Change your environment! Similar to wellness, make sure to change your environment. In the case of performance and task batching, don’t be tempted by the distractions. The most obvious way to help achieve this is by turning off notifications. Not having that pop-up appear on the screen or feeling that vibration in your pocket works wonders to reduce distractions — you can’t be tempted if you don’t know it’s there. Alternatively, you can try to just get rid of the distraction altogether by putting the phone in another room entirely.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dayakarn (DK) Sandhu.
DK Sandhu is an electrical designer in the commercial building industry with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Minor in Management. He is a 3rd place finisher in the 2018 Canadian Engineering Competition and has led a team of over 70 in designing, manufacturing, and competing with an all-electric formula style racecar. He is the founder and CEO of Atomic Coach, a platform for certified online fitness coaches to expand their reach and for people to find and compare fitness coaches to meet their goals. He is always in relentless pursuit of becoming the best version of himself possible.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba and raised by my mom and grandparents. My father unfortunately passed away several months before I was born so my mom shouldered the majority of the responsibility of raising me. It was really my mom who started to push me to be the best version of myself. Back in early elementary school, she would teach me things we wouldn’t learn in school until next year and would give me problems to work out and solve. I had learned multiplication and division well before we started learning it in school. Now I know what you’re thinking — “what a horrible childhood,” but I promise I actually loved learning these things and practicing them. I obviously didn’t realize at the time why I loved learning them, but I knew that I did. Just to give you an idea of how much I loved learning, out of the whole class, my third grade teacher gifted me alone a fourth grade math textbook on the last day of class!
As time progressed and I got older, I started seeking additional ways to improve myself. I first focused only on learning new things, but this then expanded into physical health and exercise. I picked up soccer early on in elementary school and have enjoyed playing it for years, yet I still surprisingly suck at it! One thing that I don’t suck at however is badminton. I picked up badminton in middle school and immediately fell in love. I’ve played competitively all throughout my school years and still like to come out of retirement now and then to teach a big talker a lesson.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I was always “the smart kid” in school and always had an interest in science and math. As I went into high school, I gained an interest in fitness as well, but unlike some male teens who start weight lifting in high school to impress girls and then eventually lose the motivation, something about it just stuck with me and it became a habit.
As for my aspirations, after being constantly told by your family and other adults throughout the years that you should be a doctor because “you’re so smart,” that was naturally my inclination in high school. However, in eleventh grade, we had an English Language Arts assignment in which we had to interview someone and subsequently write an article about it. We had all the creative freedoms to interview anyone on any topic and take whatever spin we wanted on it. As I got to work on the assignment and began brainstorming potential people I could interview, I stumbled upon a local article in a newspaper about a young CEO who successfully founded and was operating a company at the time called ICUC Moderation Services. The article also mentioned that he owned a Tesla Roadster, which is a 200,000 dollars all-electric sports car — something I didn’t think anything of at the time. So out of the blue, I decided to email the company and ask for an interview with him. To my surprise, several days later I got a positive response and we agreed to meet up at a local coffee shop.
As the interview progressed and I fired away my list of questions, I felt quite inspired by his story of entrepreneurship despite him not having any formal education or experience in it. As we concluded our talk, he asked me if I wanted a ride in the Tesla Roadster, to which I of course agreed! As we started driving, I was blown away by what I was experiencing — the design, the instant torque and acceleration, the fact it was all-electric, and most importantly the fact that a team actually designed and built it. It was at that moment that I realized my true interests lied in engineering, fitness, and entrepreneurship. That was the primary moment that motivated me to pursue electrical engineering and join the extracurricular university team that manufactures, designs, tests, and competes with an all-electric, formula-style open-wheeled racecar. Along with this career choice, I constantly spent time learning about management and entrepreneurship on the side. The amalgamation of these passions led me to then consequently form Atomic Coach to help people find the best certified fitness coach for them to meet and exceed their goals.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I have been blessed with having many people throughout my life who have provided me with the necessary help and encouragement I needed, whether directly or indirectly. At each point in my life, someone has been there to be my guide whether they knew it or not. In my early years, it was my family who directly taught me the basics and pushed me to shoot for the stars. As I mentioned, I also had formed a special bond with some of my grade-school teachers who encouraged me to further pursue my interests. Later on, I had the good fortunes of meeting some extremely unique friends who I look up to and admire. Seeing their similar ambitious natures but different personalities and methods provided me with new unique perspectives and appreciation.
