As the son of a CEO, Dr. Jeff Comer is a 20 plus year hospital CEO. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, Jeff currently leads a behavioral health company. He has directed most of his career efforts toward working with acute care hospitals and other organizations at the brink of closure. He has found great satisfaction in returning them to profitability while increasing the provision of quality services. Dr. Comer obtained a Bachelor’s in Psychology, a Master’s in Health Administration, and Doctorate in Psychology with research interests in Psychoneuroimmunology. He enjoys helping high performing individuals and groups learn to understand and mitigate the impacts of stress more effectively, leading to higher professional productivity and more balanced lives.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I have 20 years of CEO experience in some of the most challenged organizations anywhere. Additionally, I am a Doctor with expertise in psychoneuroimmunology, which is the study of stress reactivity. Combining these two knowledge bases makes me well-suited to speak to executives and other professional groups. I enjoy helping them become more effective by learning how to channel their stress constructively in productive ways. The techniques I teach can lead to dramatic changes in people’s professional and personal lives.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
This is always a challenge for a CEO, particularly in the health care industry. In short, there is no such thing as a typical day. The one constant for me is that my day starts at 4 am when I get up and get a good workout in. This could be weights, cardio, swimming, hiking, or yoga. Physical fitness is one of the most empirically validated methods to mitigate acute and chronic stress, which leads to dramatically increased productivity.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My best brainstorming is always completed away from the office and its related distractions and minor issues that arise. For me, there is nothing better than a hike in my beloved Arizona desert to free my creative side, generate ideas, and bring them to conceptual fruition. The exercise improves hormonal and neurotransmitter activity, enabling the mind to be more focused, leading to better cognitive patterns and logical functioning.
Additionally, by thinking while I’m exercising, I am far less likely to fall in the multitasking trap. Multitasking is psychologically impossible. Research overwhelmingly demonstrates that trying to process multiple tasks simultaneously leads to poorer execution of tasks, lower creativity, and ironically enough takes considerably more time. By thinking while I hike, I do not have to process the never-ending texts, emails, phone calls, and other interruptions, allowing for better idea generation.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The overwhelming empirical research regarding stress reactivity is quite intriguing to me. Stress reactivity can be an aid to performance if it is limited to acute episodic periodization. However, when stress is allowed to become unmitigated and chronic in nature all kinds of detrimental effects occur from a psychophysiological standpoint. Many of these effects lead to chronic health conditions. So, I become tremendously excited in helping people to learn what stress reactivity is (there are many misconceptions about it) and how to manage it effectively.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
As I previously mentioned, anytime you can reduce chronic stress activation you improve performance. Mitigating stress returns your body to a state of balance referred to as homeostasis. By mitigating stress and optimizing hormonal and neurotransmitter sequencing, you can dramatically improve cognitive processing, which leads to increased productivity and better decisions.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Most importantly, I would tell my younger self to learn how to balance my life. I can state with 100% certainty based on my own experience (and in empirical research) that working 12-14 hour days does not make you more effective at work; however, it will make you less effective with your family and in your personal life. There is simply no benefit to not balancing your life. A balanced life leads to more personal satisfaction and fulfillment and better use of time and productivity at work.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Well, I just said that working 12 hours days will not make you more productive and will not get you ahead. Most corporate people do not understand this or agree with it. Unfortunately, many people are expected to work these hours. The empirical research is clear that humans are productive for 4-6 hours. Anything beyond this is not productive and is inefficient. I’m not advising anyone to go their boss and say that you are now only going to work 4 hours per day, but I am saying to acknowledge that the 14 hours per day will not get you anywhere and will hurt your personal life. It becomes a vicious cycle with no positive end.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I set a routine schedule and do my best to stick to it. As I mentioned, there is not a typical day as a CEO; however, you can do your best to set routine times for items over which you have some control. For example, you can get up in the morning, workout, eat meals, go to bed, etc. at the same. The human mind is cognitively wired from an evolutionary construct to find structure and regularity. Our mind does not like unexpected variations. Setting an alarm at the same time each morning allows you to improve sleep efficiency and sets the stage to follow a structure throughout the day. This simple technique can reduce stress immensely, which provides innumerable benefits in life.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Maintaining a consisted agenda focused on my long-term goals has been most effective for me. Becoming side-tracked and distracted from where I am trying to go is always a challenge. But by keeping myself organized with the big picture in mind, I can focus on the truly important activities that will help me succeed.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In the online, social media centered business environment, learning the importance of SEO strategy is critical. It does not matter how good you think your idea is – if no one is searching for it then its probability of success is greatly diminished. It is much more important to find what consumers are demanding than to try to create demand that does not exist, at least from an SEO standpoint.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I can’t think of anything specific at this moment in time.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought my wife her favorite bottle of wine and cooked her favorite dinner, well worth it.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Trello is a fantastic tool to use. Trello helps you to organize just about anything. It can be used individually or with teams. I can’t recommend Trello enough to help reduce stress, increase productivity, and help to increase control over your schedule.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Personally, I love to read. I don’t have one book that I would recommend. My recommendation is to read what you like. Turn the TV off and pick up a good book. It will stimulate your cognitive processes and foster creativity. You can read fiction, non-fiction, or anything that brings enjoyment. This is particularly valuable at night. When watching TV or looking at your smart phone your neurotransmitters and hormones become dysregulated. For example, melatonin is an important hormone that helps you sleep; however, is secreted far less when you are exposed to light, especially blue-wavelength light from technology. This leads to greatly reduced sleep quality and quantity, resulting in significantly diminished productivity the next day.
What is your favorite quote?
“Your future is yours to make, so make it a good one.” Doc Brown from Back to the Future.
• Learn about stress reactivity and how to manage it. It is not as simple to understand as the popular media reports.
• Manage your schedule. Do not let it manage you.
• Balance your life. Personal is just as important as professional. The human mind does not handle imbalance well. Attend to the whole picture of your life. This will lead to reduced stress, greater happiness, and more effective outcomes in all areas.
• Do not multitask. It is impossible for the logical functioning centers of the brain to process multiple tasks simultaneously. Do one thing at a time and do it well.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.