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The silent performance killers affecting us all every day 

Chris Preston

In our always on, 24/7, fast paced world, we’re doing more than ever before. But are we actually achieving more? Article by chris preston, co-founder and director – bank of me (from the culture builders).

Not many people (especially not high performers) arrive at work to do anything less than their best work. Yet, completely unintentionally, that’s exactly what many of us do. We talk about ‘silent performance killers’ because many of the things that slow down our productivity go unnoticed – creeping up on us, or laying in wait in a meeting room. Even worse, they, like a clogged up artery, build up over time and, when we finally realise the impact they’re having, the cure is long and painful.

Here’s the biggest silent performance killers affecting all of us every day (and what to do about them). 

As Satya Nadella said, “the true scarce commodity of the near future will be human attention.” Whether it’s devices pinging every five seconds, multiple tabs open on your computer, the banter in the office, or thinking about dinner – distraction is everywhere. Allowing those distractions is to willfully decrease your productivity. This is old news, and yet the problem has not gone away. We need to be far more proactive to tackle this – so put devices in a drawer, shut down emails, close all surplus tabs and focus on the task at hand. It’s not rocket science people. 

Unproductive meetings
How many meetings do you sit in and question its purpose, value, quality of output and possibly, why you’re even in it to start with! Meetings are a coming together of minds. An opportunity to exchange ideas, listen, develop thoughts and formulate action plans. With the right planning, management and follow up, meetings could become one of your most productive activities, as opposed to an obstacle to productivity. And, if you are looking for inspiration, go and read Elon Musk’s email to his company – urging them to walk out of rubbish meetings.

Lack of connection
Usually, before a meeting starts, you tend to see people madly checking emails or finishing off work – making the most of every minute to ‘do’ before the meeting kicks off. Human connection boosts performance – because when someone takes an interest in our lives it makes us feel good, part of something and supported. It even releases into our bloodstream a bit of the magic stuff that is oxytocin – so look up and show your colleagues a little love now and then.    

Groundhog day
Most of us walk through the office the same way each morning to get to our desk, sit in the same place for lunch, have our meetings in the same room, invite the same usual suspects to those meetings – the list goes on and on. Much of it is done on autopilot – we are creatures of habit after all. But this groundhog day style behaviour is massively limiting the connections we make, the conversations we have and the solutions we find. Break the mould and take a different route, sit in a different place, get some fresh blood into your routine meetings. Be brave – mix it up a bit. Even better, look at your day and see if there is one thing you could never do again… or even two… or three.

Being tired
In a world that’s gone crazy for mindfulness, we need to remember that sleep is the very best meditation of all. A wholesale shut down of body and mind to restore itself. When we are sleep deprived, our memory fails, our immune system dips, we don’t manage our emotions (and others) effectively. Most adults need seven to nine hours – if this is possible but you don’t do it, switch off the box sets a bit earlier. If isn’t possible, try and formulate a strategy where daytime naps can creep in (even fifteen minutes will help) and where at least two nights a week you can play catch up. 

Lack of water
Just 4% dehydration (indicated by feeling a little thirsty) causes a 20-40% decrease in work capacity. When we’re dehydrated we’re likely to feel more anxious and unfocused and our vigilance, concentration, reaction time, learning, memory and reasoning all suffers.  The more water you have about the place, the more will get drunk (by you and your team). Buy a funky water bottle and start a trend.  

Sitting still
Many office-based jobs mean that we are sitting still in the same position for the majority of the day. This isn’t good for our health or energy levels. Something as simple as standing up and sitting back down again a few times fires off some much appreciated oxygen to the brain. Or, better yet, take a little walk, say hello to some other humans – you can even go mad and get outside. The impact on your productivity when you return is palpable. 

Not refueling
Your car won’t work if it’s running on empty so why do we think our bodies will? When your body is hungry it needs nutrients, not calories, so reaching for the nearest convenience food won’t actually help you. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to stock your office desk (or bag, or locker) with unsalted popcorn, protein bars, dried fruit or nuts so that when you’re up against it you can fuel for performance not a sugar rush/crash. Importantly, grab some of this stuff at 3pm to fight the most likely energy dip. 

Keeping a stiff upper lip
We bring our whole unique self to the workplace each day and that includes the way we’re feeling as a result of what’s going on elsewhere in our lives (in and outside work). If you’re not feeling great, allowing yourself to share something of this, and appear vulnerable for moment, will both strengthen your relationships and help lift your state. Being open and human will build trust and respect from the people around you. It also sends a message to the rest of your team that we don’t have to all be ‘fine’ all the time. It’s an all round performance booster. 

Martyrdom of our motivators
There’s an awful lot of us who sacrifice doing the things we love because we’re too busy at work – we’re spread so thinly elsewhere and, well, we’re just too important to the effective functioning of  SO many things/ people. Newsflash. If you don’t do enough of what makes your heart sing, you won’t feel fulfilled and your motivation (and therefore your performance) in all areas of your life will drop. Make time, as often as you can, to do the things you love. Work NEVER ends, so don’t try and beat it to the finish.

We’re big fans of quality over quantity at Bank of Me, but in order to sustain high performance, we all need to continuously invest in our human bank balance. Like all elite performers, this means taking time out (active regeneration), fuelling for performance (you get out what you put in – literally) and managing the world around us (instead of it controlling us).

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