One friend and colleague in particular, Laraib Uppal, who I met during a university summer internship at a power utility company, had indirectly changed my outlook on taking first steps and trying new things. Him and I were both ambitious, but although I didn’t realize it, prior to that point I was quite risk averse. Seeing his equally, if not more ambitious nature combined with his fearlessness for risk-taking without letting a flood of negative “what-if” scenarios scare him off compelled me to start learning to adopt his approach. Although I’m not quite at his level yet, I do see him as inspiration to not be afraid to just take the first step.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
One of the most interesting “mistakes” that occurred to me happened back in my senior year of high school. Our high school had a large film program and several film classes that I was entrenched in from my first year onwards. I was to give a speech to an older audience at a hotel conference about the film program and the benefits it had provided to me as a student. During the course of the speech, I looked at the audience, forgot what I was going to say, completely froze, and started mentally panicking. During my time on stage, this felt like an eternity, although I’m sure it was only several seconds for everyone else. Regardless, it was enough for everyone and myself to realize that I had stumbled out of stage fright. After I recovered, I made a mental note to improve my public speaking skills and stage fright, two areas that prior to that moment I didn’t even realize I had issues with.
Since then, I’ve valued and increasingly jumped on opportunities to speak publicly. I would speak in presentations for classes, presentations for the university engineering student government, and I would speak in recruitment events, present in design reviews, and chair team meetings for the electric racecar team. Every opportunity was scary, but each time got just a little less scary. I learned that to improve I had to put in the reps, and as a result I’ve now come a long way from that initial point.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Firstly, it’s important to recognize that success is a never-ending journey made up of smaller wins. As you achieve each one, you set the next goal.
In this day and age, we’re constantly bombarded with other peoples’ happiness and successes on social media. However, we often don’t see the immense amount of background work and the seeds that were planted years ago to reap those rewards. Achieving your goals is not an overnight endeavor. Discipline and consistent steady progress are required. When asked to empty a swimming pool full of sand, don’t be the person who would say it’s impossible after realizing how much work it would be — be the one who can make consistent and steady progress day by day to achieve the goal.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
One book that has had a significant impact on me is Good to Great by James C. Collins. This book is a summary and discussion of the results of a multi-year study evaluating and determining the causes of several companies’ pivot from just being “good” to being “great”, and why some just remain “good”. The principles in this book can be applied to various aspects of life and organizations, from individual personal development, non-profits, and corporations. The key takeaway for me was recognizing that greatness, although media seemingly makes it seem like an overnight success, is composed of steady and consistent bouts of effort day in and day out.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
One of my favorite quotes is “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” by George S. Patton. This resonates with me because one natural and sometimes unfortunate inclination for individuals like me is to wait for perfection prior to execution. I like to plan things out, gain all the necessary knowledge, and get as close as possible to expert status on something before executing. This quote however reminds me that sometimes the best course of action is to just take the first step. There are many aspects of life in which we learn best by doing and failing, and it’s important to embrace that failure. Sometimes it’s fine to just be 80% sure or 80% done before execution. If we wait for perfection to do everything, we won’t do anything.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am growing and expanding Atomic Coach, the directory for only certified online fitness coaches to expand their reach and client base. With the current pandemic that has swept the globe, many people can’t or don’t want to go through in-person personal training, which has made it tough on coaches and trainers. Atomic Coach seeks to help coaches by freeing their time, expanding their reach, and continuing to bring value to clients by allowing potential clients to easily find them.
