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Disconnection is key to peak performance

Professional services workers cannot be ‘on’ at all hours of the day. Stepping back and appreciating what one can and cannot reasonably achieve on a given day is paramount.

If Phill Nosworthy pushes himself too hard for too long a period of time, the quality of his thinking declines. He is, of course, not alone in this – it can and will happen to all of us. But, from a business perspective, it offers crucial lessons, he says.

Speaking recently on The Wellness Daily Show, Mr Nosworthy – who is the founder of Switch Learning & Development – said that workers have to recognise how best they can commercialise their time and ability to add value to clients, in accordance with their wellness needs.

“I'm not a machine. I'm not some automatically reloading, recharging device. This thing has to be maintained and as simple and as pragmatic as it sounds, we have to move at a more mature place. What we're talking about is sustainable performance, sustainable impact over time,” he posited.

“Over the course of a year, do I want to ruin myself over the next month and then be useless for the following 11? Does that make sense? The ability to have sustainable impact over the long term comes down to being thoughtful regarding when I push hard and when I rest. The process of evolving, becoming stronger, becoming more skillful is equal parts effort, specific training and rest. It's the same for anybody else, especially in professional services, especially for those of us who have to use our brains. You can't just keep pushing that thing, pushing that, pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing and expecting to get world-class results out of it."

Disconnection, he surmised, “is a part of peak performance” for those in professional services.

There are two key pieces of advice he has received in recent years that changed his whole outlook on his daily capacity to tackle whatever is in front of him, Mr Nosworthy outlined. The first is that ‘you’ve got to do what only you can do’.

“You're the only person who can be your daughter's dad. So, regardless of what happens, make sure you do that as your priority. You're the only person who can be your wife's husband. Whatever you do, make sure you do that well,” he explained.

The second piece of advice is that professionals should ‘do now what can only be done now’. This is a “prevailing principle” that has helped him work out what is necessary at different points in time, he mused.

“I know that on my phone right now my inbox is loading up. My Instagram is getting interesting. There are people chatting on LinkedIn, there's all sorts of stuff happening behind the scenes. But this podcast recording, for instance, can only happen now. My email will be there. And, I think unfortunately, people prioritise things that will be there the next time they pick up their phone for things that are irreplaceable,” he said.

“So, date nights with people that matter, drinks with friends, going out on that fun night, getting up early to watch the sun come up and go for a surf. Whatever it is, do now what can only be done now. I think if that's the prevailing principle, there will be things that will always be their email, inbox, social media, the opportunity to get back to people. Do those things later. Prioritise the one and only things one. It's possible to do those things.”

One of the most dangerous things that workers can do, Mr Nosworthy continued, is take their work home with them – or, for those who work flexibly, continue working after they’re supposed to have finished.

“The mistake that engineers for the Titanic made is that they called it ‘the unsinkable ship’, because they built a series of compartments down the hole, so that if there was a breach in one compartment, while it would contain the damage and all the other compartments would keep the boat buoyant, problematically is that those compartment walls weren't built to the ceiling,” he recounted.

“And so, when one compartment was breached and was filled, it would just overflow into the next, it would overflow into the next, it would overflow into the next. And the metaphor I think is quite obvious: as humans, we continue to believe that work stuff can stay at work and home stuff can stay at home. But I'm a married man and I know that when relationships are hard at home, then I tend to think about it at work.

“As we gather a bit more experience and we know ourselves a little bit better, we get better at this. There will always be opportunities to do things better or improve things over time. But to get better at leaving work at work, you had to go home to the people that matter most.”

To listen to the full conversation with Phill Nosworthy, click below:

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