“Managing energy, not time, is the key to performance, health and happiness.” -The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

I love watching sports, and one thing that really fascinates me is observing the kind of routines world-class tennis players use to outperform their competition.

For example, while average tennis players might warm up for a match, have a meal and then hang out in the locker room chatting with their entourage, the very best pros use well planned pre-match routines to get them ready to perform at their very best.

Jumping Rope: Rafael Nadal, warming up before a match.

And this makes total sense:

They want to consistently play big tennis and not just sporadically celebrate important wins.

Therefore they leave nothing to chance.

Obviously, this is true not only for tennis players.

Take Olympians:

Not showing up at their best might mean training extremely hard for 4 years and then messing up a competition during the money time because they felt stressed out and exhausted.

The same goes for entrepreneurs: Having a bad day might mean taking rushed decisions she will regret later on.

I think regardless of the profession, anyone of us would get really frustrated if we work really hard towards a goal, and then mess things up because we performed below our abilities.

This is why pre-competition rituals are so crucial: They help top athletes get into their ideal performance state. For some this might mean visualizing an upcoming event, others might prefer doing a breathing exercise minutes before starting to compete, and yet other might get themselves to feel pumped up and inspired by moving their body and listening to music.

In fact, athletes are not the only ones who use rituals.

More and more top businessmen and entertainers use them to escape their rushed and chaotic life so they can show up focused and sharp at business meetings or gigs.

While their practices may vary, they usually all include some form of slowing down the mind, which is beneficial in so many ways. For instance:

  • We start feeling more energized.
  • We think more creatively.
  • We connect stronger with the people around us.
  • We also become aware of our own thoughts and feelings so that we are able to take conscious decisions.

This all sounds great, but I kept asking myself:

What if we don’t have time to meditate several times a day or take a long walk to slow down our thoughts?

I kept wondering if there is no shortcut to getting into our ideal performance state until I noticed something very interesting amongst some of the world’s best tennis players.

While most pros rush from point to point in quite a random manner, the very best have specific rituals that help them recover even between points. They might spend a few seconds slowing down, taking a few deep breaths and getting ready for the next point.

The thing that amazed me is how just a few seconds of recovery between points gave them the edge and allowed them to maintain their high level and energy throughout an entire match.

I was thinking if these mini-breaks can have a huge impact on tennis players, why not create something similar for off the tennis court?

This is how I invented the Mini Time Out Routine.

I discovered that in just 60 seconds we can get ourselves into a much better state to handle high-pressure situations.

The Mini Time Out Routine is so simple but it allows us to transition from one moment to the next with a clearer mind.

And this is how you do it:

  • First, you need to find a quiet spot and close your eyes for 30 seconds.
  • Slow down your breathing, and when you feel ready, count 10 long breaths.
  • Then set an intention for your upcoming situation, and visualize yourself overcoming any obstacles so that you eventually achieve the result you desire.
  • Spend a few more seconds experiencing the positive emotions that you would enjoy following a successful outcome.
  • Finally, open your eyes and make your final preparations for the upcoming situation.

That’s it- 60 seconds, and you will feel so much sharper in your head, and fresher in your body.

Of course, you can make some adjustments so that this routine suits your specific needs.

The key is to regularly enjoy a few moments in which you take a mini- break from your daily hassles, and set an intention for your upcoming activity.

It’s that simple.

But I must warn you:

The big challenge for most people is that they rarely remember to do a routine before important occasions if they didn’t practice it in advance.

At least this is what happened to me initially. I would encounter important moments and would forget to take a Mini Time Out to get myself into my best performance state.

This is why I use the Mini Time Out Routine several times a day. Gradually this practice helped me rewire my brain to automatically slow down on a regular basis. And once that happened, it has become so much easier to slow down before big events.

To help you follow through with this routine, I suggest you introduce mental triggers.

Let me share some examples:

  • An athlete might use entering an arena as his mental trigger before competition or practice sessions.
  • An author could train to get himself into the right state every time he sits down at his desk.
  • A businessman could use opening a door before entering his office as his mental triggers.

Take a moment to think about when you want to slow down daily, and what mental triggers you could use to ensure you follow through. To accelerate this process, you can also set yourself several daily reminders on your phone to slow down. Every time the alarm goes off, just take 60 seconds to stop what you are doing, take a few deep breaths and visualize what you intend to do for the coming hours.

To sum up: All you need to do to enhance your performance in big pressure moments is this:

  • Get into the habit of slowing down at least twice a day, by using the Mini Time Out Routine.
  • Use this routine before important high-performance situations.

Top Resources

Habit Hacking Foundations

The High Performance Code

Focus Like A World Class Athlete

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