For the individual and client, Atomic Coach allows them to compare numerous coaches to find the best coach who aligns with their goals. There are also too many online fitness coaches out there offering services without any valid certifications or proper education in the field, and Atomic Coach seeks to protect the individual from this trap by ensuring each listed coach’s certifications are from an accredited and reputable organization. For the coach, this means they get recognized for the hard work they put into getting their certifications.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Many of us have heard the saying “we are creatures of habit”. This is true — in general, we as humans prefer familiarity and don’t like to dabble in the unknown. This is why vanilla is such a popular ice cream flavor. We subconsciously achieve living in familiarity by sticking to our habits — whether good or bad. Hence, since we’re creatures of habit it’s important that we make sure those habits are in our best interest, whether that be for our health, productivity, performance, or happiness.
Another direct benefit of having good habits is the happiness and satisfaction you get out of doing them. Even though you may have had a horrible day at work, just knowing that you got in that exercise in the morning beforehand helps to bring that little piece of fulfillment at the end of the day.
Personally, there’s a certain sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing I’ve completed a good habit activity in the course of my daily routine, and that sense of accomplishment carries through as momentum into the rest of the activities I do. I find that starting my day off with good habits sets the tone for the rest of the day.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
The primary roles that habits have played in my life are improving performance and efficiency, improving my outlook, and creating order. Improving my efficiency means I’ve been able to accomplish any task I want to do significantly faster and as a result I have more time available to make additional progress or relax and recoup. The improvement to my outlook and satisfaction with life stems from the fact that I have some habits that are so ingrained within me that I consider them to be a part of my identity and who I am, which gives me that extra meaning. Habits form the pillars of who we are. They create order, and when I have order I’m able to be consistent and make continued progress.
Some of my favorite success habits also happen to be the ones that we’ll focus on in this interview. For me personally, my number one keystone habit — the habit from which most of my other habits are based off, is regular exercise. Simply having this one habit in my life makes it easier for me to implement and keep up with all the others. When I exercise, I’m more motivated to eat healthy, my mind is less cluttered, and I’m filled with energy and motivation.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
In general, I would say the best way to develop good habits is to change your environment to make it conducive to starting the habit you want to develop. This means eliminating all areas of resistance and effort. Part of the reason we don’t do tasks is simply because of the initial set up or work involved in starting them. Once we actually start them, we find it’s not that bad and is even enjoyable. As an example, if you want to start reading every single day, put your book in the open where you can easily see and reach for it.
As for stopping bad habits, it’s the same advice but in reverse — change your environment. If a bad habit you have is eating junk food all the time, don’t leave the cookie jar in plain sight on the kitchen counter. Hide it up high in a cupboard out of sight, so that even if you remember it’s there you have to find and get up on a chair to get to the cookies. You can do the same thing with the TV remote or TV itself if you find you’re watching too much TV. You’d be surprised how much less likely we are to go through with a task when we have to even modestly increase the effort level to start it. No one can achieve everything through willpower alone.
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.
- Eat healthy. The first good habit I would recommend that leads to optimal wellness is simply eating a nutritious and balanced diet suited to the goal you want to achieve — whether that be muscle gain, weight loss, maintaining, and so on. This is an important one at the top of the list for wellness, as I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet”.
I personally track my calories daily using the MyFitnessPal app to make sure I’m not over or under-eating. I also regularly rotate my foods such that I’m not eating the same thing every day. This ensures my diet doesn’t become boring, but more importantly it also ensures that I’m not missing out on any key vitamins or minerals that certain foods may be lacking in.
- Exercise regularly. The second habit is relatively obvious, but it is to exercise regularly. Again, the length and type of exercise can vary depending on your specific goals, but it’s important to get some regular exercise in to your weekly routine. It’s been shown that getting your heart rate up on a regular basis has beneficial impacts to not only your wellness, but also to your performance and focus too!
I aim to complete four resistance training sessions per week and two cardio sessions per week. I usually do these first thing in the morning as I find that I’m most focused at that time before the ‘noise’ of the day seeps in. It also clears my mind, wakes me up, and prepares me for the day ahead since I know I’ve checked off an important task in my day already. If I end up missing my morning workout, I find that I have much less motivation to do so later in the day.
