Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen or heard how high performers put themselves into a peak mental state with a morning routine.
You may have tried out those morning routines, but let’s be real.
How many of us actually do those rituals every day perfectly? Not a lot.
Besides, there is no universal morning routine that works for everyone.
So instead blindly following morning routine of a “successful” person, let’s take an alternative approach.
In this post, I’ll give you a list of mental states you can use throughout the day so you too can become a top performer without obsessing about the perfect morning routine.
What Is A Mental State
In psychology and philosophy, a mental state is defined as a state of being that makes you feel or think a certain way.
An altered mental state, therefore, helps you switch your mental state of mind to match the task at hand. As a result, you feel in sync and energized to perform at your peak.
Three of the biggest mistakes people make that get them out of the peak mental state are:
- Staying in one mental state for too long.
- Trying to cram in two or multiple states of being at one time.
- Skipping an important mental state (out of the 5 mental states mentioned later in the article)
You can avoid these three mistakes by taking regular (and strategic) breaks, keeping a single focus at one time, and prioritizing each mental state.
For example, taking a break to check social media between bouts of focused work will hurt your productivity because it will alter your mental state from a focused state to a passive, consumption state.
Another example of doing it wrong is planning and working side by side. These two activities require different states so it’s much better to separate them.
The last example is not putting a full stop on your work hours, so you don’t recharge yourself using other mental states.
Now we understand what a mental state is, and we know the biggest mistakes people make, let’s dive into the list of mental states that will make you a high performer.
5 Mental States For High Performance At Work And Life
1. The Flow State Of Mind For Work
There’s only one way to reach your focus zone while working. That’s to get in the state of flow.
The flow state requires clear goals, immediate feedback and a balance between perceived skill and perceived challenge.
But before even reaching flow, you need to remove all distractions so you can stay in flow for long periods of time. It won’t matter if you reach the flow state when you can’t stay in it, because it won’t put you in the zone.
When you’re free of distractions, the next thing you need to avoid is anxiety or boredom so you can reach your optimal arousal zone.
High challenge and low skills lead to anxiety while low challenge and high skills lead to boredom.
A lot of times, you’ll have to do tasks that are boring or the tasks that are too difficult for you. But if you manage your arousal level well, you can get into the flow state in most cases.
Some ideas for increasing arousal while doing boring tasks:
- Listen to focus music (try [email protected])
- Give yourself a deadline
- Make the task more challenging or fun
Some ideas for decreasing arousal while doing difficult tasks:
- Take (or ask) for more time to do it
- Break the task down into smaller chunks
- Bring down expectations until you get better
2. The Learning State
What do Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jack Ma, Warren Buffett, and Oprah Winfrey have in common?
They all have a learning or reading hour during weekdays. They call it the 5-hour rule, in which they dedicate 5 hours per week to learning. Clearly, they’re doing something right which we all can learn from.
But you must avoid passive learning, and instead practice active learning. You can do so by reading smartly, taking notes, highlighting, quizzing yourself, getting feedback, using spaced repetition and mnemonics to remember what you learn, and so on.
If you want to retain more of what you learn, you can also go beyond “receiving” information and learn by participating and doing.
3. The Thinking State
We all think. But only a few know how to use the power of our thinking.
Most people abuse their thinking power by thinking negatively, ruminating, judging, self-sabotaging, hating, resenting, and so on.
Some of the best uses of thinking come in the forms of contemplating, questioning, doing thought experiments, problem-solving, decision-making, planning, reflecting, brainstorming, daydreaming, re-framing, expressing, etc.
These thinking tools can help you reach a positive state of mind and achieve optimal performance for doing the right things when it’s time to take action.
Getting better at thinking requires the use of mental models, creativity, gratitude and so on. To get started, you can expand your thinking with the study of philosophy and psychology. You can also read my article on upgrading the quality of your thoughts.
4. The Meditation Or Mindfulness State
When it comes to meditation and mindfulness, I take inspiration from animals.
Look at them, they seem to be in the moment all the time. When someone hunts them, they fight or flight. Soon after, they’re back to normal, eating or hunting for food again as if nothing happened.
Of course, you’re not a mindless animal who doesn’t think. And I’m not even asking you to live in the moment all the time, because you need other mental states to thrive as a human. But we can use animals as an inspiration to come back to the present moment.
You can meditate to get a clear head in the morning, to wind down in the evening or to become aware of your thoughts and emotions during the day. It also acts as a powerful brain re-charger any time when you feel mentally tired, down, stressed or overwhelmed.
5. The Sleep State
The last mental state you need is a good deep sleep.
In his book, Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker makes a funny (yet true) statement about sleep:
“AMAZING BREAKTHROUGH! Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and strokes, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?”Matthew Walker
Among all the other benefits, a good night’s sleep recharges your batteries for high work performance. You don’t expect your phone to run without recharging it, so why would you expect that from yourself? The bottom line: Sleep is the secret for top performance.
To improve the quality of your sleep, you can start with these sleep tips.
Become Your Own High-Performance Coach (Or Hire One)
You need a balance of these mental states to perform at your optimal level. Most people never experience their true potential because they don’t optimize their mental states. As discussed earlier, you can avoid the three most common mistakes people make by following these tips:
- Pull the brakes after staying in a mental state for too long (take strategic breaks).
- Stay in one mental state at one time (don’t mix them).
- Don’t skip any of the five mental states (prioritize them).
To truly optimize your work and life for high performance, you can either hire a high performance coach or use self-experimentation and self-accountability to find your own optimal mix of the five mental states:
- The flow state (3 to 6 hours of deep focused work)
- The learning state (30 to 90 minutes)
- The thinking state (as needed)
- The meditation or mindfulness state (as needed throughout the day or a 5 to 60-minute session)
- The sleep state (7 to 9 hours of quality sleep)
High-performance coaching is not only about optimizing your day, but it covers all the essentials including nutrition, exercise, stress, recovery, and productivity. That way, you’ll feel vibrant, focused, productive, calm, happy, healthy, smart, confident and successful every day.
From years of self-experimentation, I can tell you it’s not worth it to function on a crappy fuel that keeps your energy and mood low. Upgrade your fuel and become a top performer.