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Life Lessons from the Gym: What fitness can teach us about being more productive.

January 20, 2011

(part 1 of 2)

Like many of you, I like being outside and doing what I can stay fit; biking, kayaking, lifting weights, or running — O.K., I’m lying about enjoying running. In addition to the physical benefits, I find these activities help clear my mind and improve my ability to focus. The other day while on a run (not really), I began to think about all the parallels that my fitness activities taught me about professional life and vice versa. The same mental framework we use to power through runs and bike rides can help us at work — here are some that come to mind.

1. Don’t worry about where you are; focus on where you’re going.
One of the first things taught to inexperienced mountain bikers is to focus on what’s coming up ahead several yards ahead of the bike’s front tire. Too many novices look down at the terrain they are currently covering, leaving them unprepared for the obstacles ahead. When looking further ahead, the bike and rider become a cohesive unit, intuitively bounding over obstacles and keeping the bike on track. The same holds true in the business world. Be cognizant of the current state of your organization or division, but concentrate on what lies ahead — where you ultimately want to be.

2. Don’t take shortcuts.
How many times have you been out on a run or ride and cut a corner or turned back a few blocks (or miles) earlier than planned, only to realize once finished that you could have powered through that extra distance without much problem? Adopting that “good enough for government work” mentality can prove costly and create regret that somehow you didn’t put your best effort forward. Fight the temptation of choosing a short-term benefit that may be detrimental long-term.

3. Go the other direction.
No matter how many times you run or bike a certain route or trail, it looks completely different when you travel the same circuit in the opposite direction — the view and terrain seem poles apart and you gain a new perspective on territory you have covered many times before. The same technique can be applied in our professional lives. Whether trying to gain the perspective of others we are in conflict with at the office, or understanding the objectives of those we are negotiating contracts with, looking at things from the other side of the desk will help improve your take on the situation.

4. Change gears.
Efficient bikers understand the benefit of shifting into a lower gear and digging deep to make it up a hill. At work there are times when you have to keep your head down, dig deep and plod through. Whether it’s taking the first few steps in moving forward on the project you been dreading or finding the final inspiration to finish a project that took too long, CHANGE GEARS.

(More fitness/productivity parallels in the next installment)

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 24, 2011 2:09 pm

    Great parallels, John! I’ve done each of them in business and in the gym and you’re right, its easy to sell ourselves short when just a little more ommph would have made a big difference. Glad to see you here and to hear you won’t be a deadbeat blogger. :)

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