Quick Performance Hacks for Everyday Life
Time may arguably be our most precious, yet difficult commodity to manage. Time spent distributing our personality, efforts, and energy to our friends, family, colleagues and children can be a daunting task. If we do not carefully oversee how we are expending our energy as well as making a conscious effort to fill it back up, we more likely than not will find ourselves stressed out to the max. Becoming a victim to our emotions and more reactive to life’s troubles is a sure fire way to live a mundane life. It is quite easy to put the fault on “Not having time” or “Getting caught up”. After having my fair share of run ins as a servant to father time, a careful series of examinations led me to playing around with the variables that were within my control. You would be surprised by how simply asking the right questions we can channel the powerful ability of self-realization, and that things do not always have to be the way they are.
What is a performance hack?
A performance hack is a way of maximizing your ability to perform and complete a given function by paying close attention to your body’s physiology.
We all have very different biological systems. To expect each body to have the same outcome based off of a certain action is not always definitive, but with a little room to play, and the curiosity to explore yourself, makes the game that much more fun.
Who should try these?
A performance hack is a technique or exercise that can be used by any person with a pulse. If you are an individual who strives to constantly better their current processing system of learning and retaining information, improving the physical body, managing the amount of stress in the system and improving the ability to perform under increasingly difficult scenarios and situations for growth, then you would be a star candidate.
These are a few of my Performance Hacks that I have refined over the last few years, and have had shares of success with, building my life into one that I thoroughly enjoy living each day.
Life is much like a game. If we can tactfully learn by doing, trying, and experiencing new things, we can keep this game fun and refreshing. This is most important because doing what we truly love requires copious amounts of unwavering energy. If we are not careful with our give/take spectrum of energy, we will often find ourselves in the troughs as opposed to the peaks of our performance meter.
By increasing the levels of our awareness, ability to make decisions, competency with our movement and nourishment, we can begin to reach heights we may have never known to existed.
Here is a simple list I have compiled with my own reasons and justifications to pursue maximum efficiency towards any goal.
Going through the morning motions fatigued and weary
Performance hack #1 Turning on your favorite motivational speaker/ music and jumping out of bed (literally)
Treat this as one of the new experiences as mentioned prior. The energy and direction of your day is HIGHLY dependent on the way in which you start it.
How to do it
I cannot put a number on how many times I have found myself wanting to hit the snooze button, as opposed to dragging my happy ass up and out of the covers.
This changed drastically by flooding my ears with positive language upon those initial moments of waking. By having a preferred or influential speaker communicate their message to you first thing in your day, it is comparable to hitting a rocket switch for your day.
Why it works
Language and diction has the utmost power in determining in whether or not we will follow through with an action. The art of persuasion is either successful or not based off of the word choice, tonality, gestures, and delivery of information to the listener. By listening to speakers who have mastered these areas of speaking, we have an increased likelihood to hear something that resonates with our purpose of going through the day. This is why it works. By getting up with some enthusiasm, we can create a morning routine for ourselves that has a snowball effect on the rest of our day to come. The momentum from there on forward will be dangerous for anyone or anything in your way!
Some of my favorite speakers
Some of my favorite artists to listen to for clarity/ motivation
The Theorist (Piano renditions of popular music)
Rufus Du Sol
Some of my favorite platforms to listen to these speakers
Having too many things to do at once, leading to scatter brain and an inability to get things done.
Performance hack #2: Taking a nature walk
How to do it
Pay close attention to your environment. Take note of those things going on around you by keening in to your senses. You may tap in to your special ability to determine whether or not that increasingly loud bellow is a train posing a potential threat to yourself, or a bird cawing in the distance that may provide you a sense of calamity. Sight can be stimulated by counting the amount of trees as you pass by, or simply noticing the colors of the season around you. Take the time to kick your shoes off and allow your feet that have been locked into your shoes all day to breathe, and use some of those thousand of sensory receptors to bring back livelihood towards your first point of contact with the ground. Your foot health has a strong correlation with how your knees and hips function, so if you are or ever have experienced issues in either area, you could be doing yourself a world of difference.
