5 Ways to Leverage Your Best Performance

As aviation professionals the world over, we have the responsibility of safely moving millions of passengers around the world. To our aid are thousands of pages of regulations and best practices, a myriad of equipment and tools, and rigorous training. Despite the monumental advances through the decades, these alone are not enough to ensure safety. Here are 5 ways to leverage your best performance.

As aviation professionals the world over, we have the responsibility of safely moving millions of passengers around the world. To our aid are thousands of pages of regulations and best practices, a myriad of equipment and tools, and rigorous training. Despite the monumental advances through the decades, these alone are not enough to ensure safety.

As individuals, we play a small but vital role, akin to a small piece of a large puzzle. Leveraging our best performance is entirely in our hands – the human element. I’ve put together a list of five things you can consider to increase your performance.

Set personal goals

If you aim at nothing, you will hit it. Setting personal goals gives you something to work towards. “Today, I will ….” and you can fill in the blank. Once the goal is set, forces of nature align itself to make it a reality. Sometimes you may not have the slightest clue as to how the goal will be attained, but as you think about it, the path will eventually open up.

Goals need not always be grandeur. As an air traffic controller, your goal may be to eliminate the use of non-standard phraseology. This may seem insignificant today, but valuable on another when other factors conspire to cause the alignment of holes in the slices of swiss-cheese.

In order to improve performance, you have to measure it, so ensure that your goals have performance indicators that are measurable.

Think positive

What you think about, you bring about. Positive thinking can only yield positive results. It is said that humans have 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts every day, many of which are negative. What are you feeding your mind with? You do have a choice.

In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Steven R. Covey differentiated between the “circle of influence” and the “circle of concern”. In essence, they are the things over which you have control over, and those that you don’t.

Harboring thoughts on things over which you have no control will not only drain your energy, but cause you to become bitter. Your work environment will inherently always have problems, so focusing on them will be counter-productive to your performance.

Get enough sleep

Following his 33.5 hours non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Charles Lindberg said “my whole body argues that nothing, nothing life can attain, is quite so desirable as sleep.”

The effects of sleep lost is well documented in aviation, but it is worth repeating that sleep loss decreases physical, psychomotor and mental performance. Fatigue, resulting from sleep loss, leads to a reduced safety margin and increased potential for operational incidents and accidents.

In the book Managing Maintenance Error, James Reason asserts that fatigue and alcohol intoxication have similar effects. After being awake for 18 hours, mental and physical performance on many tasks can be like having a blood-alcohol content of 0.05. After 23 continuous hours, people perform as badly as people who have a blood-alcohol content of 0.12.

Pay attention to your sleep. In answering the question on how many hours of sleep is enough for good health, Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, M.D. said that adults need 7-8 hours of sleep daily. However, this amount changes as you get older. If you have been sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases. If your sleep is frequently interrupted or cut short, you’re not getting quality sleep. The quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity.

Eat well

We are what we eat. Eating a variety of foods to get the optimal amounts of nutrients promotes health, well-being and performance. A balanced diet that includes whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and healthy fats can make all the difference. While the quality of your food is important, regular timing of eating is priceless as well.

Many aviation professionals work on shift basis and can likely become victims of irregular eating. A study by Arne Lowden, PhD. et al, documented in a research paper “Eating and shift work – effects on habits, metabolism and performance” drew some interesting conclusions.

Compared to individuals who work during the day, shift workers are at higher risk of a range of metabolic disorders and diseases. While there are other factors, some of these complaints may be linked to the quality of the diet and irregular timing of eating.

To leverage your best performance through diet, the research paper provided these guidelines:

  • General guidelines
    • Avoid eating, or at least restrict energy intake, between midnight and 06.00 hours, and try to eat at the beginning and end of the shift.
    • Avoid “large meals” (>20% of daily energy intake) 1–2 hours prior to the main daily sleep episode.
    • Provide a variety of food choices: complete or vegetarian meals and high-quality snacks are recommended. Avoid foods and beverages classified as low-quality snacks.
    • Provide appropriate dining facilities that, for example, allow a meal to be eaten away from the workplace, with colleagues, in as pleasant a surrounding as possible.
    • Maintain a healthy lifestyle with exercise, regular meal times, and good sleep hygiene when not working.
  • Specific guidelines for shift work
    • Eat breakfast before day sleep to avoid wakening due to hunger.
    • Stick as closely as possible to a normal day and night pattern of food intake.
    • Divide the 24-hour intake into eating events with three satiating meals each contributing 20–35% of 24-hour intakes. The higher the energy needs, the more frequent the eating should be.
    • Avoid over-reliance on (high-energy content) convenience foods and high-carbohydrate foods during the shift. Instead choose vegetable soups, salads, fruit salads, yoghurt, wholegrain sandwiches, cheese or cottage cheese (topped with slices of fruits), boiled

Acknowledge your team members’ strengths

The only person you should be competing with is yourself. Do not compete with your team members, instead, acknowledge and utilize their strengths. Synergy suggests that two heads are better than one. It is the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Andrew Carnegie once said “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision… It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

By bringing together the personal experiences and expertise of a team, you are able to find new solutions that individually you are much less likely to discover.

Your turn

The items listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. Have you tried any of these in the past? What are some other things you have applied to leverage your best performance? I’d love to hear from you.

One Response

ramzi KRID

Founded in 2010 by Tunisian aviation professionals with the participation of the English Brookfield Aviation, SFA HAS Invested heavily in modern teaching of pilot training
In addition to the DV20 and AT3 base, our fleet Consists of single-engine airplanes and Diamond DA40NG DA42NG twin, both, equipped with Garmin 1000 avionics and engine (Jet A1) 300 On the other hand Austro, the school HAS FNPT2 Mechtronix simulator DA42 Provided with a visual system to 200 °
The school is located on two sites, Gammarth for the Theoretical and the airport of Sfax for the practical part

About Wayne Farley

I am Wayne, a career air traffic controller with over 30 years of industry experience. Engage me while I share my thoughts, experience, and news from around the aviation world. A post titled “13 Characteristics of an Air Traffic Controller” written in 2010 went viral and established me as the unofficial ambassador of ATC.

Stalk me here:

Coffee in Guyana