We’ve all been told we are at our best when we use time effectively. But what if that’s backward? What if we know how to utilize time best when we are most effective? Think of a moment you were performing at your best. I’m guessing you weren’t looking at your watch while you executed flawlessly.
We are awestruck by high performers. So researchers and the rest of us study and track how people master performance, whether the performance is of elite athletes, singers, stock brokers, doctors, engineers, or CEOs.
Experts urge us to time box, manage distraction, monitor our processes and procedures, take naps as the masters do, and track our performance with various wearables. Wearables track our biomarkers: heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and more. For example, data from my sleep wearable helped me figure out that I sleep better when I don’t eat late at night.
Every moment of every day, you experience biomarkers that wearables don’t track, such as feelings, sensations, emotions, and thoughts. As you work on a project, perhaps your shoulders tense, and you have anxious butterflies in your stomach and racing thoughts in your mind because of worry. When you are at your best, your shoulders might relax, the butterflies in your stomach settle, and your thoughts might become organized, allowing you to make the most of your project time.
Power, Poise, and Presence: A New Approach to Authentic Leadership proposes that we have biomarkers that help us be effective and efficient. Instead of waiting for those biomarkers to appear, we can choose to express them. In the example above, I would relax my shoulders, imagine my butterflies settling and remember that my thoughts can be organized.
Each of us has unique biomarkers. Someone else in this same project might feel open, happy, and free when they are effective and efficient. It’s time to find, and leverage, your biomarkers.
🔎 Finding your biomarkers
When you are effective and efficient, list as many details as possible happening within or outside of you. For example, when you are efficiently working on a project, you might focus on the task, view the wider project, and allow your mind to wander so you can be creative about how you complete the task. You may even think you are capable of completing the work. Each of these experiences is a biomarker.
📑 Noting your biomarkers
List your findings like a scientist. In the example above, you would list out the following:
- Focusing on task
- Open to the wider project
- Let my mind wander
- Tell myself I am capable of completing the work
🧑🔬 Experimenting with your biomarkers
List out the biomarkers while thinking about when you’ve been efficient in the past. In the example above, you might consider yourself focusing on a task, being open to the broader project, letting your mind wander, being creative, and telling yourself you are capable of completing the work.
This activity will allow you to create the conditions for your efficiency to emerge. We often go through the motions of work, thinking efficiency and productivity happens without a cause. However, we can control when and how our best efficient self emerges by using your biomarkers.
The next part of the experiment is discovering your modifications. You may need larger quantities of certain ingredients, or you may need to substitute one ingredient for another. As you amass more experiences, your entire recipe may change.
🔐 Unlocking your full potential
It’s not enough to know what your biomarkers are or to experiment with them. You’ll also want to prepare yourself like athletes do before game day. Before that big presentation, meeting, interview, or sales pitch, bring to mind your biomarkers to create the condition for efficiency and productivity before you start. It’s like setting yourself to have a good night’s sleep before you sleep.
Before I enter a coaching conversation, I’ll take time before my call to bring together my biomarkers, preparing myself to show up authentically for my client. Whether in a lightning call or a longer one, I don’t look at my watch or the clock when I’m with a client. Instead, when we are wrapping up, I glance at the time and notice we are right on time.
🚫 What to avoid
It’s best to avoid judging yourself. Whether you are doing your biomarker experiment right or wrong doesn’t matter. Opt to experiment with what works for you and what doesn’t. Throw out what doesn’t work and keep making progress.
Avoid thinking each iteration always has to be the same. Everything you experience makes you different. In addition, your biomarkers may change over time.
⏭️ Taking it further
To take your biomarkers further, begin to notice what your biomarkers are when you aren’t at your full potential because the more you become aware of when you aren’t at your full potential, the easier it is for you to course correct.
Having a loose tongue or using too many words when I’m struggling to say the hard truth my client needs to hear is a crucial biomarker and indicator that tells me I’m no longer being productive. Since I don’t have a wearable yet for that, I can notice my loose tongue biomarker. When I notice words are flowing from me like lava from Vesuvius on eruption day, I stop speaking. I bring to mind each of my productive biomarkers in the space of a single breath. The intentional reset is enough to deactivate Vesuvius.
📈 Bottom line
Give yourself room to explore, room to grow, and room to fail. Then, if your biomarker experiment doesn’t work, you can always go back to time-boxing.
Lizette Warner, Ph.D. is a business leadership coach, keynote speaker, and Best-Selling author with years of executive healthcare expertise. Dr. Warner is the author of Power, Poise, and Presence: A New Approach to Authentic Leadership.