Take a break and reap the rewards

Many of the world's best athletes and sporting teams now spend more time, more energy and more resources on recovery than they do on actual training. Think about the following examples:

•     The Chicago Bulls winning six championship titles in eight years

•     Layne Beachley winning seven world surfing titles

•     Roger Federer winning 17 grand slam titles

•     Michael Phelps winning 18 Olympic gold medals

These examples are not flukes or flash-in-the-pan performances. All of these athletes and teams planned their recovery strategies as much, if not more, than they planned training and competition.

Recovery strategies and staying fresh are the keys to sustained performance, whether in sport, business or life.

Lessons from sport

When I was working with the Australian cricket team a number of years ago, despite coming off the back of a fantastic Test series, Brett Lee was missing his usual spark with the ball. Brett had travelled to India during the previous off-season and while the other players were having a break (both physical and psychological) to freshen up for the season ahead, Brett was busy working. He simply wasn't getting enough time to recover.

We sat down and put together a recovery plan. It wasn't long before he was slinging the ball at 150+ km/h speeds again. My work with Brett and other elite athletes led to the development of what I call the Annual Recovery Plan, which can be defined as 1 + 3 + 30 + 300 + 365. Sounds complicated? Here's what I mean:

1 Holiday or off-season

The Australian workforce collectively has more than 123 million days of accrued annual leave. This equates to roughly $33 billion worth – and close to 25 per cent of all Australian workers in full-time employment have more than 25 days of annual leave stacked up. We are a nation that stockpiles holidays.

Remember, holiday time or leisure time is time off work. Stay off the mobile and avoid the temptation to regularly check your emails. Get organised before you go on holidays so that other people can manage projects that might need attention while you're off recharging. A proper holiday will leave you feeling totally refreshed and revitalised.

3 mini breaks

Remember the movie Bridget Jones' Diary where Bridget and Daniel escape to the English countryside for a 'mini-break'? Well, I'd like you to try and lock in at least three of these during the year to reboot your system. Here's a list of suggestions that should get your mind ticking over the kinds of things you could do to enjoy some well-earned time off.

Book a beach house, head for the mountains, tour the nearest wineries, go camping, visit friends interstate – whatever takes your fancy, as long as it's got nothing to do with work and you are going to have plenty of time to sit, relax and unwind.

30 weeks scoring 100 recovery points

David Misson, the former elite performance manager for AFL club the Sydney Swans, introduced a recovery program where the players accumulate 100 “recovery points” each week, to make sure they recover for the next big game. Each activity is worth a certain number of points – yoga could be 30 points, a light stretch could be 10 points, a massage worth 25 points, etc – and the players have to reach their 100-point goal.

The Recovery Wardrobe is a similar format that combines indoor and outdoor activities.

For thirty weeks of the year I want you to focus on recovering properly, accumulating 100 recovery points each week.

300 nights of quality sleep

The plan is to get 300 nights every year, or six nights each week, of quality sleep. Quality restorative sleep is one of the major keys to health and vitality. This means you need to have an adequate amount of time asleep (usually 7 to 8 hours for most people), and that sleep needs to be deep and uninterrupted.

Aim to go to bed and get up at the same time every day to settle your circadian rhythm. Stick with it, and it will get easier. And consciously switch off 45 to 60 minutes before going to bed each night (turn off the TV, mobile, laptop and other digital devices to help relax before going to bed).

365 days a year – go slow

Every day of the year I want you to spend at least 5 to 10 minutes taking it easy. Going slow is transition time where you give your conscious mind permission to change gears and engage your subconscious thought patterns. Some people pray, others meditate, while others just sit and be mindful. Do what works for you as this is all about stimulating the relaxation response, the exact opposite of the stress response.

This is a great activity to employ before charging into your home after a busy day's work. It is way too easy to walk through the door as corporate boy or corporate girl – still thinking about all of the deals you've crunched in the past 8 to 10 hours. Slowing down before you race through the door at home is a great skill to help you connect as a partner, family member, parent and friend.

What do you do to ensure you stay fresh and energised throughout the year?