Sustainable high performance is key to long-term success and fulfillment in life. 

It’s equivalent to doing excellent work without falling into the traps of burnout or workaholism. So, how do you protect yourself against burnout and workaholism? First, we need to realize that we can’t always be on. As James Hewitt, a human performance scientist, puts it: “Peak performance does not arise from trying to imitate a machine but from understanding how to be more effective as a human.“

Sales leaders often try to maximize their productivity by multitasking, working long hours, and rarely resting. They often struggle and are unable to focus, which results in constant sub-optimal performance.

Never resting. Rarely focused. Always on. The “more, bigger, faster” paradigm is deeply ingrained in most sales leaders. So is the notion that any downtime is wasted time. But as you push harder and harder, your performance and output inversely decrease. The good news is there are healthier, more productive, and more sustainable ways.

Find Your Energy Rhythm

It starts with rethinking how you work and becoming aware of your energy peaks and dips throughout the day. We all experience these changes in our energy levels throughout the day. ‘Early birds’ are more likely to experience peaks in the mornings, whereas ‘night owls’ feel at their best in the evenings. The timing of your peaks and dips are unique to you but the primary sequence is the same for everyone. 

  • Morning Peak: Your body experiences the first period of peak energy about 90 minutes after waking up.
  • Afternoon Dip: Your energy decreases about mid-day.
  • Evening Peak: Your body experiences the second period of peak energy during the evening hours.

In order to optimize performance, you must first become aware of your energy peaks and dips throughout the day. 

Match Work To The Right Performance Zone

The next step is to adjust your workload according to your energy levels. Taking advantage of your “best hours“, when you have the most energy, will allow you to maximize your performance and output. There are three performance zones that can help you schedule your day for optimal productivity.

  • Optimal Performance Zone: Tackle your most difficult problems, complex tasks, sales analysis
  • Sub-Optimal Performance Zone: Schedule meetings, menial tasks, switching work
  • Low-Performance Zone: Focus on recovery, e-mails, relationship building, planning, organizing 

You can download my printable ‘Energy Level Tracker’ here to identify when you’re in your optimal performance zone, sub-optimal performance zone, and low-performance zone and to structure your week according to your personal energy peaks and dips.

Use Your Energy Peaks Wisely

In what performance zone do you spend most of your time at work? Most sales managers spend their days stuck in the sub-optimal performance zone: switching tasks, checking their phones, answering e-mails, and working on someone else’s schedule. A study by the University of California, Irvine found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get yourself back on track after being interrupted. That same study found that the average worker switched tasks on average every 3 minutes. That’s a lot of lost time and energy. 

Instead of constantly getting distracted during peak times, minimize interruptions (email, phone calls, SMS, WhatsApp, Slack, etc.) for maximum productivity. Here are three fundamental digital boundaries that you can put in place to make the best use of your energy peaks:

1. Minimize notifications

If you want to get more done at work, be more intentional about how you use technology. During your most productive hours, disable all notifications on both your desktop and smartphone. Turn off your phone, set it to Airplane mode, or put it on silent and face down on your desk.

2. Set response time expectations

Add your response time policy to your email signature. This way you can set expectations. Here’s what that might look like: “I check my emails twice a day. Once at 10:00 am and once at 4:00 pm Central European Time. Emails received after those times will be read the following day. If you require an urgent response please contact me via phone.“

3. Screen your phone calls unapologetically 

It’s that last part that’s important here. Let’s define what an unexpected phone call is in today’s day and age. It is an unscheduled request for an impromptu audio meeting. As a busy person, you have a right to decline such an invitation and honor your priorities especially during your most productive hours of the day. 

By being more intentional with your time, energy, and focus you can cultivate a work environment in which you are not only more productive but also more fulfilled, less stressed, and better equipped to handle the ever-increasing demands of today and tomorrow.