HR & Management

Here's how to work at peak performance

7 min read

06 September 2015

Working at peak performance – and being as productive as possible – is an invaluable skill. Here's how to move closer to that.

When you work alone or in a small team you regularly have to work at peak performance to keep your workload manageable. Whether you’re working at the kitchen table or crammed together in your first office, there will always be distractions which can impact on your productivity. 

This in itself can create a vicious cycle, if you aren’t effective in your professional life, it can then adversely affect your work/life balance and wellbeing; which in turn can impact your ability to work productively.

Most of us can relate to the fact there are moments or even days when you just can’t motivate yourself or are too easily distracted. This is when you need to think about tools to help you focus, and assist with mastering the art of personal effectiveness. 

Although it’s a broad term, it ultimately comes down to one skill – taking responsibility for getting something done, a skill that’s invaluable for you and your colleagues.

To start the process, you need to recognise what drives you to be effective. Most of us work well under the right kind of pressure. Knowing what you need to do in a set timeframe often drives us to success, but it can be difficult to replicate this every day when you need to draft a proposal or write a report. 

Read more about how you can become a more productive person:

Additionally, to work at your peak you need to be in the right frame of mind. If you’re tired, upset or angry this may have a knock-on effect, and in a pressured office environment these feelings can sometimes occur, restricting our ability to perform at our peak.

To manage these distractions, you need to create an effective positive mindset to overcome any negative thought patterns. When you do start getting distracted, challenge these thoughts, as quite often we can catastrophise the situation. 

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It’s rarely black or white and before jumping to a conclusion think carefully about it and challenge your beliefs. By simply looking at a problem differently, it might not seem as bad as you first thought and subsequently you can get back on track with your day.

Another aspect of being effective is being consistent and able to stand your ground. Whether it’s your boss, business partner or a tricky client, you need to be assertive to be successful. 

Being a ‘yes’ person and constantly making promises is not a good model to follow, as you are setting yourself up for a fall and probably working long hours to manage all the extra work.

Learning to say ‘no’ can be difficult as it is perceived as a negative word. However, you don’t need to be negative when you say it. When you do need to push back, show understanding and reassure the person you’re talking to. 

Being open, honest and direct often opens up shared ground and can lead to negotiation, which could lead to a better solution from your point of view, such as a longer lead time or contract negotiations. There will always be someone you need to say ‘no’ to more than once for the same request. Remain calm and firm, and repeat why you are saying ‘no’.

Along with the personal attributes to managing your efficacy, there is also the practical side. One of the key skills of successful people is good time management. 

Learning not to procrastinate and tackle tasks head on will help you be more productive throughout the day. This can be addressed in a few simple steps:

  • Make a list – it may sound simple, but ranking what you need to do by importance gives you direction for the day and helps you prioritise tasks.
  • Don’t put things off – if you’re avoiding a particular task because it’s too intimidating or boring, divide it into smaller chunks (it helps to set deadlines for these too to make you complete them!). Finally, when you finish a task that you’ve been putting off – or when you start one that you would normally try to avoid until the last minute – give yourself a reward.
  • Take a break – many experts believe taking time out can boost your performance because your brain needs some downtime every so often. For instance, taking at least 30 minutes off at lunchtime could help you to concentrate more effectively in the afternoon.
  • Manage distractions – if you work in an open plan office, distractions can be plentiful. An effective way to cope with distractions is to schedule time to deal with them, for instance, aim to check your emails at certain times during the day, rather than on an ad hoc basis. You may also want to set aside some time when you’re not disturbed. If so, make sure your colleagues know that you don’t want any distractions and switch off your phone.

When you manage yourself well, it can help boost your efficiency and productivity. And as an added bonus, your stress levels may decrease too as you’ll have more time than you did before. 

Everyone struggles for motivation or drive on certain days, but recognising this issue and putting steps in place to counteract it is a great way to manage yourself, your workload and your business’ bottom line.

Nicki Cresswell is wellbeing training coordinator at CABA.