“First put on your own oxygen mask before assisting other passengers.” This safety announcement is made before every plane takes off. The reason? If you don’t have a secured oxygen mask, you will not be able to help others for very long. Good self-leadership will empower you to make a bigger dent in the world. This principle can be applied beyond the airline industry.
I remember when I was facing a big decision as a student. I spent time with a friend and asked for his advice. Before answering my question though, he asked me the following:
- Have you eaten healthily recently?
- Have you exercised recently?
- Have you slept recently?
I was underwhelmed by these questions. They were so basic; I was expecting something more profound. Only now do I recognise the wisdom contained in them. Before making a big decision, it is crucial to remove factors that hamper clear thinking. Having these basics in place is putting your oxygen mask on first.
Ever since then I have made a habit of asking myself these questions before making a big decision. If I can’t answer all 3 with a “Yes”, then I defer decision making until that is corrected.
You can also invest in these 3 areas. Don’t try and change everything all at once. Experiment with these and by changing little by little you will be making great investments. This advice was shaped by Tom Rath, author of Eat Move Sleep, who has a great podcast interview here and also has a 30 day Eat Move Sleep challenge here – both are free to download.
1. Eat – get quality into your body so as to get quality out
It’s expensive to eat healthily but I suggest that it is worth it. It requires research, good planning and having to make your own meals probably more often than you do now. Here are some tips:
- Drink lots of water. Before I start my day at work, I fill a 2l jug of water. I must finish it before I leave for home.
- Pack healthy snacks. Nuts, biltong, fruit etc. or else you will crack and visit the vending machine for an unhealthy snack. Jorge Lemann, one of the founders of 3G Capital (who own AB Inbev, Burger King and Heinz) always carries snacks in his jacket pockets.
- Banting/LCHF/Atkins. I am not a dietician and you need to do your own research. Bottom line is that you might benefit from making some changes to your diet.
- Vitamins. If you are going to change your diet, it is probably a good idea to use a multivitamin daily to make up for any deficiencies. I also suggest looking into Omega 3 supplements.
- Think about making lunch your main meal. When you are having to cook for yourself, it can be a challenge. During articles I made lunch my main meal because I could get a healthy, balanced meal for a reasonable price from the canteen.
2. Move – sitting is the new smoking
Movement can range from stepping to running marathons. Wherever you find yourself, take the next step. Movement releases endorphins, helps you sleep better and increases the strength of your heart.
- 10 000 steps a day. That is the goal. My wife bought me a FitBit for my birthday last year and that has made this a lot easier. You can use an app on your phone or buy a step counter.
- Avoid sitting for long periods. Since 2015 I have made use of a standing desk. I love it. It is also highly recommended to try and move consistently throughout the day – 250 steps an hour. This is achievable and will make a massive difference. Don’t start off with the goal of completing an Iron Man – just avoid sitting!
- Walk more. Steve Jobs loved walking in order to help him think better. Are there one-on-one meetings that you could change into walks?
- Exercise on specific days. I have worked hard to make a habit of exercise. Habits can be developed and have written about this important area here. This is important to read if you struggle to make new habits stick.
- Download Strava. It is a free app that tracks any run, cycle or swim. You keep all your stats in one place and you get motivated by seeing what your friends are getting up to. This is social media that pays off!
- Include stretching. As I get older, the more I notice that my mobility is decreasing. Some basic stretches before and after exercise are great investments (so is Pilates). I also have a pull-up bar that allows me to work on core strength.
3. Sleep – give your brain a chance to reboot
When you sleep, you give your brain a chance to reboot. While you are sleeping, your brain releases toxins and consolidates learning. It is quite common to brag about your lack of sleep, and there will be times when an all-nighter is unavoidable, but in the long-term it is flying with your oxygen mask off.
- Aim for 8 hours. Set your ideal wakeup time and then backwards to get your 8 hours. Impossible? Why not at least experiment with this approach for a week to see the difference it can make.
- Read before trying to sleep. This can work because it removes the focus from your life problems or issues that would keep your mind too active. It also helps you learn more!
- Learn more about the importance of sleep. As a student the ability to thrive on little sleep is a mark of distinction. You therefore probably need to educate yourself on the benefits of sleep in order to make it a priority. Fast Company recently wrote about why even 6 hours is not nearly enough.
We all can take steps to Eat, Move and Sleep better. Make investments in these 3 areas and create habits that will lead to better decision making and a longer life. What other steps would you suggest?