Why it works
We get caught up. Majority of Americans spend their days indoors and in less than ideal postures or positions, having a detrimental effect on their biology and overall health. Migraines are becoming more prevalent, low back pain, and loss of motor control in our working class people. The convenience of smart devices makes most of us less likely to spend time outdoors or interacting face to face. We end up working long hours to support our families and dreams, with a neglect towards our short and long term health.
The reality is that with this trend, we are becoming desensitized to our surroundings, causing not only a decline in our health but in our overall awareness, and our brains ability to perform at the caliber it was designed to.
It begins by becoming forgetful of where we last placed our phone, then continues by misconstruing words and becoming hard of hearing. Our competence to clearly distinguish objects from afar, or the features of people we come into proximity with may start to get impeded.
By simply exercising our senses and awareness, we can begin to increase our sharpness and attentiveness to what is going on around us, leading to better decisions as well as an ability to decrease stress that may be accumulated from our environment.
Lethargy in the workplace or school
Performance hack #3: Cold showers
This famous quote holds truth, that if you are to do a difficult task first thing in your morning, your response to other stressful situations that are inevitable to occur throughout your day, will be thwarted in comparison.
While a cold shower in the morning is probably one of the least desirable things to do on your list, keep an open mind in how this can relate to eliciting other positive effects on your physiology and behavior over the course of your day.
Some of the positive effects I have noted after taking one every morning for the last 6 months has been….
Reduced instances of morning fatigue
Enhanced recovery time
Softer hair, improved skin composition
Just as exercise has an effect towards our ability to consume and utilize oxygen more effectively within our body, a similar effect could be elicited by taking a short cold shower. The rapid change in environment not only provides a stimulus to our nervous system, but the rapid upheaval of oxygen will similarly increase the production of something called BDNF (Brain derived neurotrophic factor), a signaling process that occurs within the hippocampus region of the brain that is responsible for the regulation of emotions.
Afternoon crash, post work fatigue, writers/ creative block
Performance Hack Solution#4: Sprints
Sprints in this instance refer to bouts of time where one is adhering to the biological rhythms of the body known as Ultradian Rhythms. These are repeated patterns that exist within every human body that occur in a period of less than 24 hours.
While this can be defined as many processes such as breathing, blinking, selective hormone secretion and many others, I am specifically referring to the 90-120 minute brain frequency cycles that occur both when awake, and asleep. These frequency waves fluctuate and have a large part to do with our ability to structure thoughts, communicate information, as well as the ability to learn and retain information.
How to do it
By paying close attention to these cycles, and limiting our time on a given task of work within these 90-120 minute periods of time, complemented with a short break that is unrelated to the task, we can work with rather than against these spurts and regressions of frequency conducive to performing at a higher level.
Why it works
As these frequencies fluctuate every 90-120 minutes in our body’s attempt to regulate over stimulation and depolarization in one given area of the brain, any time span that neglects these biological parameters will show a cognitive decline as extended, complex tasks seem to drag on.
By paying respect to these biological cycles we can better perform “deep work” or more precisely focused attention as well as a higher transfer rate of information from short term memory to long term memory, allowing us to enhance our creativity, language, as well as the formulation and creation of our great ideas and desires.
Lack of energy throughout the day, baggy eyes, and inability to recover/ perform well in any task
Performance hack solution #5: Paying close attention to your sleep cycles and the quality of how you are resting.
How it works
Have you ever woken from an 8 hour sleep still feeling exhausted or groggy? This may largely be due in part to not getting an adequate amount of time in R.E.M (Rapid Eye Movement) or Stage 5 sleep, where the body forgoes substantial repair of the body, mending and building any tissues that have been broken down the day prior. It is also a crucially important time for the mind to energize itself and revitalize to promote alertness and sharpness for daytime function.
