I was recently listening to an episode of The Tim Ferriss Show with Josh Waitzkin, and a discussion about getting "in the zone” for peak performance stood out to me. During the podcast, this concept is mostly considered as it applies to sports like martial arts. Turns out, it's much more widely applicable than that.

There is never-ending debate about how many hours you should work to be successful, yet avoid burning out. There's no right answer to this, but Josh provides a useful framework for thinking about work-life balance.

The Balancing Act

In a world where we are busy all the time with a wide-ranging number of interests and inputs, we often operate at a 6 out of 10. Not too hot, not too cold. This seems okay, but consider the optimal state of being at a 10.

"There’s the undulation, most people in high-stress, decision-making industries are always operating at this kind of simmering six, or four, as opposed to the undulation between just deep relaxation and being at a 10. Being at a 10 is millions of times better than being at a 6. It’s just in a different universe. Same as being all-in on a discipline is millions of times more intense than being 98 percent or 99 percent."

You’re probably under the impression that you work pretty hard. For the most part, I think that I do too. This may be true, but the harsh reality is that while you may be working hard from a time-based perspective, you probably aren’t being efficient with your mental capacity when it comes to performance.

"Your ability to avoid the simmering six directly affects your ability to then ratchet up to turn on to the 99 percent or the 100 percent. If you’re always at a simmering six, you’re just at 50 percent battery all the time."

You might work 80 hours a week. You might always be engaged, thinking about the next thing, and handling various responsibilities. If you want to do great things, this might make sense. However, as is the case with most things, there are repercussions to consider.

Find Your Sweet Spot

If you are constantly "on," then chances are that you're at a simmering six. The thing about being at a 10 is that you can't be there all the time. If you don't pump the breaks every once in a while, you are directly hurting your ability to crank things up to a 10 when need-be.

By working all the time, you are depriving yourself of the state where the real magic happens.

Teach yourself to dial it down more often. Let the idea, question, or problem lay dormant in your mind. When the time is right, turn it up to a 10 and dedicate yourself to it completely. Give it 100% of your focus and mental capacity. This is easy to say and harder to practice, but when done right, it can be pretty powerful.

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