Five Ways to Maximize Peak Leadership Performance

Gain More Focus, Clarity, and Effectiveness For Peak Performance Throughout Your Day

Every leader is unique. As is their distinct mix of talents, skills, and leadership traits. As a result, achieving peak performance looks quite different from leader to leader. However, every leader’s performance—positive or negative—is directly influenced by the ways in which they work.

What is the link between how you work and how you perform? How can you use that link to maximize leadership performance?

Peak performance requires the optimal use of your cognitive storehouse, your brain. Not just how you use it—but when.

Did you know that while the average brain occupies 2% of your body mass, it uses 20% of your daily energy reserves? And, though its processing capacity is enormous, it’s easy to put yourself (and your brain) into overload.

By taking a brain-savvy approach to how you organize your work and your schedule, you will minimize overload and maximize your brain’s cognitive performance. Thereby optimizing your effectiveness and overall performance when you do.

Here are five proven ways to optimize your brain—and your leadership performance—throughout the day:

Maximize your ‘prime time’

Know and use your ‘prime time’ for your most important, often more complex work – and make a habit of doing this work first.

The key is to zero in on when you’re at your best and plan your day around it. For example:

If you’re a morning person, pay close attention to how you start your day. Ensure you schedule the heavy lifting that requires more complex or creative executive processing skills first (think strategy, planning, problem-solving and decision-making). For you, first thing is when your brain is at its optimum and best used to tackle your most important work.

Not a morning person? Focus on the time of day/night that’s prime for your brain and plan/schedule your work accordingly.

Mono-task on prime work

Work in blocks of time that optimize your cognitive capacity, especially when you want to tackle anything complex.

Research confirms that our brains max out after 90-minute work blocks and need a break then to rest and restore. When you use this insight to your advantage, you can plan your day for peak performance.

Set a timer to allow you to concentrate on the work in front of you during each block (ideally, with your devices and notifications off), then take a brief, energizing break to stretch and move around when the timer rings. When you do this every 60 to 90 minutes, you will notice how much fresher you are for what’s next in your day.

Manage distractions

Eliminate and/or reduce the volume of incoming messages, notifications and reminders that may be filling your day and draining your brain of its processing reserves.

Regardless of whether you are processing an incoming message, text, notification, or phone call—each one distracts your attention and causes your brain to ‘switch.’ Then, it must switch again to return to what you were attempting to focus on.

There is a cognitive cost each time you switch your focus, as neuroscientists such as MIT’s Earl Miller have confirmed, and it can quickly add up. The more switching you do, the greater the cognitive load you place on your brain’s daily reserves. This leads to brain fog and a marked decline in your ability to make good decisions or complete tasks effectively.

Set schedules and boundaries

Schedule the time you plan to engage via email, messaging, and social network platforms so you’re not cutting into your prime time. Then let others know when they can expect to hear from you, barring an emergency.

With these two steps, you’ll begin to take control of your schedule. As you design your schedule around your peak performance time, notice how much more effective you can be.

Shift non-prime work to off-peak time

Use ‘off-peak/non-prime time’ for batches of less complex work, such as completing admin tasks and to-dos.

These may be simple tasks but require lots of starts and stops as you work through each item, so it’s best to do them after you’ve completed one or two ‘prime time’ blocks of work.

Your performance as a leader is strongly correlated to how and when you approach your work. By applying a brain-savvy approach, you can gain more focus, clarity, and effectiveness in your day. Each of the five ways outlined here is an opportunity for you to do just that. In the process, you’ll be working smarter, not harder, to achieve your peak leadership performance every day.

Michelle Lane

Michelle Lane is a leadership development coach, consultant, and facilitator with 40 years of diverse leadership experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Michelle can be reached at

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