Redefine Performance by Reclaiming Balance

Career AdviceLeadershipTeam Effectiveness
Article Icon Article
October 21, 2021
3 min read
Career AdviceLeadershipTeam Effectiveness
Executive Summary
No matter our position or what organization we work for, we are always more than our work.


Do you get anxious about losing mobile service when you step onto an airplane? Or, find yourself peeking at your phone to check emails when you’re supposed to be spending quality time with family and friends? Do work demands come before your physical or mental health needs?

Even when we are purpose-driven and inspired by our work, continuous workplace stress can have detrimental effects on our life, professionally and personally. In a recent podcast episode of Redefiners, Russell Reynolds Associates CEO, Clarke Murphy and consultant Nanaz Mohtashami interviewed Annastiina Hintsa, the CEO of Hintsa Performance, on avoiding burnout and reaching new levels of success.

The following takeaways can help professionals reclaim work-life balance and redefine performance in today’s fast-paced business environment.

Embrace your holistic identity

We’re often presented with the question, “What do you do?” In most contexts, this really means, “What do you do for work?” Our career is an important part of our identity because it provides us with a livelihood and a sense of belonging. It can also offer a sense of purpose, especially when we are passionate about the work we do.

But passion need not always be about work; we can be passionate about hobbies, sports, art, literature, family, or social engagements, to name a few. No matter our position or what organization we work for, we are always more than our work. We do more than our jobs and our self-identity should reflect that.

Annastiina recalled that her orthopedic surgeon father, who founded Hintsa Performance, operated on one of the best long-distance runners of all time, Haile Gebrselassie when he was having problems with his Achilles tendon around the time of the 2004 Summer Olympics. Her father was nervous prior to the procedure but as they were entering the operating theater Haile said to him, “Doctor, chill out. It's just running.”

For Haile, running was his passion and what he loved to do. Even though he was an Olympian, running was not his whole life nor his entire identity. He was also a father, a businessman, a mentor, and a philanthropist. If Haile faced a setback, he had other legs to stand on that he could be passionate about. Just like holistic health can help a person find balance and achieve better performance, so does holistic identity. When we embrace our holistic self, we naturally strike a better work-life balance that honors our various identities.

Master the art of disconnecting

In today’s hyper-connected workplace, meetings can occur at any time of the day between people that are thousands of miles apart from each other in different time zones. Moreover, instantaneous responses have become the norm as platforms like WhatsApp, Teams, and Slack attach us to work – day in, day out.  

Against these expectations, it’s difficult to juggle career, family, and wellbeing; all too often, the latter ranks last. Not only does this compromise personal priorities, but employees who constantly jump from one set of notifications to another inevitably experience downturns in productivity. Recent findings from Gallup suggest that employees are more stressed in 2021 than in 2020 and 2019. More surprisingly, the data suggest that time off may not be helping employees unwind and destress.

To counter the detriments of “always-on” corporate culture, we should explore ways to intentionally disconnect. For me, when I start my vacation – the day I actually shut off – I usually sleep for 12 hours straight. This helps me detach and clear the mental clutter.

But, shutting off can also happen on a daily basis. Annastiina reserves each morning for herself and has set a rule that she won’t begin her day by scrolling through her inbox or having a call first thing. Instead, her morning ritual includes personal activities that she enjoys such as running, yoga, or reading the newspaper.

Disconnecting might seem like a difficult thing to do at first. For starters, switching your phone to ‘airplane mode’ is a great step for temporarily putting notifications on pause. Other recommendations include setting notifications to turn off during off-hours, reducing or consolidating communication, and practicing separating work and life. For the last one, by never physically doing work and personal tasks simultaneously, we become better at mentally separating work and life, according to research published by Harvard Business Review.

Rewards await those who master the art of disconnecting. A study led by the University of York and the University of Florida suggests that more than 40% of our creative ideas develop when we are taking breaks or letting our minds wander. Furthermore, less working time doesn’t always equate to less productivity. A multi-year study from Iceland found that cutting employees’ hours without slashing their pay showed no negative impact on productivity. 

Looking ahead: optimize rather than maximize

In the business world, there are two personality growth types. The maximizer prioritizes raw returns, seeking maximum revenues and profits. The optimizer looks at results relative to the required investment. While the maximizer has long enjoyed attention from investors and stakeholders for obvious reasons, the optimizer has received the spotlight in recent years because they offer a more sustainable, long-term approach to growth.

I was interested to learn that Hintsa Performance operates on a model called the Circle of Life, which it first developed for athletes and later adapted for professionals and business organizations. The circle is comprised of six interconnected elements: physical activity, nutrition, sleep/recovery, biomechanics, mental energy, and general health. Because the six elements are all linked, we cannot try to maximize just one or two of them. Instead, the optimization formula is based on multiplication so if one factor is at a zero, the circle collapses.

At the core of the circle of life are three basic questions: Do you know who you are? Do you know what you want? Are you in control of your life? Exploring these three core questions can help people identify who and what matters to them, where they want to go, and how they can achieve it. If someone feels like a passenger in their life, this model helps put them back in the driver’s seat. These questions also redefine how we view performance and success.

Many of us try to maximize every single area of our lives. We want to be the perfect employee, the perfect mother, the perfect spouse, etc. Rather than push to the limit in one area to reach a finite goal, we can instead optimize across the many areas that matter to us and comprise our holistic identity. In the long-term, this allows us to expand our goals, redefine performance and implement the necessary changes — throughout our personal and professional lives.

Want more? Listen to Annastiina’s episode here


Amy Scissons, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Russell Reynolds Associates