3 Mountaineering Tips for Superior Productivity and Performance – Part 1.
Have you ever wondered how some people always manage superior productivity and performance and complete what they have planned for the day, rain, hail or shine?
Mountaineers are this sort of people. You too could tackle your to-do list with the skills of a serious hiker, without even leaving the comfort of your workplace. So let’s unpack what they are doing so right.
It’s been a while since I last climbed a decent mountain. I miss the experience – wandering through peaks and valleys is a part of who I am. In fact, I’m using the lessons I’ve learnt from hiking with my much more experienced hiking mates daily. It helps me in the way I tackle mountainous goals in my work.
Not all my attempts are successful; on some days, I find myself losing direction or going down rabbit holes.
Without seeing any progress, my motivation and focus eventually start to fade. This happens along with the last remaining hope of getting any tangible results for all that time and effort. Are you able to relate? Sound familiar?
However, on other days, work flows really well, and I tick off one task after another with laser sharp focus and abundant energy. There’s a great momentum; I feel optimistic and in control, confident that I‘ll soon reach the finish line.
When I’m at my most productive, I launch myself into action in some ways like a seasoned mountaineer, committed to complete what I’ve planned for the day.
I’m prepared to walk across rugged terrain and to jump over hurdles as they come. I’m aware that if I progress too slowly or get sidetracked, I might soon find myself left behind in an unpleasant situation.
If I were actually messing around in the wild, I’d risk having to spend the night in the cold and damp, in the companion of crawly creatures.
When it comes to business, after an unproductive day often comes a night of tossing and turning in a cold sweat.
I’m kept up by disturbing head chatter, thinking about how I’m going to face my unhappy team and clients. If I could choose, I’d much prefer the crawlies. So what do mountaineers do to get from A to B in time while staying safe and enjoying the hike?
Here are three simple tips for superior productivity and performance:
1. Know your limits and plan accordingly.
From experience, I know I’m able to handle around 1,400m change in elevation when climbing, and around 1,000m descending, in one day. Otherwise, I’m able to walk a distance of 28km in undulating terrain.
When I try to exceed these limits there’s a good chance that I fail to reach my destination or injure myself.
In the context of work, I can spend around three hours a day analysing complex information, developing creative solutions to problems or researching new information.
After that time, my brain starts to slow down, and the quality of my work drops, which I understand is the case for the majority of people. On the other hand, I can immerse myself in workspace design or do routine tasks as long as needed, sometimes even late into the night.
Superior productivity and performance are possible when you’re realistic.
When you’re setting out with what you want to achieve in a day, you too should keep in mind how long you’re able to work productively on different tasks.
I suggest you try to be realistic. Of course, there are times to be ambitious, but my experience is that falling short of our self-imposed goals over and over again can destroy our spirit.
2. Tackle the most challenging tasks while you’re at your peak.
When you need to jump over boulders or cross a wild river with 20kg on your back, you’d better be fully switched on.
You have a much better shot at succeeding – while staying safe and even enjoying yourself – if you challenge yourself at the time of the day when you’re at your strongest and sharpest.
Having to exert yourself once you’ve used up your energy is not fun, and can even be dangerous.
Similarly, when you’re at work, there are a few hours each day when your focus, energy and mood are peaking. Most people find that they produce their best work in the morning. While other people – i.e. night owls – are in their element in the evening or late at night.
Either way, it’s best to complete tasks that require intense concentration and deep thinking during your most productive hours. You’ll find that your work reaches a higher standard, you achieve more during your work hours, and feel less inclined to procrastinate.
3. Generate momentum early on.
Overcoming a difficult quest is exhilarating and liberating. It makes you feel lighter and gives you the drive to move forward and kick other goals. Interestingly, taking small steps that give you a sense of progress and achieving minor milestones can also boost your energy and mood to a great extent.
I remember some walks in the mountains where I reached a small peak or a lookout point only a few minutes after starting out.
This was a point where I could clearly see that I was already closer to my destination. I suddenly felt proud and unstoppable, even though getting to that point was really easy.
Please keep in mind that when it comes to work, you can only gain a real sense of progress if the goal you work towards is meaningful to you.
Take a step towards realising a vision that makes your heart beat faster. This will more likely fill you with a lasting sense of progress and pride than say clearing out your mailbox.
So it might be a mistake to dig into those monster projects first thing in the morning. You could quickly find yourself overwhelmed and perhaps even mentally paralysed.
You don’t want to get lost in the woods before making any visible progress – which is how I sometimes feel when diving into open-ended research projects or experiments.
Instead, before you jump into those daunting tasks or so-called ‘black hole’ projects which can make time disappear, pick a small job that matters to you, and at which you know for sure you can excel.
I’m going to share a few more tips with you in the next article. In the meantime, if you’ve ever walked through rough, hilly terrain and reached your destination in time, safe and sound then remember this advice.
You certainly have what it takes to master the skills of superior productivity and performance. You just need to put yourself in the shoes of your inner walker.
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