Research has shown that lack of sleep can be similar, if not worse for performance than being intoxicated. In subjects with as little as 17-19 hours without sleep, impairing response speeds have been equivalent or worse than in subjects with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.05% (Dawson D, Reid K. Fatigue, alcohol and performance impairment. Nature. 1997 Jul 17;388(6639):235–235. [PubMed])
In subjects with up to 28 hours of no sleep, response times have been impaired up to 50% slower and comparable to a BAC of .1%
Although some of us may feel fine with minimal sleep, the sustainability and well being of your life and performance will most definitely wither if you neglect your rest. Both short and long term consequences may begin to present themselves as a result of an inability to do so, which is also dependent on how we nourish our bodies, manage stress, and spend time building the efficiency of our body’s systematic capabilities.
While there are ways to increase the efficiency of your sleep, you should still aim at 6-8 hours for men, and at least 8 hours for women, as the more complex reproductive system accounts for more energy and rest needed.
Things to consider if you are not sleeping well (How to do it)
- Using a sleep tracking app (Sleep Cycle, Sleep rate, Pillow)
By seeing how your consistent your sleep cycles are, you can begin to correlate how your days unraveling and how nutrition has a strong effect on how well you rest. What I like about these apps is they will rate the quality of your sleep, so you can have an idea if you are progressing or regressing.
2. Putting your phone on airplane mode when asleep/ Turning off your wifi router when at rest.
Electromagnetic frequencies in our environment have grown insurmountably (up to 1,000,000,000 fold) since the early 1900’s. The long term effects of our exposure to the radiation emitted from these devices is not yet known, but the short term have shown to be potentially worse than cigarette smoke. Our brain has its own frequency of wave lengths, and an exposure to very high levels can effect its ability to regulate and fluctuate correctly, due to a heightened level occurring nearby.
From my own experience since applying this little hack, I have noticed a increased quality in my ability to wake up well rested, as well as falling asleep more quickly.
3. Increasing the amount of Good Fats (Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated) to help provide fuel for the brain.
Your brain is 60% fat, and consuming quality essential fatty acids has been shown to increase cognitive performance and overall health.
4. Checking your Magnesium levels.
Magnesium accounts and supports for over 300 enzymatic systems within our body that regulate diverse biochemical reactions within the body. It is a cofactor of energy production, blood glucose control, blood pressure regulation, protein synthesis and many more important functions. With the increasingly lower quality of foods in our diet, the bio-availability of this very important nutrient is not as easily absorbed, with only 20-30% being held for nutrient uptake through our metabolic system. Being deficient in Magnesium is a common occurrence for most of our population, also effecting the quality of our sleep.
5. Reducing exposure to blue light in the hours before bed/ winding down
Reducing exposure to blue light prior to bed gives the body the power to better distinguish night time from day time. As the system starts to regulate for rest, you will be increasing your ability to recover and perform at a higher level by allowing the brain to relax, provide less stress to the eyes by looking at a screen or occupying your mind with television, as well as the promotion for better mitochondrial function. Healthy cells equate to healthier bodily functions.
These are just a few of the things that have worked well for me across my studies and application..
By manipulating and coinciding with our environment, I believe we all have the ability to be scientists with our own body’s. Especially when the risk is low to- non existent, and the outcome for good is immense. My aim is to increase my abilities to perform with energy, love and compassion at the highest level, retaining new information, and to live a life I enjoy and lead the way for others to do the same. I am confident in my approach and application based off of biological guidelines, but also understand the individual specificity in each new instance that presents itself. I can never fully guarantee that what works for me will undoubtedly work for you, but if I can inspire you to take new action, then my job here is done.
- Dawson D, Reid K. Fatigue, alcohol and performance impairment. Nature. 1997 Jul 17;388(6639):235–235. [PubMed]
- (1 Division of Molecular Psychiatry, Abraham Ribicoff Research Facilities, Connecticut Mental Health Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06508)