Why reducing ‘noise’ leads to greater performance

Why reducing ‘noise’ leads to greater performance

When most people think of the word ‘noise’, they immediately think of the external sounds that disrupt them when attempting to sleep, relax or focus. However, the type of noise most disruptive to our capacity to perform at our peak is internally-driven. In this article, human performance strategist Dr Craig Duncan explains why reducing noise is the most effective capacity-building and performance-enhancing exercise you can invest your efforts into and how to do it.


Oct 02, 2022

4 mins read

From the moment we wake till the time we attempt to go to sleep, we are exposed to unwanted, loud and disruptive sounds, which we commonly term ‘noise’. However, noise can also be anything that detracts us from our capacity and potential to perform at our peak. In this regard, noise can come in the form of stress, anxiety, fatigue, illness and poor sleep. Given performance equals our capacity less noise, as illustrated below, then it’s clear that our performance will suffer if the noise in our lives outweighs our capacity.  

Evidence suggests the problem is worsening, with ‘noise’ being experienced at deafening levels by some. If you are attempting to increase your capacity to achieve greater performance, personally or from your team, but are failing to see a tangible difference, consider that excessive ‘noise’ may be the reason. 

Most people and organisations focus on increasing capacity without factoring in the ‘noise’ we all face daily. In an increasingly ‘noisy’ world, many of us struggle to silence the constant distractions bombarding us. Given performance will never increase if noise outweighs capacity, it is an issue we cannot afford to ignore.

In my work with professional athletes and sports teams, the emphasis is on increasing capacity through fitness, strength and speed. However, I have identified that the capacity-building side of the equation is far easier than managing the ‘noise’. For instance, at the highest level, be it world championships or Olympics, the difference in capacity is minimal. But by managing the ‘noise’, we can gain real advantages when it comes to increasing performance. My company, Performance Intelligence Agency (PIA), is frequently contracted to conduct reviews and audits following poor team performances. In every instance, we have identified that neglecting to address ‘noise’ management resulted in increased injury rates, fatigue and burnout.

Failing to monitor sleep, stress, fatigue and training strategies effectively interferes with elite sportspeople's overall physiological and psychological wellbeing, resulting in decreased performance on the sports field or court. And the same is true for non-athletes. For this reason, my team and I always track this data, whether we are engaged by elite sports teams or teams in corporate and military settings. Modern technology has enabled this data to be gathered and intelligently used to support us in optimising performance by reducing 'noise' via apps downloaded on our mobile phones, smart rings or watches. Notably, the relationship between capacity and 'noise' is the same for all humans.

I have previously written about how sleep and issues related to poor sleep are increasing. The statistics paint an alarming picture. Forty per cent of adults report that inadequate sleep quantity and quality harms their work, 26% report frequent sleep difficulties, 17% say they have missed a day's work in the last month due to inadequate sleep, 20% have nodded off while driving due to fatigue, and 5% admitted to having had a motor vehicle accident due to falling asleep at the wheel. As you can see, the consequences of inadequate or poor sleep can be disastrous. In fact, poor sleep habits may be the loudest ‘noise’ distraction we are presently battling on a collective scale.

Poor nutrition and minimal exercise are also loud distractions for modern-day humans. While most of us know that regular exercise and sound nutrition are imperative to maintaining a healthy weight and decreasing numerous health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and several cancers, excuses lead many to turn a blind eye and make unhealthy choices. Over 55% of adults don't meet the required physical activity guidelines, and up to five million deaths a year globally could be reduced if people were more active. Furthermore, over three billion people globally have poor diets, and 65% of Australians are overweight.

In addition to poor sleep health, nutrition and exercise, stress, anxiety and workplace burnout also contribute to the ‘noise’ in our modern lifestyle. Over 25% of adults suffer anxiety, 2.1 million Australians report high stress levels and over 70% of employees say they have experienced burnout in their workplace.

Given that we are faced with so much deafening ‘noise’ in the modern world, is it any wonder many people struggle to maintain performance levels, let alone increase them? The good news is we all have the power to reduce ‘noise’ and swing the balance in favour of capacity, thereby improving performance and maximising our potential. Start by aiming for eight hours of good quality sleep each night (read my article on sleep health for tips to achieve this). Focus on consuming a well-balanced, nutritious diet and exercising for at least thirty minutes on most days. If you can also include time in your day to reflect on your life and identify three things you are grateful for that day, you will go a long way to decreasing the ‘noise’ and maximising your performance.

I understand silencing the ‘noise’ isn’t always easy. If you are struggling to do it independently, my team and I at PIA can help. Our team of skilled and experienced Human Performance Coaches can support you to increase your capacity by silencing the ‘noise’ inhibiting your performance growth potential, which differs from one person to the next. The same can be achieved at a team or organisational level. So next time you or your organisation think about investing in a staff development program, I encourage you to think less about another capacity-building program and more about developing the capacity to silence the ‘noise’. If everyone realised the power of reducing ‘noise’, we would see more high-performing people and organisations in the world.

High PerformanceTransformationOrganisationHigh Performance CultureMotivation

Craig Duncan
Craig Duncan

About The Author

Dr Craig Duncan is one of the world’s leading human performance strategists, with a track record of helping sporting teams, business organisations and individuals to maximise their potential. Over the past decade, he has worked with more than 75 organisations, in a career that’s took him to 50 countries on four continents. Dr Duncan’s innovative and holistic approach to human performance science has driven elite athletes, corporate leaders and military personnel to excel at the highest levels. Craig has worked with the Socceroos, Matildas, NSW State of Origin and the national teams of Iran and the United Arab Emirates. He has also worked with teams at World Cups, Olympics and Asian Championships. No matter which hat he’s wearing, Dr Duncan’s goal is simple: to use his expertise and professionalism to get the best out of people. He is an accomplished speaker, who presents regularly to teams and organisations on how to reach peak performance, be that in the boardroom, in the office or on the sporting stage. In recent years, Craig has worked extensively as an executive coach in the corporate environment, implementing unique strategies that have been proven to enhance the potential of employees and management. He uses high-level performance science and cutting-edge technology, developed at the pinnacle of professional sport, and tailors a strategy to suit the needs of individual clients.

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