Can elite sport performance hacks for doctors really work? The concept of periodisation has long been used to plan and optimise the performance of elite athletes. These performance psychology principles can be used to sustain high performance for doctors, building workplace resilience and wellbeing to reduce stress and build resilience. Here’s how to borrow work periodisation performance hacks for doctors from elite athletes.
Periodisation and Performance for Doctors
Periodisation is used to break training into cycles. It recognises that in addition to high intensity training, there needs to be downtime for rest and recovery. Alternating phases of complexity and intensity is central to periodisation. Overtraining is the route to burnout and injury in the sporting world. When we work with sporting bodies like the FA and UK Sport we use periodisation training to help clients prepare for events more efficiently. When we coach doctors, we use it to manage energy levels and avoid burnout. Periodisation is bespoke and based upon the needs of each client.
Vary the Volume & Intensity of Your Day
These sports principles can be used in everyday life. It’s a way of constantly changing the volume and intensity of performance to suit individual need. We introduce Resilient Doctor coaching clients to this concept to help them create professional momentum alongside an effective work life balance. Performance and time are chunked into a framework that includes:
- Macrocycles – a long term goal e.g. 6 months of a year
- Mesocycles – smaller cycles, e.g. 6 to 8 weeks long
- Microcycles – short cycles e.g. a session at the gym or project at work
Periodisation is a simple, data driven technique that when used with positive psychology will increase your performance and enable you to develop a growth mindset.
The Benefits of Periodisation for Doctors
Whether you’re adapting your performance for a busy period or you simply want to sustain your performance, periodisation has multiple benefits. Introducing this easy to use concept into your day will enable you to;
- Manage physical and mental stress
- Maximise performance during high stress periods
- Increase endurance
- Enable you to avoid plateauing
- Maintain momentum
- Avoid working practices that lead to stress and burnout
- Improve your wellbeing
- Better manage the stress of busy periods
- Help you to monitor and assess progress
Periodisation – Sustainable Performance Hacks for Doctors
If long term performance is important to you, periodisation is a systematic strategy to help you sustain high performance. When your performance threshold is permanently set to high, just like elite athletes, you’ll eventually burn out. Healthcare is a high stress, high performance, burnout culture. Periodisation will help you to dial down the intensity, manage stress and develop resilience. Here’s how.
- Identify Peaks & Troughs. Look at your work and home commitments over a period of weeks and begin by identifying any natural peaks and troughs. Start to plot your time daily based upon those periods of high and low activity. Specificity is key. Chunk your time into cycles that work for your personal schedule, macro, mesa and micro.
When planning time chunking we use areas that include professional, exercise, personal and downtime. You can create addition categories as needed.
2. Intensity Map. When work demands high, intense energy and focus, identify where and how you can take regular breaks and include downtime. Next to each activity estimate the intensity required, for example, let’s take a look at a typical day.
5.30am Wake up. Run 30 mins (80% intensity)
6.30am Commute and check emails (50% intensity)
7.30am Walk from station, meetings, completing work tasks, planning (40% intensity)
10.30am Break (downtime – if you’re lucky)
10.50am – 1pm See patients (60% intensity)
1pm Lunch walk and eat (again, if you’re lucky enough to take a lunch break. Many of the health professionals we work with don’t)
1.30pm – 5pm Surgery & meetings (80% intensity)
5pm Commute. Listen to podcast (20%)
7.30pm Working on personal development project 9pm (60% intensity)
Why Ploughing Through Won’t Work
It’s common to see people overextend themselves by ploughing through the day performing at high intensity without pressing pause, especially in healthcare settings that demand a high level of focus. Notice where high levels of intensity include regular breaks and periods of low intensity afterwards. If your entire week were to look like this with periods of high intensity (over 50%) dominating, we recommend that you include either a full day or a weekend of downtime for renewal. It’s important to create these chunks of time to stop yourself falling into the trap of sacrifice syndrome.
3. Vary Intensity. Make sure that your planned work and exercise cycles aren’t both set to intense on the same day. On a high focus work day, keep your exercise moderate to low and vice versa. Recognise that extended bouts of high intensity exercise can increase cortisol levels adrenal stress and feelings of depletion. You need downtime from work and exercise. Adjust the intensity level of tasks daily and weekly depending on the level of performance you’re working at.
4. Flexibility is critical. You’re constantly working with variables and it’s ok to make adjustments. Recognise where there are fluctuations. When you feel overwhelmed, give yourself permission to to take a break. Go for a walk, stretch, grab a coffee. Even if it’s just 5 minutes, incremental steps will begin to make a difference to your overall energy levels. Build down time into your schedule. Keep at least one weekend out of the month when you have real down time. That means no work, no work related emails and your alerts are switched to off. You’ll be better prepared for periods of high intensity in the days and weeks that follow.
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The Resilient Doctor are experts in sustainable high performance, consultancy and leadership coaching. We work with Fortune 100 companies, elite sporting bodies and international start ups. Contact us to find out how we can work with you.