Some days you may feel your potential is boundless. But every person has a limit, the highest rate or level of effort they can maintain (such as a certain weekly mileage or working hours) without getting injured or burning out.
That’s your maximum capacity. You can go that hard, but no harder, Eyring says. When you get close to your max, you’ll see warning signs that what you’re putting out isn’t sustainable. In fitness, those appear as injuries, plateaus, or poor performances. In your career, look out for regular missteps, such as accidentally replying all to emails, and physical or emotional symptoms of stress, like a short temper or elevated resting heart rate.
Those are all signs that you need to do less, Eyring says, so you can give your goals the time they deserve.
You don’t need to excel in all areas; the most successful people give themselves a break in those that matter less to them.
Say you don’t enjoy cooking—and you’re no good at it. (Eyring counts herself in this camp.) Instead of beating yourself up or investing time in learning how to make three-course meals, try her strategy: Accept the reality and find outside sources, like a subscription delivery service, to pick up your kitchen slack. “This gives you the energy to focus on being great at the things that are more important to you,” Eyring says.
Steve Jobs always wore black turtlenecks to avoid deliberating over clothing. Sunday meal prep makes healthy eating easier during busy weeks. This type of consistency minimizes wasted efforts.
That said, if you never do anything new, you’ll grow stale, Eyring says. To progress, you need to schedule time to challenge body and mind. For example, you might work with a trainer to lift heavier weights rather than doing the same 30-minute strength session every day. At work, you could aim to meet with one new contact in your field per week. You need that discomfort to progress, Eyring notes.
HIIT boosts your fitness, fast. In the same way, concentrated bursts of deep work—90 to 120 minutes where you’re laser-focused on one goal—allow you not only to fill your maximum capacity, but also increase it over time.
While working on her book, Eyring logged writing sprints, periods of up to two hours where she did nothing else. At the beginning of each, she’d set parameters for what success looked like to her, whether that meant drafting a certain number of pages or clarifying a complicated metaphor. Over time, each session became less painful and more fruitful.
Elite athletes don’t stay in peak shape throughout the year. They know they should be at their best for competitions but that they can back off, recover, and sometimes even try something completely different in the off-season.
Eyring suggests you think about your own career and fitness regimens in the same way. If you always run marathons, dedicate a training cycle to shorter distances. Work-wise, you can plan vacations or continuing education opportunities during months that tend to be less frantic.
“Being mindful about this makes it easier to do what you need to do today, but also stretch yourself so you eventually have the capacity to do even more,” she says.
Photo: Erik Umphery/thelicensingproject.com