest danger is posed by foods high in sugar. Why? Because these foods produce “sugar highs” and “sugar crashes.” For a while after ingesting them, you’ll feel energized and alert, but within a short time, you’ll grow lethargic. Despite their high calorie counts, these foods also cause you to feel hungry again – cravings that may prompt you to repeat the whole sugar-high/crash cycle over and over. The remedy is eating healthy foods, which may mean bringing nutritious snacks to work. Improving your diet is the first (and best) step toward improving job performance.
- Get Enough Sleep. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll perform after getting enough sleep at night. Although it may seem logical to start work earlier and work later to get more accomplished, the reverse is usually true. Even if you log shorter hours, you’ll get more done just by getting enough sleep. The quantity of time spent on the job is less important than the quality. You’ll increase your ability to focus and process information by giving your brain the rest it needs. At night try to stay off your digital devices before you go to bed and opt for just a regular book.
- Walk. This is another great way to reduce stress and sharpen your focus while staying in shape. I walk nearly every day – on conference calls and during lunch breaks. Sometimes, I get on the phone with my earbuds and walk and talk with clients, vendors and employees. I conduct business while I’m getting some exercise. If you don’t want to make phone calls while walking, that’s fine. Just get out there. Step away from work for a little while. Take a relaxing walk and clear you head. Take two 15-minute walks during the day instead of sitting at your desk reading the newspaper or hanging around the water cooler. Studies have shown that sitting for extended periods is detrimental to your health. Humans were designed to be active, so take a couple of walks every day.
- Drink enough water. According to a 2013 report by the Institute of Medicine, up to 75 percent of Americans may suffer from chronic dehydration. Given the quantities of soda and caffeinated beverages many people consume, this is hardly surprising. Still, it is alarming. Drinking enough water is essential to good health. Among other things, the kidneys need plenty of water to flush toxins from the body. Be sure to drink enough fluids, especially in an air-conditioned office, as it’s easy to get dehydrated without realizing it. Even if you’re not becoming lethargic and getting headaches, your performance may be suffering. My suggestion: keep a bottle or thermos of water nearby at all times. Take a few sips every hour, even if you don’t “feel thirsty.”
- Do some resistance training. Do a little resistance training at least once or twice a week. Lift weights or even do something as simple as push-ups. This will help you maintain your strength and stamina. Also, as humans age, we lose muscle mass to some degree. Resistance training helps compensate for that loss so you’ll look and feel younger. What’s not to like about that?
Just remember, on the job and in life, who doesn’t want to be operating at their personal best? With just a few minor tweaks, a little time and focus, you can set yourself up for success and better health.