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This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

Here's a secret every successful business leader should know. Daily physical preparation plus intellectual preparation exerts a synergistic effect that helps you think clearly and control your emotions during the day.

Every successful businessperson needs a half-hour cardio workout every workday (or at least three times a week during those super-busy stretches), and another half hour a day of planning one's day on paper, or intellectual preparation. Intellectual preparation might include such activities as organizing call lists, scripting upcoming dialogues, reading customer reviews, looking through industry journals, and listing daily priorities.

The benefits of mind and body preparation

Physical preparation: Health researchers agree that getting the heart rate up to 130 beats per minute for 30 minutes increases cognition, relieves stress, controls weight, and triggers the release of serotonin, which brings feelings of happiness and satisfaction.

Intellectual preparation: Many top CEOs and professional athletes agree that you can't compete in the big show without doing your homework. Studying your team's weaknesses and those of your competitors makes a difference. But looking for new opportunities while keeping on top of your clients' needs is just as important.

Why we need physical prep time each day

Noted brain researcher Dr. John Medina, in his book Brain Rules, says exercise can make you smarter, happier, healthier, and even more popular. Those who get in 30 minutes of cardio at least three times a week are smarter, are more able to concentrate, get along better with others, are less disruptive, have higher self-esteem, and have less anxiety than their peers who do not exercise regularly. He also found that exercise increases long-term memory, reasoning, attention, and problem solving. Who wouldn't want that kind of competitive advantage?

Why daily intellectual prep matters

Individuals won't be competitive unless they're willing to do rigorous mental preparation on a regular basis. Efficiency expert Timothy Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Workweek, says each of us should identify the bare minimum amount of preparation we need to be successful, which he refers to as "the minimum effective dose." Based on my experience coaching highly successful leaders, 30 minutes a day seems to be that minimum effective dose.

The biggest payoff – controlling your emotions

The benefits of being reasonably prepared in body and mind go far beyond feeling good. They turn "work on demand" into "command performance." Try viewing your workday as a performance. You know you're going to feel the pressure when you're facing off with the board or your staff. To perform a given task best, you will need to be in control of your emotions. The combination of physical and mental preparation increases your alertness, changes frazzled nerves into calm confidence, and allows you to be in control of your performance.

Dr. Jason Selk (@Jason_Selk) is a mental toughness coach for individuals, businesses, and professional athletes and their coaches. He is the author of 10-Minute Toughness and Executive Toughness. Learn more at