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Guest: Dr. Heidi Hanna, an expert on boosting your brainpower and keeping stress in check. Dr. Hanna is a New York Times best-selling author, the Chief Energy Officer and founder of Synergy consulting, and Executive Director for the American Institute of Stress.
Episode in a Tweet: Unplug and de-stress to keep your energy and your business soaring.
Quick Background: Successful CEOs and entrepreneurs are all driven, hard-working people who demand big things from themselves. But too much go go GO can leave you exhausted, unproductive, and unhealthy.
On today’s show, Dr. Hanna gives her expert tips on keeping our stress low and productivity high.
2017 Global Stress Summit: To learn more about stress, check out Heidi’s 2017 Global Stress Summit — A free online course featuring Heidi and many other leading stress experts.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.
Key Insights on Minimizing Stress to Maximize Productivity
1. Know what you already know.
Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way: nutrition, sleeping well, exercise, and relaxation time are all vital to your health and happiness, and your productivity at work. We all know that. It’s common sense. But, as Dr. Hanna has observed on speaking engagements around the world, “common sense is not always common practice.” People — especially the kinds of highly-motivated people like you who run top companies — obsess over optimizing their time and getting things done, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. Clearing space in your calendar is useless if you don’t have any energy to use that time. You need to sleep. You need to eat food — real food. You need to exercise. Don’t treat those as givens that get shoved aside when something “more important” comes up, treat those as necessary tasks on your daily to-do list.
2. Know your enemy.
Hans Selye, who founded the American Institute of Stress, defined stress as a stimulus for change. And in 2017, we are absolutely pummeled with stimulation — 24-hour TV, social media, and all the rest. Our brains are hardwired to crave stimulation, which is why it’s so hard to ignore that latest beep from your cell phone. But all that stimulation can make us feel like we don’t have enough time to do what needs to get done. That’s when stress kicks in.
When you feel stress, try not to panic. Instead, first, assess the situation. Don’t think in terms of good or bad, but instead, ask yourself, “What is going on? What is the change that needs to happen?” Then, take a breath, and try to appreciate your stress response, which is just shining a light on something that needs to be fixed. And finally, adjust. Usually a small change in thinking is enough to make pressure feel less overwhelming
3. Prime in the morning, unplug at night.
Everyone has a morning routine, but if you’re just getting dressed, brushing your teeth, and grabbing a cereal bar on your way out the door, rethink your routine.
Dr. Hanna starts her day with what she calls “Prime Time”: ninety minutes that revolve around Meditation, Movement, and Mirth (her Three M’s). By taking time to center her thinking, exercise, and do something fun, Dr. Hanna is priming her brain for the amount of information it’s going to be able to process during the day. While you’re at work, Dr. Hanna recommends three to five minute breaks every hour to decompress and recharge.
At night, if you’re one of those people who works until they’re slumped over papers at the kitchen table, don’t be surprised when you can’t fall asleep, no matter how tired you may feel. If you’re feeding your brain’s stimulation cravings right up until you want to go to bed, your brain won’t be able to shut down when you want it to — especially if you’re filling it with stressors, like work.
4. Be a sprinter, not a marathoner.
If you work at a high energy level, that’s good. But to maximize your productivity, and to avoid burnout, work at that high level for shorter bursts. Hold twenty-minute meetings instead of hour-long sessions. Schedule breaks in the day for you and your team. If your business is struggling, cramming more and more and more into the workday might not be the answer to what’s ailing you. Worse, it could hurt your output even more. When faced with adversity, top CEOs embrace a mindset of gratitude for what they have, which helps shift their thinking from a panicked, threatened state, to a calm, problem-solving state.
1. Eat, sleep, exercise. No-brainers, sure, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
2. Cut out the noise. In the morning, at night, and a couple times in between, take time to unplug from your overstimulated life and give your brain, and the rest of you, a well-deserved break.
3. Work hard for less. If you’re a high-energy worker and you want your employees to keep up, schedule shorter meetings and more breaks to optimize office energy.