Hard work is king. No one can argue with that.

However, you can work as hard as anyone and it might still not be enough. At the end of the day, several other factors play a part in dictating how productive and successful you are. That’s because there’s more to your performance and realizing your definition of success than just working hard on the task at hand.

Think about it: Imagine you’re sitting down getting some work done on your computer. Everything’s fine, right? You can be maximally productive, at least as far as potential distractions are concerned. Now, what happens when someone walks into the room and starts yelling at the top of their lungs nonstop? It’s going to be a lot harder to focus, no matter who you are.

This might seem like an odd or extreme example, but I use it to demonstrate a point: it’s not just about the work you’re doing, it’s also about the factors surrounding how that work gets done.

5 Keys to Cultivate an Environment That Optimizes Your Performance and Breeds Success

5 Keys to Cultivating an Environment That Optimizes Your Performance and Breeds Success

You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success — or are they holding you back?

– W. Clement Stone

According to Brian Moran, author of The 12-Week Year, greatness is a state. And how long you consistently maintain this state dictates your success in an endeavor.

So then, our goal is to create an environment which most consistently allows for this peak state to arise. What’s important to note here is that this state needs to be constructed, it isn’t something we can tap into without first doing some work to create the right conditions. However, once these conditions are met, we can more fully and consistently utilize this maxed out state.

So, what are the primary ways we can cultivate an environment which optimizes our performance and puts us in a position most likely to be successful? There are five keys:

1. Lay the foundation with a crystal clear plan

Before you do anything else, it’s important to get really clear about what exactly it is you want to accomplish. This involves taking some time out from your schedule to think really hard about what you want your life to look like five or ten years down the line. It’s important to fill in all the blanks here because you want a complete vision for your life in the future: professional, financial, personal, relationships, and other goals.

By getting crystal clear about your goals and the vision you have for your life, you can not only more consistently take positive action, you’re also able to work backward and gradually break that goal down into smaller and smaller chunks, creating a very clear path to the achievement of your goals. This makes it easier to take action day-by-day because you connect your vision for the future with relevant action now in the present.

Once you’ve gotten crystal clear about your vision, take some time to put together a clearly written vision and make an accompanying vision board. This doesn’t have to be anything crazy, just some images you print out and place somewhere prominent which are associated with your goals.

2. Track activity and performance

By tracking your daily, weekly, and monthly efforts (and corresponding results) and comparing it to the timeline you set for your vision in the last point, you’re able to much more easily stay on track to accomplish your goal. In addition, you’ll gain valuable feedback for making improvements and optimizing your process each week.

On a single page– whether digitally through Evernote, your device’s notepad or in a physical notebook– write:

  1. Major goals: I list a very short summary of my major long-term goals first to keep them in front of me constantly.
  2. Progress tracker: Track daily how much progress you’ve made on the primary tasks connected with your ultimate goals. If you broke down your vision and the accompanying goals in the last step, you’ll have a better idea of what these tasks will be. If you’re trying to lose weight, an example could be “work out for one hour”.
  3. Weekly plan: Now, take those primary tasks and plug them into the week. This is your weekly schedule, so it should be set up to where by the end of the week you hit the mini goals for each of your primary tasks. As you go through the week, mark these off as you complete them.
  4. Weekly grade: At the end of the week, grade yourself based on how you performed specific to each primary task.

Track your performance

3. Assess, modify, and maintain the proper intake of information

You’ve likely heard or read somewhere before about the importance of associations. But the thing is, we’re influenced by much more than just the people around us. Beyond that, at the surface, we’re influenced by ideas and the level with which we believe in those ideas determines how likely we are to take action on them (hence why associations are powerful, when we see someone else do something it’s a significant reinforcement).

Review these sources of information to make sure that you’re taking in as much positive, empowering, strength-minded information and the least amount of negative, discouraging, and victim-minded information as possible:

  • Articles, books, and blog posts online
  • Videos, T.V., and movies
  • Radio, podcasts, and music (lyrics)
  • Conversations, speeches, lectures and class lessons, and any other format where people are speaking to you

Like the previous points, this is a daily effort that is improved with time, so don’t expect nor try to do everything all at once.

4. Maintain healthy relationships

It’s well known that relationships are possibly the number one factor with regards to our happiness. However, beyond that, the people closest to us are one of the greatest influences on our daily performance and a factor which greatly affects our ability to achieve our major goals.

The remedy here is, unfortunately, varied and often much more difficult to fix than any other point on this list. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t place a good portion of your effort into it. Not only are the people closest to us the most important thing in our life, but investing time and energy into them is infinitely rewarding for us as well resulting in a clearer mind and greater motivation to do your best work each and every day.

If you’re wondering where to start? Presence is always the most important gift we can give to our loved ones and the first and most important thing you should give to create healing in any relationship.

5. Optimize and maintain the tool

So far, everything we’ve done has been to look outside ourselves and ask how we can create the optimal environment to maximize our performance and achieve our goals.

However, if you’re exhausted or the flame of your desire dwindles it will be very difficult– if not impossible– to maintain the high-quality effort necessary to achieve your goals. You are the tool which creates the results that lead you to your goals, so it’s critical that you take care of your mind and body.

There are many ways to do this, but it must be consistent. Here are some examples:

  • Exercise: Exercise doesn’t just keep our physical body healthy and optimized, resulting in less sickness and more physical energy, it also sharpens our mind and helps unlock our creativity.
  • Meditation: Meditation is probably the single best thing you can do as a creative to keep your creative pathway clear and open. In addition, meditation helps clear the mind, improve focus, and improves your critical thinking ability.
  • Small breaks: Use the Pomodoro method to create frequent, short breaks throughout your day. This will help you from becoming burnt out and keep your mind clear, maximizing creativity and focus.

These five keys together might seem like a lot, but each one is a long-term effort that requires patience and a persistent effort. If you work on making small improvements each week, within a short time, you’ll notice a huge improvement in your day-to-day efficiency and productivity and see noticeable strides towards your goals.

Use these five keys to maximize your productivity, optimize your daily performance, and create the ideal environment that breeds long-term success.