I try to keep busy for the majority of the waking hours, which means either working, program design, writing, or the odd stuff that has to be done to maintain a semblance of a house and family, and still finding time to break it down Gangnam Style.
As a result, time is somewhat of a finite concept for me. To give you an idea, my typical work day will begin at 6am and go until 7pm, at which time I will come home and spend about 2 hours working on either in-person client programs or distance coaching programs, reviewing slides for upcoming classes or presentations, digging into writing assignments for different sites or magazines and answering emails and trying to put together some content for this here blog. As a result of always having more than a few irons in the fire at any given time, I’ve discovered trying to get more than one thing done at one time is less than productive, and winds up being more of a distraction than anything.
Multitasking is another way of saying you want to be really bad at a lot of things simultaneously –> Tweet that shit.
Instead of doing 5 things at once and getting no where, I try to get through one program, then another, and then once all programs are done, I move on to the next thing that needs addressing. This way I can get things done instead of simply whittling away at each thing in small increments, eventually getting no where but on a one-way trip to Frustration-ville with a side trip to Procrastination Town, population: you.
If you’re one of those people who finds they get a lot of different things started but never finish any of them, do yourself a solid and try to focus on one thing at a time and get each of them finished before moving on to something else. Having a stack of 50 partially started and finished projects isn’t nearly as impressive as having 4 or 5 completed and monetized, or at least valued projects completed and doing something for you.
This should be a similar conversation for anyone who wants to see progress in their fitness program. If you follow me on Fitocracy where I track my workouts, I tend to track my workouts and they have been looking fairly consistent and similar lately. It tends to consist of a lot of bench press and deadlifts. Why? Because I’m currently trying to increase my bench press and deadlift. I throw in the odd various exercise here and there that’s different, but the main goal is to get my deadlift weight up, which means deadlifting until I can’t feel feelings anymore.
You’ll get better at what you attempt to get better at, which means doing a specific task will lead to improvements in that specific task. That’s why I’m doing a lot of deadlifts instead of standing on a bosu and doing pistol squats while twirling a frisbee and one-arm handstand pushups. Would doing those potentially result in me getting more strength or stability for my deadlift? Possible, but not nearly as much as a couple sets of heavy heavy doubles would.
This plays into the multi-tasker phenomenon you’ll see in the gym on a daily basis. Someone trying to train for a marathon while gaining muscle in their upper body and simultaneously trying to break the world record for back squats with a body fat percentage somewhere close to prime plus 1% sure seems like a good idea, but it’s the training equivalent of trying to herd cats.
Think about that for a second. A bunch of cats.
Being herded in a singular direction.
It’s a slow anarchy that would sooner result in drinking and faces through walls.
Instead of trying to do everything, focus on one thing. Just for now. Now do that and do it well. Then, work on something else, while doing a minimal amount of energy input towards maintaining the gains you were able to get from the previous goal.
Let’s say that once I get to my goal of deadlifting 500 pounds, I decide I want to get faster at running a 5km race. These two goals are pretty well at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to performance and physical capacity, which is why I picked them. Once I hit the goal, I can get away with training deadlifts only once a week or even once every second week and not see a dramatic decrease in strength, as long as the relative intensity is up there and I’m maintaining a consistent technical capacity to perform the movements properly. Form there I can devote time to running the 5km in under 25 minutes or less, which would take some considerable time and energy to get this big frame moving that quickly and for that long.
By trying to do both at once, I would wind up frustrated and seeing minimal improvements in either, as the energy spent trying to improve my run performance would negatively impact the energy available for my deadlift performance, and vice versa. This is like watching football, checking email, listening to the new No Doubt album while trying to get Facebook updated and write up a program. Nothing gets done because everything is involved.
Focus on one thing. Get it done. Then, move on to something else.
What about you? What kind of strategies do you use to get incredibly productive, and how to you manage competing demands? Drop a comment below and join the conversation.