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

February 14, 2011

(Part 2 of 2)

This is the second part of a post on the similarities between the mental framework that can help us be successful at the gym and in the office.

5. Get the painful stuff out of the way.
Many of us found out the hard way that the exercises we find really tough or boring (anyone up for some ab work?) are the ones we tend to give up on or skip altogether. Don’t fall into the same trap at work. Spend a few minutes at the beginning of each day evaluating what you need to get done versus what you want to get done. Make the former your first priority for the day. Practice this for a few weeks and you will be amazed at how much more effective you will be.

6. Lay Back and Paddle Easy.
Thought I’d skip the “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” cliché and take the rowing route. We’ve all seen the guy at the race who makes his way to the front of pack in a full-on sprint and lasts no more than a few minutes until he is overtaken by the rest of the pack and ends up an average middle-of-the pack runner. You don’t want to be that guy. Those who have spent time kayaking know that laying back with a solid steady paddle stroke is a sure-fire way to cover a lot of distance. We should take the same approach to a large portion of our work life. Keep yourself fresh for the long paddle.

7. Forge Ahead, Even When You’re Just not “Feeling It”.
We’ve all had them. You get to the gym early in the morning or late in the day and, for whatever reason, you just don’t have “it” – the energy, the motivation, whatever “it” happens to be. The same holds true in our professional lives. When at the gym you can always do something different if you don’t feel like hitting the weights or cardio hard (stretching, swimming, something different from your normal routine). When you hit those roadblocks at work, take a break — do something mindless for a few minutes, get out of the office, whatever it takes to get you refreshed. If, after that, you still don’t have “it”, avoid big projects that seem insurmountable. Instead, to get back on track and stay effective and productive, focus on important but non-urgent tasks. You are paid to be effective. “Not feeling it” is not an excuse to ignore that which needs to be done.

8. Plan.
Just like you might dedicate time to honing your workout routine to help achieve your goals, you must also set aside time and focus on how you can get better at work. Be sure to plan significant blocks of time to allow you to commit to the most important tasks at hand. Usually 60-90 minute sessions are ideal — allowing for uninterrupted focus on the things you need to get done as identified above in #5.

9. Plan some more.
When scuba diving it’s the first thing you learn – plan your dive and dive your plan. When working out (for those of us with work, kids, travel,…) planning ahead and figuring out when you can get to the gym, squeeze in a run, etc., is critical to keeping healthy (and sane). If you set aside blocks of time to focus on important tasks or projects (#8), make sure you have ample time on your calendar to deal with the interruptions, unplanned meetings, and the like. If your calendar is jammed with back to back meeting and projects, without some buffer, your head is bound to spinning be the time COB rolls around. Plan most aspects of your day, in advance, keeping in mind what you need to accomplish that week. Plan, plan, plan.

The parallels between meeting our personal fitness goals professional objectives are many. I hope these “life lessons” help you focus on those things you can do to become more productive and healthy. See you in the gym!

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