- Sleep! Another habit that leads to optimal wellness, which again ties into optimal performance and focus as well, is going to bed at a consistent time and getting enough sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for most people is seven to nine hours per night, but this of course varies by individual. Similar to diet, it’s been shown that getting enough sleep is crucial not just for your physical health, but for your mental health, performance, and focus overall. Being consistent with your bedtime helps with this.
I usually shoot for eight hours of sleep per night, as I find that is the ideal amount for me. To achieve this, I go to bed and wake up at the exact same times every day of the week. Every now and then life happens and I’m only able to get six hours or so, and I almost always feel it the next morning. One day of six hours is manageable for me but if it ends up being two or more in a row it’s too much and my productivity takes a major nosedive on the second day.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- Enjoy the food you eat! An important practice to ensure you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet is to actually enjoy the food you eat! As I mentioned before, no one can achieve everything through willpower alone so if you’re eating healthy but you hate the food you’re eating, you will give up on the healthy diet eventually. Take the time to research and experiment with what you enjoy cooking and eating. This way, it won’t feel like a “diet” and is just your lifestyle, which is the goal we’re striving towards.
- Make it easy! The biggest excuse people have for not exercising is that they don’t have enough time. A workout doesn’t have to be ninety minutes long though. The key to building a habit is consistency so if you can get in, say, fifteen minutes of exercise in for three days a week, that’s a fantastic start. It’s important to not set massive goals from the outset because they can actually become hurdles. If your goal is to get a ninety-minute workout in today but you’re dreading the thought of doing ninety minutes of activity, you’re much less likely to do it than if your goal was to only do a fifteen-minute workout. Since the most difficult part is starting a task, once you’ve started that fifteen-minute workout, it might even end up becoming a ninety-minute workout as you get into the groove of it! Always remember that you want to decrease the amount of effort involved in starting a good habit so that you can be consistent with it.
- Consistency is key! It’s a fact that most people don’t get enough sleep. There’s a variety of reasons for this. Some people lie in bed lost in their own thoughts, while others spend too much time on their phones or watching TV at night. People also tend to stay up later and sleep in longer on weekends. This results in a very tired Monday morning for these people since they’ve essentially shifted their biological clock over the weekend. To ensure you’re getting enough sleep, the first practice I recommend is to go to sleep and wake up at the exact same time every day. This keeps your body’s internal clock consistent, and as mentioned, consistency is key for good habits.
Secondly, how do you even know if you’re getting enough sleep? Wake up without an alarm. If you’re relying on an alarm, you likely aren’t getting enough sleep for your body. I always set an alarm, but 90% of the time I end up waking up and turning it off before it goes off.
- Warm up your lights. It’s been shown that exposure to blue light prior to bedtime results in an increase in the body’s cortisol level, which is the hormone that keeps us awake. To combat this, I recommend turning on an automatic blue light filter on all your electronics or eliminating their use several hours prior to your scheduled bedtime. I do this on all my electronic devices. You want your body to associate your bed with sleep and not electronic entertainment.
- Change your environment! As I mentioned before, changing your environment also applies to all the above! This practice is key in developing good habits. For healthy eating, change your environment to replace that cookie jar with a basket of apples or prep breakfast the night before and refrigerate it. For exercising, have your gym bag and clothes ready by the door the night before so you’re not stumbling the morning of. For sleep, remove the tempting TV in your bedroom that keeps you awake.
- SMART goals. Another important practice that applies to all the above is setting SMART goals and habits — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Be specific in describing your habit — your habit shouldn’t just be to “sleep more” or “drink enough water.” It should be to “sleep eight hours per night” or “drink seven glasses of water per day.” The habit should also be measurable so you know if you’ve checked it off or not. One practice I recommend doing to achieve this is to make a daily to-do list. This can be hand-written or you can use an app, but the important thing is to write down and track progress. Seeing whether or not you did what you wrote down helps immensely in holding yourself accountable. An attainable habit is also key — don’t shoot for the moon from the start. Make it a habit to exercise for fifteen minutes per day or cut down your donut consumption to once per week instead of exercising for ninety minutes per day or eliminating donuts altogether. Achieving these minimums builds momentum and fuels the fire for building on those habits in the future. Relevancy is a little obvious, but don’t make it a habit to drink more milk if you’re lactose intolerant. In that case, focus on other sources of calcium instead. Lastly, keeping the habit time-based is of high importance as well. As I mentioned, consistency is crucial — exercising at the same time, waking up and sleeping at the same time, and setting a minimum amount of time to perform a said habit for.
