High performers such as Jeff Bezos and Sheryl Sandberg stay mentally sharp by making sleep a non-negotiable activity in their life. Richard Branson has credited his peak performance to working out.

When you're mentally sharp, you're not only growing and evolving at a faster pace in life, but you're also operating with more confidence. With that said, to stay sharp and confident and operate as a high performer, use these six tiny habits.

1. Commit to exercising.

When you get your body moving, you're creating emotion. Most important, by exercising, you're creating energy, which is your most valuable currency.

When I first started my exercising journey, my primary focus was adding muscle. However, that mindset has evolved, as I now realize that exercise serves as a defense system that helps with aging and mental health while building resiliency.

With that said, as we get older, our hippocampus shrinks, which can lead to impaired memory and higher risk for dementia. Before you get worried, here's the good news: Researchers discovered in this study that aerobic exercise increases the size of the anterior hippocampus, which leads to improvements in memory and cognition.

Integrating exercise into your busy professional life is as simple as committing to walking for 30 to 40 minutes daily.

2. Focus on learning new skills.

Staying mentally sharp requires a commitment to stepping outside your comfort zone. When you fail to leave your comfort zone, you risk your mind going soft and dull along with becoming a step slow.

Learning new skills is a high-performance habit because it keeps your memory sharp and cognition functioning at a high level. Research published in the Journal of Psychological Sciences showed that engaging in cognitively demanding and novel activities enhances memory functioning.

So I'm challenging myself to learn European Portuguese and salsa dancing along with a few other dances.

Commit to a hobby you're not highly skilled in; learn a language, or take up photography or painting, to name a few of the many options available.

3. Expose yourself to new ideas and environments.

As humans, we love certainty and familiarity. Unfortunately, when you're addicted to those two things, you also increase your odds of reaching stagnation both in life and business.

"Growth happens outside your comfort zone" is a cliché, but it's true. Think of famous painters and innovators and you'll notice that they ventured outside their industry norm to create unmistakable work.

Exposing yourself to new ideas and environments is powerful because of their effect on your brain chemistry and outlook on the world, which leads to healthier decision making. At the base of all of this lies curiosity, a key driver for innovation along with improving your working memory.

When I wrote my book, my baseline topic was health and fitness. But I used superheroes, artists, and music for my analogies to bring new life to a familiar topic. To start creating unique work, look outside your industry bubble and then mesh that uncommon idea with the industry norm. 

4. Make sleep non-negotiable.

As a high performer, one of the most important traits of your success hinges on the ability to lead not only others but yourself.

Leadership requires executive brain functions such as cognitive reasoning, planning, organizing, and decision making that are all heavily affected by sleep deprivation. In fact, neuroscientists have found that after being awake for 16 hours, your ability to focus and executive-function decrease.

All of this said, view sleep as nutrition for the brain and make a commitment to sleep seven to nine hours no matter what.

5. Prioritize eating nutrient-rich foods.

Thinking of nutrition as solely affecting your physical world is shortsighted.

Nutrition affects your level of mental energy, as well as your company's bottom line on a macro level because your employees' productivity is being affected.

With that said, nutrition is important due to the plethora of micronutrients--your various minerals and vitamins--from food sources such as fruits and vegetables.

Start improving your healthy habits by simply increasing your daily servings of fruits and vegetables.

6. Read daily.

Reading is a powerful tool that extends beyond gaining knowledge and extracting insight.

In fact, reading and other activities that challenge the mind have been associated with potentially lessening your chances of Alzheimer's, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While reading keeps your brain mentally sharp, it may also increase your empathy across the board, a much-needed trait when it comes to effective leadership and long-term success.

Becoming a high performer and maintaining that level of excellence over the long haul doesn't require complexity. It only requires a commitment to simple and tiny habits.

3 Productivity Habits That Are Actually Wasting Your Time
Published on: Feb 15, 2018