The Bookend Technique

The Bookend Technique / Alessandra Edwards

This is one of the ten Executive Toolkit strategies I teach my high performance clients.

The Bookend Technique is designed to:

  1. Help you increase your capacity for energy and resilience before you attend an event or other predictable disruption to your routine
  2. Buffer any deficits in energy that may arise as a result
  3. Contain and confine any bad habits after the event

You can read about why this is important in my blog ‘Why We Feel Tired After Events’.

Have you ever tried to secure just one end of a row of books because you only had one bookend? If so, you’ll know you’re asking for trouble.

This principle applies to this technique too.

Even if you feel well coming out of an event you’ve attended (or run) it is important to still follow the bookend process both ends to prevent ‘spillage’ down the track.

The idea behind the double bookending is therefore containment. We are trying to isolate the event and the behaviours we may engage in during that time.

In practice, Bookending looks like this:

Before The Event: The Capacity Stack

Aim: to build your vitality and resilience capacity to prevent too big a sleep/energy/wellbeing deficit at the other end.

Implement the 4-3-2-1 technique:

4 days before the event (if the event is 4 days long. 3 days if the event is 3 days etc) implement a 4-night sleep bootcamp:

  • Free your evening calendar
  • Implement a nightly wind-down routine
  • Do whatever it takes to ensure a good night’s sleep
  • Sleep in a different room if your partner keeps you awake at night
  • If you usually sleep 6-7 hours a night, increase your sleep time by one hour
  • Protect this at all costs

3×3: Eat three healthy meals daily for three days

For three days prior ensure your three main meals are of the highest quality possible.

  • No junk food
  • No sugar
  • No fried foods
  • No alcohol
  • Focus on increasing vegetables and lean proteins
  • Get your carbohydrates in the forms of beans, lentils and fruit if tolerated

Eating a high vegetable content provides your body with electrolytes and vitamins that are essential for optimal energy production and efficient stress response.

2: Drink 2L of water a day in the 3 days preceding the event

I know from experience that when travelling it can be hard to sustain a higher water intake. Make sure you’re well hydrated before you go.

1: Run a brief pre-mortem of the event

  • Research local food courts or cafes for healthy meals
  • Find out if the hotel where you’re staying runs a buffet breakfast with lots of healthy choices and a fresh juice station (for vegetable juicing)
  • Discuss with the event’s organiser having healthier options delivered for meals (wraps and salads are healthier lunch choices and vegetable sticks, dips and fresh fruit are better snack choices)
  • Cancel unnecessary social engagements that are not part of your business/networking strategy (you can socialise when you’re back at home)
  • Identify ‘dead’ space during the event where you will be able to catch your breath and focus on mindfulness techniques for ten minutes. Set alarm notifications for this in your phone.

After The Event: The Spill Response

Aim: to contain and confine any new bad habits so they don’t spill over onto your power routines once you’re back on home turf.

The second bookend is almost more important than the first one due to the fact that bad habits are much quicker to take hold than good habits.

This is because good habits usually involve effort, which our brain abhors.

“How many times have you come off the wagon in terms of exercise, diet or wellbeing practices because of a small disruption to a routine, only to find that you’re still not back on the wagon two months later?”

The Spill Response bookend prevents this.

Implement the 1-2-3-4 technique (reversing the order of the first Bookend) and starting with a Post-Mortem

1: Run a brief post-mortem of the event

Where did your self-care fall short?

  • Water
  • Sleep
  • Diet
  • Exercise/movement
  • Mindfulness
  • Fresh air

Use the results of the post-mortem to prioritise your actions over the next 4 days.