- Make a pact. A final universal practice that is extremely powerful in developing all habits is making a pact with yourself or someone else. You can make a pact with a friend in which you commit to hitting the gym a minimum of eight times per month. For each month you don’t hit that goal, you must pay them 200 dollars. The key here is that it needs to be an amount that hurts for it to be a sufficient motivator. Alternatively, you can simply make a pact to go to the gym together at specific times. This way, you have incentive to not miss a day since you don’t want to let your friend down.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
- Sleep and exercise. Firstly, I must mention the important habits of getting adequate sleep and regularly exercising. These habits not only play a role in optimal wellness, but also in performance. When you treat your body right, you also treat your mind right.
Oftentimes, people sacrifice sleep so they can be more productive. They think that by reducing the amount they sleep for two hours will mean they can get in an extra two hours of work into their day. I would do this in university at times as well, but the problem is that it’s been shown that not getting adequate sleep leaves your brain scattered and slower to respond to stimuli. So although I was getting two extra hours to absorb additional knowledge for that upcoming exam, I wasn’t retaining that knowledge. In fact, in the school year in which I committed to aiming for eight hours of sleep per night, I achieved my highest grade point average of 4.45/4.5 than in the years in which I sacrificed sleep to study more.
- Task batching. Aside from the importance of adequate sleep and exercise, a habit that significantly improves not only performance, but also focus is task batching. It’s been shown that humans are not capable of efficiently multi-tasking. Rather, we’re significantly better at performing one task at a given time, and then switching tasks. It’s also been shown that there is a significant adjustment time required for our brains to get into the details and mindset required for the task we switch to. Furthermore, our IQ temporarily reduces every time we switch tasks! This is why lawyers will often charge you the full hour for a ten-minute phone call. They know that it will take them a while to get back into what they were doing. Thus, I highly recommend doing similar tasks in bulk together rather than intermittently.
I have implemented task batching in numerous aspects of my life. I used to respond to external stimuli such as emails and social media notifications and messages as they would pop up, and I would consequently have days where I felt like I did absolutely nothing. That’s because most of my time was spent constantly switching back and forth from “urgent” emails to the actual important tasks I was trying to get done. I now set aside specific times in the day to check email and social media — I control these distractions and they no longer control me. As a result, I have seen significantly improved speed and efficiency in my project delivery and any tasks I’ve set my mind to. During my set email checking times, I’m able to blaze through my inbox and quickly file, flag, and respond to everything with speed I otherwise wouldn’t be able to achieve. Task batching has been so useful in improving performance that I’ve extended its use to other aspects of my life. I’ll now frequently organize a drive within the city to achieve multiple errands like filling up on gas, getting groceries, dropping off that present, or attending that appointment. I also frequently meal prep and cook for the week in bulk on a dedicated Sunday.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- Plan. With regards to sleep and exercise, the very same practices I’ve discussed for optimal wellness apply here. As for task batching, planning plays a big role. The key is to actually schedule times in the day to do those batched tasks. Put it in your calendar and until that time happens don’t bother with doing any individual task that should otherwise fall into that batching time. For email as an example, you can set 11AM and 3PM as batch times. For bulk cooking and meal prep, it might mean investing in a larger pot and more food containers.
- Change your environment! Similar to wellness, make sure to change your environment. In the case of performance and task batching, don’t be tempted by the distractions. The most obvious way to help achieve this is by turning off notifications. Not having that pop-up appear on the screen or feeling that vibration in your pocket works wonders to reduce distractions — you can’t be tempted if you don’t know it’s there. Alternatively, you can try to just get rid of the distraction altogether by putting the phone in another room entirely.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
- Sleep and exercise. Once again, sleep and exercise are habits that tie in to having optimal focus as well. These are important for every aspect of your life.
