What are your silent performance killers?

18 Jun 2019 By Chris Preston

Most of us are unaware of the everyday practices that sap our productivity, says Chris Preston, but they needn’t be hard to cut out

In our always on, 24/7, fast-paced world, we’re doing more than ever before. But are we actually achieving more? Not many people (especially not high performers) arrive at work to do anything less than their best work. Yet, completely unintentionally, that’s exactly what many of us do. ‘Silent performance killers’ are the things that slow down our productivity but go unnoticed – creeping up on us, or laying in wait in a meeting room. Even worse, like a clogged-up artery, they build up over time and when we finally realise the impact they’re having, the cure is long and painful.

Here are the biggest silent performance killers affecting all of us every day – and what to do about them:


Whether it’s devices pinging every five seconds, multiple tabs open on your computer, the banter in the office, or thinking about dinner, distraction is everywhere. Put devices in a drawer, shut down emails, close all surplus tabs and focus on the task at hand. 

Unproductive meetings 

How many meetings do you sit in and question the purpose, value, quality of output and possibly why you’re even there to start with? With the right planning, management, creativity and follow-up, meetings could become one of your most productive activities, as opposed to an obstacle to productivity. 

Lack of connection 

Usually, before a meeting starts, people are madly checking emails or social streams. Human connection boosts performance – because when someone takes an interest in our lives, it makes us feel good, part of something and supported. So look up and show your colleagues a little love now and then.    

The ‘Groundhog Day’ effect 

Most of us walk through the office the same way to get to our desk, sit in the same place for lunch, have our meetings in the same room and invite the same usual suspects to those meetings. This behaviour is massively limiting the connections we make, the conversations we have and the solutions we find. Break the mould and mix it up a bit. 

Being tired 

In a world that’s gone crazy for mindfulness, we need to remember sleep is the very best meditation of all, a wholesale shutdown of body and mind to restore itself. Most adults need seven to nine hours – if this isn’t possible, try and formulate a strategy where daytime naps can creep in (even 15 minutes will help), and where at least two nights a week you can play catch-up. 

Lack of water

Just four per cent dehydration (indicated by feeling a little thirsty) causes a 20-40 per cent decrease in work capacity. The more water you have about the place, the more will get drunk by you and your team. Buy a funky water bottle and start a trend.  

Sitting still

Many office-based jobs mean we are sitting still in the same position for the majority of the day. Something as simple as standing up and sitting back down again a few times fires off some much-appreciated oxygen to the brain. Better yet, take a little walk, say hello to some other humans or get outside. The impact on your productivity when you return is palpable. 

Not refuelling 

When your body is hungry it needs nutrients, not calories, so reaching for the nearest convenience food won’t help. Stock your office desk with unsalted popcorn, protein bars, dried fruit or nuts, so that when you’re up against it, you can fuel for performance, not a sugar rush. 

Keeping a stiff upper lip

We bring our whole selves to the workplace each day. If you’re not feeling great, allowing yourself to share this, and appear vulnerable for moment, will both strengthen your relationships and help lift your state. It also sends a message to the rest of your team that we don’t have to all be ‘fine’ all the time. 

Martyrdom of our motivators

Many of us sacrifice doing the things we love because we’re too busy at work – we’re spread so thinly elsewhere and we’re just too important to the effective functioning of so many things. But if you don’t do enough of what makes your heart sing, you won’t feel fulfilled and your motivation (and therefore your performance) in all areas of your life will drop. 

In order to sustain high performance, we all need to continuously invest in our human bank balance. Like all elite performers, this means taking time out (active regeneration), fuelling for performance (you get out what you put in – literally) and managing the world around us, instead of it controlling us.

Chris Preston is founder and director of The Culture Builders, including the recently launched Bank of Me

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