How to live (and work) your best life in 2018


Taking care of yourself is good for business

The end of the year is the perfect time to reflect and set new goals for 2018. But when you’re over-worked and sleep deprived, your brain isn’t capable of creating and developing crucial new insights.

“There is a lot of stress and burnout in the workplace and rarely do I meet a manager that is not feeling overwhelmed at some level,” says Kristen Hansen, founder of Enhansen Performance.1

“Our brains are often multi-tasking, which risks the quality of our decisions and interactions.”

Research shows Australians are feeling stressed at work. According to Safe Work Australia’s 2016 Annual Statement, claims for mental stress caused by work pressure accounted for 30% of mental stress claims in 2015, with the average claim costing businesses $25,900.2

“With the amount of pressure we are under to answer emails and attend meetings, we are left with very little time to create, strategise, innovate, think, develop and plan,” says Hansen.

That’s why many business leaders now acknowledge overwhelming work pressure is counterproductive to high performance. 

“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in,” writes Ariana Huffington, businesswoman and author of Thrive.3

So how can you take care of yourself, and grow your business at the same time? According to Hansen, making small changes to your daily habits is key.

“In order to change something, we have to generate a whole heap of mechanisms within our brain to create new connections. The golden rule for changing any kind of habit or behaviour is to replace it. We have to start small and make it simple.”

Try making these small changes to increase your energy, performance and productivity levels.

1. Make positive self reflection a daily ritual

Reflecting on the past is a great way to make positive changes. But do it productively. 

“So many people overlook their success and things they’ve created in their careers,” says sought-after US executive coach Katia Verressen.4

Congratulating yourself for the wins and remembering your achievements will boost your confidence and give you more energy to reach your next goal.

Try implementing daily, weekly and yearly reflections into your routine. This can be done in a diary, or even on your iPad – just stay focused on the good things.

2. Take self care seriously

According to the Sleep Health Foundation’s (SHF) recent report Asleep on the job: costs of inadequate sleep in Australia, four out of every 10 Australians aren’t getting enough sleep.5

“Although sleep appears to be a passive and restful time, it actually involves a highly active and well-scripted interplay of brain circuits,” says Hansen.

Sleep deprivation is proven to have a major impact on work performance. In 2016, 17% of Australians reported missing at least one day of work in a month due to sleepiness, 20% reported errors at work due to sleepiness over two to three months, and 21% of men and 13% of women had fallen asleep at work at least once in a month.6

Exercise and a good diet are also crucial for a healthy brain.

“It’s well established that exercise increases perfusion (pushing blood into our capillaries),” says Hansen.

“These structural and functional changes enhance learning and, ultimately create a more efficient brain with a greater capacity to learn. When we bring together diet, sleep, and exercise, we have more balance, and we build resilience.”

Essentially, self-care ensures you have the physical energy to succeed. And that in turn fuels your emotional and mental energy.

By paying attention to your own needs, you can ensure you have enough mental capacity to generate insights.

3. Prioritise what really matters

It can be difficult to say no. But spending your whole day in meetings or responding to emails doesn’t leave your brain enough time to think ahead or to innovate.

If your leadership style is to constantly respond or help your team with their needs, you may not be allowing enough time for bigger, more important priorities.

By paying attention to your own needs, you can ensure you have enough mental capacity to generate insights. Try implementing set times in your day for emails, meetings and focused tasks. Or make it clear that you don’t answer emails on weekends.

Hansen recommends blocking out some time every day to think quietly – even if it’s just for five minutes. She says, “without relaxation time, there is little space for innovative ways to build our business or solve our challenges, and we spend all of our time reacting to the day-to-day.”

4. Change your mindset

Abundant thinking is the best way to immediately give yourself more control over your future.

Verresen describes this as an ability to see more in your life: more options, more choices and more resources.4 And that starts with mindfulness.

It’s easy to become trapped in an unproductive mindset when you’re too hyper-focused on tasks to notice the world around you. The best way to switch into a productive, abundant way of thinking is to actively pay attention.

By doing so, you open the door to new opportunities you may not notice otherwise. It may feel like serendipity – but the reality is you’ve created the right mindset for new connections or new ideas.

This also means trying to be neutral whenever possible: seeing things from all perspectives. If you are struggling with conflicting opinions in a meeting, write every idea down and look at theme with fresh eyes. This can release any resistance or negativity within the room.

Hansen says she plans to continue living her best life in 2018 by focusing on her health, fitness, family and relationships.

“I’m on a constant vigil to be mindful of how my brain is working, and to override self-sabotaging instincts. But I’m excited by the opportunities the new year will bring.

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