- Eliminate distractions. One key habit that can lead to optimal focus is to eliminate all distractions when doing important tasks. Oftentimes, people let the small and unimportant distractions take away their mental energy from the important tasks at hand. This is similar to task batching, as the goal is to ultimately ensure that you’re only performing a singular task at once, which in turn leads to optimal focus.
Once I got into the habit of eliminating distractions when focusing on important work and setting aside specific times to deal with those smaller unimportant distractions as I talked about, I was significantly more focused and in-tune with the task that I was trying to accomplish. Personally, when I’m on a tight deadline or I want to achieve optimal focus for a detailed electrical design I’m working on, I’ll place my phone out of sight. I’ll also turn on Focus Assist and all other focus-friendly settings on the device I may be working on. On a Windows PC, Focus Assist turns off all notifications. If I’m writing a document, I’ll turn on Focus mode in Microsoft Word, which gets rid of the taskbar, the top toolbar, and even blacks out the sides of the screen such that the only thing in front of you is the text you’re typing on the page.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
- The Pomodoro Technique. One valuable practice for developing optimal focus is adopting the Pomodoro Technique. This is a technique where you eliminate all distractions, set a timer for twenty-five minutes, and focus on nothing but the task at hand until the timer runs out, no exceptions. When that twenty-five-minute block of time expires, set a timer for five minutes, and take a mental break. Close your eyes and relax or go for a brief walk to rejuvenate. Then rinse and repeat four times, after which you can take a fifteen-minute relaxation break. The exact numbers here can be modified to suit the individual. You might find forty-five-minute blocks of focus followed by fifteen-minute blocks of rest work better for you, but the key here is to actually set a timer, watch the first few seconds start ticking away, and not be distracted. Turn off your phone or leave it in another room, close your office door, put on headphones and play some white noise that gets you in the focus zone. No matter what, you are now there to put your head down and focus on the task at hand for that block of time until the timer goes off. Only after the timer goes off can you check your phone, read that news article, or google that burning question.
- Change your environment! Once again, changing your environment is a key practice to promote these habits. Turning off digital distractions might not be enough. It’s extremely difficult to focus if you’re doing your work in a physically noisy and distracting environment like in front of the TV. To ensure all physical and digital distractions are eliminated, it’s important to set aside a location dedicated to getting you in the focus mentality. This can be a dedicated office space in your home, or it can even be a local coffee shop. The goal here is to create an environment that creates a Pavlovian Response — an environment that the brain associates with “getting in the zone.” This is why it’s so difficult to get work done in front of the TV — not only is it distracting, but your brain has already associated the TV with relaxation time, not focusing time. Lastly, just as important as what you do in that dedicated focus space is what you don’t do — do not use that space for entertainment or you’ll start associating that space with entertainment and relaxation, just like the TV.
- Make a pact. Similar to wellness, you can put your money on the line. Make a pact with yourself that if you break your focus session by checking your phone, you have to burn a fresh 10 bill dollars — or better yet, donate it to your least favorite charity. Alternatively, you can make a pact with your accountability partner by scheduling a focus session to work on your respective projects side by side. This way, if one of you is tempted to break focus from the distractions, the other can provide the necessary reinforcement and encouragement to maintain that focus.
You’ve probably noticed by now there are a significant amount of similarities between the habits and practices for optimal wellness, performance, and focus. This is no coincidence. These are extremely important and holistic habits and practices that once implemented, pervade into and improve various aspects of our lives.
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
I’ve found that to achieve Flow, there are four major factors that need to align perfectly, three of which you’ve mentioned in the definition. The fourth is a sense of urgency. In my journey towards becoming a Professional Electrical Engineer, I’ve achieved peak performance, motivation, and efficiency when I’m calculating electrical cable, transformer, and panelboard sizes for instance. This is because I’m skilled at these things, and when you do something that you’re skilled at, you inherently have a certain amount of motivation to do it. Everyone enjoys practically applying their skills.
