Prep Like an Olympian: Six Habits for Peak Performance

I’m super excited it’s an Olympic year! By July 18th, the roster of U.S. Olympians will be finalized. With less than 30 days for the games to begin, those athletes are zoned into their training routines so that they are primed for peak performance when it really matters. While you may not think of yourself as an Olympian, there are some preparation techniques that we can apply in our own careers to consistently perform at our best.

Athlete with olympic gold medal against race trackI realize it’s summer and many are focused on vacations and dialing back on work commitments. Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s key for consistency in high performance, (see item #6). When you do return from some well-deserved time off, dive into these podium-worthy habits:

  1. Set goals – Research proves that setting goals and writing them down is a differentiator in actually achieving your goals. Like they say, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve arrived?” Some goals may seem overwhelming, so if you’ve got a goal that seems WAAAY out there, set some stepping stone goals, which move you closer to your ultimate goal and offers a sense of achievement along your journey. For example, if you have a goal to become known as a thought leader in your field, you may set some interim goals like, 1) Start writing a weekly blog, 2) Submit proposals to speak at conferences, 3) Complete an advanced course in an area of expertise, etc.
  2. Establish a routine – Just like an athlete who has a daily workout and nutrition routine, you need to identify the types of activities that support you in reaching your goals and foster efficiency in your work habits. This could be something as simple as time-blocking an hour in the morning and one in the afternoon to focus on email correspondence and follow-ups so that you manage your time appropriately and enable the right focus on top priorities when you are at your best during the day.
  3. Use a coach and mentor – All athletes have a coach and as a professional, you too may find a coach instrumental in helping you focus, adjust behaviors that may be holding you back, or refine your ability to lead through difficult situations. Using mentors who can support you as a sounding board for ideas, advice, or someone with whom you can vent when frustrated are also invaluable resources to have on your team.
  4. Cross-train – This is about making yourself well-rounded and offers the opportunity to gain wider perspectives, build new skills/knowledge and expand your relationships. It also makes you more interesting if you are interested in what others are doing, asking questions and listening closely. I can think of many times when I’ve taken ideas from other areas/industries and applied those concepts to my work. It’s a way to innovate and create in new ways when we widen the lens in which we see the world.
  5. Operate in a self-disciplined manner – In order to stick to the established routine, you need to be self-disciplined and hold yourself accountable for living in a way that supports goal achievement. Proper nutrition, alcohol in moderation and regular exercise are all important if you want to be at your best at work. While your diet and physical training may not be as rigorous as an athlete, it is well-known that to be at our best mentally, we must take care of ourselves physically.
  6. Rest and recharge – Getting the proper amount of sleep is part of taking care of ourselves physically and often viewed as a luxury vs. a necessity. I’m suggesting you take this one more seriously. Turn off the TV and other devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime so that you can fall into a restful sleep more easily and wake refreshed. Additionally, TAKE YOUR VACATION TIME! I’m amazed how many people don’t take advantage of their earned vacation time. The time away from the daily grind allows you to put things in perspective. You can return recharged and more productive than if you took your laptop with you and checked-in while away. Need more reasons? Check out blog 1 and blog 2.

What do you think? Are you willing to do the prep work for peak performance? Remember, you’ve got to enjoy the journey on the road to achieving your goals … it’s what gives meaning to our lives!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at