High Performance Habits
By Benoit Tremblay - Published 2018/7/1
High Performance Habits is not about a new cool library or framework. This book is also not about coding or architecture. It is not even nearly talking about software development. However, it talks about one of my favorite subject: MINDSET.
What if the secret to becoming a 10x developer was not lying within the code, but within your own mind? That almost every time you sit at your desk, you knew you will get things done with ease and grace. You could even become one day that role model everybody admire and get inspired by!
Have you ever though about that… and then not follow through? You probably have a good idea of the steps you need to take. You would not be reading this blog post if you were not amazing (learners always are). However, just like everyone else, you get caught up by busy works and you don't have much free time in your hands.
Procrastination was my thing when I was in college. When I had a homework to do, I was always waiting the night before starting it no matter how big it was. Most likely just after midnight and I could go all night. Starting was a struggle and finishing was a nightmare unless it was a very small project. I had a big stack of unfinished coding projects and I was clearly living under my potential.
One day, I was so fed up with my bullshit that I asked for help. This is the one thing procrastinators never do, but I felt completely helpless. I thought I had to fix it myself because I was clearly smart enough to figure it out, but I couldn't. This person was kind enough to listen to me, give good advices and made me discover the beautiful word of personal development.
I bought books and online training and I learned the hidden forces that made me procrastinate. I started applying the advices, became more mindful and it totally changed my life. The world of personal development tends to have a bad reputation because there are so many bad advices but you just have to find the ones that resonate with you and get rid of the rest. The few nuggets will make it worth more than you can ever imagine.
Brendon's book High Performance Habits is all about making you find your own answer on how you can go to the next level (and not just on your coding skills). He asks you countless thoughtful questions throughout the book that will bring results at your job and at home. Are you skeptical? So am I, but luckily this book is backed by A LOT of science and research. He surveyed more than 20,000 people to uncover what makes a high performer tick and what doesn't. If you're not convinced, you can look at the amount of end-notes and references. You know Brendon did his homework because there is a lot of proof from other people's work to back him up. He also coached a lot of people in the past 15 years including some big names like Usher and Oprah.
After reading the book, here are my 4 big takeaways:
Manage your stress and avoid burn out
Do you feel sometimes overwhelmed by your job? Maybe you have a big piece of code to get done and you're not yet sure how you are going to do it. Maybe you have a big meeting coming up and you don't feel as ready as you would like. All of this is generating negative emotion in your mind and the more you feel them throughout of the day, the worst you are going to be able to get things done.
If you want to be able to get things done like no one else, you need to master transitions. What Brendon's call transitions are all those daily moment where you go from one activity to another or one place to another. For example, if you were coding a feature and now you need to go plan the next sprint, here is a transition. When you need to stop coding and go to a conference call or a meeting, here is another important transition. When you get out of the car at home to meet your wife or kids, here is a meaningful transition.
Every time your mind go from one activity to another, and especially when you go from deep technical work to interacting with a human being, you need to manage your transition so that your negative emotions are not following you around all day and more importantly so that you have the right intention in mind. To do that, Brendon teaches Release Tension, Set Intention:
- Close your eyes for a minute or two.
- Repeat in your own mind Release over and over again. Let the stress go out of your body and your brain.
- When you feel ready, set the intention on how you want to be and what do you want to accomplish for the next activity?
It might seem overly simplistic, but if you take the time to release the stress from your body and set good intentions throughout of the day, your energy level will feel on a whole new level you might not even know you had within you. When you feel really tired, instead of looking at your phone with some brainless activities, you might want to take just a few minutes and try that. If you want to disconnect a little bit more, you might as well try the Release Meditation Technique Brendon teaches on YouTube.
You are overreaching!
And it's your own damn fault. Have you ever given a date that you heart-fully though was realistic, but you were wrong by a factor of 2, 3 or even 4? I know you did, but it is not because you were careless. In our world, there is a lot of unknown and uncertainty that we just cannot learn all of them until we are done with the project. And just like any developer, we are overly optimistic so when our manager ask for a date, we tend to give them what they want. When we add a multiplier of 3, 4 or 6 (which you should) depending on the uncertainty, we feel silly giving that absurd amount of time. And if we do, our manager challenges that estimate and we back down. You know what? That “absurd” amount of time might have been the correct estimate and you might realize it in the middle of the project. But you didn't stick to your gun.
We all know that conceptually, but are you still falling to that same trap? I like how Uncle Bob explains how different managers and programmers are when it comes to confrontation. Your boss will challenge and pressure you not to make you overcommit but to know the truth. Programmers tend to back off instead of fighting back and it will make your work like hell if you don't know how to say NO.
At the beginning, you might have become highly effective because you were saying yes to everything and getting it done swiftly. However, the more and more you do that overtime, the more you are overreaching and cannot keep up with the pace. Then, you ask yourself why am I not being as productive as I used to be? This means it is time to change your mindset: Slow down, be more strategic, and say no more often.
Honor the struggles
Things are most likely never going as fast as you would like them to be. You always want more and keep moving forward. But when things get hard, you start looking for something to blame and give up. We are always told to do the easy things. Do the quick wins. But when we focus so much on what's easy, when are we going to do the hard and meaningful work?
Your struggles are forging who you are and as long as you know you are going to figure things out (because you are), then you can focus on staying consistent. You know that over time, you will grow and accomplish your goals. Bear in mind that over time, you might feel dissatisfaction and it is a normal feeling to have.
If you are never satisfied with yourself, you are never going to be at peace. Do you think it might cause complacency and make you lose your motivation? Brendon found out that high performers do feel satisfied, but it must follow with the strive for optimal performance. Otherwise, you feel disconnected with who you are and have that perfection image of yourself and it will make you burn out over time.
The secret to becoming satisfied is by putting things into perspective. You have to take the time to internalize what you have accomplished in the past. You don't realize how far you come from and how impactful your work has been. You might find it helpful to journal about that at night.
Increase your Prolific Quality Output (PQO)
Have you ever felt that work-life balance is an impossible ideal to achieve? That no matter what, if you want that career or project to progress, you need to give it all your focus and forget about the rest? What if it was possible to achieve? Balance does not mean the same amount of hours on the work and at life. It means doing what is really meaningful in your professional life as well as your personal life without neglecting one or another.
If you find meaning and engagement in your work, the last missing piece to make sure you don't burn out is to take breaks and vacation when appropriate. They are not optional, they are required if you want to stay productive and happy. Everybody needs to refresh his mind once in a while.
To find that meaning at work, you have to make sure to stay focused on the Prolific Quality Output. It is the output from you that create the most value in your field. The output that you will look back at the end of your career and be proud of them because it made a contribution. If you look at any high-level programmers, scientists, athletes, they have something in common. They have produced more than anybody else because they know what the quality output was important and made sure to keep it their main thing.
Find what you need to produce and make sure you block enough time in your week to work on that. Where do you feel the most engaged, useful and happy when you are contributing to your company? Is it coding features? Quality control? Coaching other developers? Architecture? Infrastructure? Project management? This is your own Prolific Quality Output (PQO).
What are the few things that really matter to you and how can you spend more time there?
Get the book for FREE
If you would like to know more, you can get the book "High Performance Habits - How Extraordinary People Become That Way" for free as well as some bonuses.
FULL DISCLAIMER: I do not get compensated for recommending this book. I just genuinely think it is good and worth reading.