Along with the requirement to do something I’m skilled at, I get the most satisfaction when I’m also challenged with doing a task that is beyond my present skill level but is still within reach if I push myself a little bit further. Pushing myself further sometimes means conducting additional research on recommended design practices and gaining additional technical knowledge, becoming more familiar with codes and standards, getting familiar with alternate construction methods, or learning how to better understand a client’s needs and concerns based on their personality. The crucial point here is that it must be sufficiently challenging enough to give you that extra motivation and in turn the pride and feeling of accomplishment when you complete it. At the same time, the task can’t be too challenging or there will be a large barrier to start, making it difficult to make consistent progress since it will require a significant amount of upfront learning time. The task must fall between the too easy and too hard levels of challenge. In building Atomic Coach, I was and am constantly doing such challenging tasks just out of my comfort level since I was building a complete platform and business from the ground up. Of course, there are tasks and projects everyone does that are too easy and may in turn be boring. For those tasks, look for ways you can increase the level of challenge without just adding unnecessary filler, as you still want to be efficient with your time and efforts after all. For me, if the project in and of itself isn’t challenging enough, I’ll sometimes seek to make it more challenging by researching ways I can potentially improve upon an otherwise simple and tried and true method of design. Ask yourself how you can increase the value of the deliverable you’re working towards or otherwise use the task as an opportunity to expand your skills. Alternatively, for very large, complex, and challenging tasks, think about how the task can be broken down into manageable but still challenging sections. For me, if the project is, say, a complex multi-building industrial development with interconnected electrical and communications systems, I’ll break them up into smaller sub-projects each with their own deadlines. This way I can focus on each separately and ensure each sub-project meets the requirements to achieve peak performance.
We all have to do things from time to time that seemingly don’t have much meaning to them, at least on the surface. But finding meaning in these things means stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. What is this one little task or project contributing towards in the grand scheme of things? I already enjoy doing the things I mentioned before because I’m skilled at them, but the additional challenge involved with stretching my skills and experience further when doing that hard Flow inducing project is a great feeling. I achieve meaning not only through this feeling of expanding my skills, but also in knowing that the projects I designed have a positive impact on peoples’ lives. These impacts range from seeing someone’s ambition of having their own restaurant realized, a new personal care home or medical clinic to serve those who need it, a new recreational center for youth, and increased safety of processes in manufacturing facilities. Sure, the individual lighting color temperature selection for that recreational center may seem insignificant at first, but it ultimately forms the basis for the entire mood and breathtaking vibe of the room, which everyone visiting the center will experience. When I make those cold calls for Atomic Coach, I understand that I’m doing it to provide certified fitness coaches to people needing one so they can take charge of their health.
Lastly, achieving Flow for me requires a sense of urgency. The deadline in which I must have the task completed by has to be looming and within sight. Otherwise, I’ll tend to push it off knowing it doesn’t have to be done for a while. Sometimes the deadline is set by someone other than you such as a client. Often however, you must be the one setting the deadlines, which is the case for everything I do in Atomic Coach. I have to be accountable to myself and seeing that deadline on my calendar helps get me into the proper mental state to achieve Flow.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would say that more people need to take charge of their health and fitness. Although fitness has become much more popular in recent years, there’s still too many of us out there who don’t treat our body with the respect it deserves. Understandably, it can be difficult to know how to get started due to the mass amount of information out there, but the number one step is to just get started doing something. Starting and doing something is still better than doing nothing. The body is a temple, and we only get one so it’s up to us to take care of it. Take that first step.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would love to have a breakfast or lunch with none other than the very individual who, unbeknownst to him, had indirectly inspired me to pursue electrical engineering and entrepreneurship — Keith Bilous (@keithbilous on Twitter), my interviewee for eleventh grade English Language Arts assignment and owner of the Tesla Roadster I got to ride in. I would love to chat in further detail knowing what I know now and see just how much not only I have grown, but how he has grown as well. Keith has remained with and grown ICUC even further beyond that initial interview, and I would love to know his future plans.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow my personal Instagram at @sandhu_dk. Also feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/dayakarnsandhu/). For more information on Atomic Coach and my goals to help make the world a fitter place, you can visit the Atomic Coach website.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.