– Robert Cooper, neuroscientist
Brendon Burchard is one of the golden boys in the online “high-performance” coaching world. He is the author of The Motivation Manifesto and has become a kind of wunderkind in the online world of motivational speaking and high performance consulting. In his High Performance Academy he offers training on advanced psychology, physiology, productivity, and persuasion. I’m not a close follower of his work, but he is definitely a highly visible person in the online sites I frequent.
This week alone, I have heard him offer the keynote speech at the annual Bulletproof Conference, give a talk for The Big Life where he is offering a course, do an interview with Oprah, and launch an online course for OWN.tv. The guy is on a roll.
He’s loud, he is annoyingly enthusiastic, and he looks about twelve years old. But I am not holding any of that against him. He has something to say about living life full out. I have been drawn to him because he focuses on the traits common among high performers in a variety of arenas. He has boiled the traits down to five. Oh boy, another list. Bring it on.
Much of what he says has been said before (of course), but his presentations are marked by his characteristically high energy, boyish charm, and unflagging belief that we can all get better—right now! So let me just list the traits he identifies so we can get those out of the way. The five traits of high performers, he says, are: 1) clarity 2) energy 3) productivity 4) influence 5) courage.
Good stuff for sure, and if you would like to hear him elaborate upon these five traits, check out this presentation for the The Big Life here.
Today, I’m interested in sharing with you one simple practice Burchard recommends for becoming more productive: if you want to improve your productivity by 30%, avoid checking email or social media for 30 minutes after waking in the morning.
Many people reach for their phone before their feet hit the floor in the morning. Most people open their email or Facebook before the coffee is brewed. A lot of us start reacting to the onslaught of demands, queries, ploys, and appeals in our inbox before we have had the chance to consciously design, plan, and envision our day. Checking your email first thing in the morning is committing yourself to other people’s agendas. That’s just not right. When we tap into the world of data too soon upon rising, we tend to start thinking about, worrying over, or anticipating something in the future, something that needs to be done — usually for someone else. And as soon as we do that, it’s bye-bye to cultivating conscious awareness and deliberate intending.
And that is how we should begin every day: consciously aware and deliberately intending.
Burchard asserts fairly dramatically that avoiding email for the first 30 minutes of our day will make us 30% more productive, and I have to say his confidence in that figure is persuasive. But neuroscientist Robert Cooper has the data to support Burchard’s assertion. At University College London, Cooper does global research on hacking the brain’s code to achieve best performance. He studies “up-wiring” the brain and identifies the tools, systems, and practices that ramp up brain performance. (See his podcast called UPWIRE: Hacking Human Nature for a user-friendly introduction to his research.)
Cooper supports Burchard’s advice, but he says it’s the first 22 minutes of the day that determine how the brain will function for the next several hours. What you do in those first 22 minutes can down-regulate brain function or “up-wire” brain function. “What do you think about, what do you remember, what do you do, what do you eat, how do you move, how do you breathe, what do you focus on, how do you think ahead?” Your first behaviors and thoughts upon waking determine how the day is going to unfold — the level of focus, energy, and creativity you can access. No one can determine for you what first behaviors work best. But one thing seems true for all of us: Cooper says “checking email first is a great way to hijack your true potential for the day.”
But the best way to test the validity of an assertion is to test it out in your own lab. Your lab of life. Test the practice and determine if it is helpful to you. So try this: for the next five days, put off going into the wired world, and upon waking, let the brain adjust to being alive and awake; let it gear up to its highest capacities for performing. Give the mind (and the spirit) the time to adjust to a new state (being aware). Feel the mind tuning in to its environment, absorbing details, making connections, and discerning profitable direction. Postponing going online inclines your mind and your spirit toward openness and receptivity. And we know that in a state of openness and receptivity we have access to our best thinking, our innate wisdom, and our capacity to act creatively. What would a day be like if we had easy access to those aspects of ourselves? Pretty darn good I’m thinkin’.
So in those first 30 minutes, we incline the mind toward openness and receptivity, and that allows for more efficient and creative means of solving problems. But another practice also contributes to productivity, and that is the practice of setting intentions for the day. At some point in those first 30 minutes of waking, think into the next fifteen hours and decide what needs to happen — what you want to happen. Declare your goals, your actions, the offerings of benefit that you know will make this day feel meaningful or purposeful or productive. Doing this in writing directs you toward a better, more productive, or more satisfying day. Once you set an intention, life organizes itself around that intention.
Do the experiment yourself and see what kind of results you get. Establish a 30- minute power start to your day. Read, write your gratitudes, move gently, meditate, drink coffee (preferably Bulletproof), walk the dog, step into nature — any activity that allows you to experience your natural state of presence and ease. And then, in writing, set your intentions. And at the end of the day, see if you don’t feel happier about the way the day unfolded for you.
Data is good when it comes to undertaking new practices. But personal experience is good too, and probably more persuasive for many of us. I have my own life-experiment to document how the 30-minute power start has worked for me, and I’m a believer. Try it for yourself and see if life gets clearer, happier, more productive.
P.S. LifeArt Studio coaching offers that little nudge you might need to get started on a new practice to enhance your own performance. We offer a no-cost Creative Momentum Session to help you clarify what new practices will support your highest performance in your creative living. Contact me here for an appointment.
Images courtesy of Google Images.