Finding your 1% – 3 critical habits to improve your performance

We know from  top level sport that 1% is the difference between 4th place and winning a medal. Finding the right small change, and sticking with it so that it becomes second nature, is the key to sustaining and improving your performance too.

But how do you identify the right 1% change?  You have specific strengths to build on, and weaknesses to overcome. So, while there are many possible, and even unique, areas in which you can get better, I’d like to propose three 1% areas that will help anyone improve their performance and well-being.  These are based on many years’ experience as an executive coach, helping leaders to Act powerfully, Relate well and Think straight.

Within each 1% area, I’ll explain why it is important to performance and suggest one highly specific practice that can help you build your capability. I’m inviting you to choose one area at a time and commit to it for long enough so that it becomes a habit. Only then do you move to a new commitment. But the gains will accrue like compound interest, so you will be rewarded for narrowing your focus and committing to one small, specific change at a time.


Habit 1. Give yourself time to think

Henry Ford once said that thinking was the hardest work there is, which is why so little of it gets done. In the onslaught of 24-hour news, endless emails and back to back meetings it’s easy to get caught in a reactive, pressured, even anxious state of mind. You probably cope by ‘just doing’ and working harder, but not always smarter. People repeat whatever they did last time, because to do something different just seems too difficult to contemplate.

Instead you can build the capacity to pause, reflect and think differently. Simply noticing your patterns of thinking is enough to open up new possibilities and solutions. Have you had the experience of a new idea popping up at an unexpected time, like when you’re brushing your teeth? Serendipity and creativity need the opportunity to emerge.

Commitment – Think straight “I will take 5 minutes to stop and think about my priorities each morning before responding to any emails.”


 Habit 2. Pay attention to the people you work with

No one is an island, and more than ever you rely on the engagement and support of other people to achieve, grow and succeed at work. Sadly, you can easily fall into the trap of objectifying your colleagues, especially under stress or when there’s disagreement. You then see them not as people, but as resources to deploy, problems to be solved, or barriers to overcome.

Instead, you can stay aware of your colleagues as human beings with hopes, dreams and fears just like you.  You can regularly acknowledge other’s strengths and contributions, as well as give clear requests for change when needed.  This enables more honest and effective communication, stronger relationships, and a more constructive environment.

Commitment – Relate well.  “I will personally acknowledge at least one of my colleagues each day, and share something I appreciate about them.”


Habit 3. Engage with your body below the neck.

Most professionals today are knowledge workers, whose main contribution is intellectual, and whose primary work relationship is often with a computer screen. Hunched and staring, your body stores stress and ‘dis-ease’.  Compounded by poor food choices and a lack of exercise, you can pay a physical price for doing your job.

Instead, find simple ways to regularly re-engage with your body. This does NOT have to extend to competitive sport or extreme exertion, although this approach appeals to some. It can be as simple as getting up from your desk and moving around every hour. Or going for a short walk during a lunch break. Or spending a couple of minutes each day to consciously stretch, relax and pay attention to your breathing.

Commitment – Act powerfully.    “I will pay attention to my body every day, and find an opportunity to move with awareness.”


Making your 1% commitment a reality

Which one of these potential changes resonates most with you? Which one do you instinctively know would be hardest for you to achieve, yet bring the biggest benefit?

Take a look here at how we use an innovative approach to forming new habits.

And contact me to learn how we can help you and your business make changes that stick

Jonathan Males