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“People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.“ (John Wanamaker, US politician & marketing pioneer)
A typical week at the office gets progressively busier and busier as the days go by. On Monday, you have a relatively clean table, with very little spillover from the previous Friday. As the week wears on, you accumulate more to-dos, more assignments and more emails that demand replies. In addition to these, you’ve got the unexpected stuff: PowerPoint crashing, meetings being rescheduled, the espresso machine breaking down, etc. Shit just comes up. This backlog of crap usually reaches its pinnacle on Thursday, and you spend Friday hacking through the jungle to again have a reasonably clear desk on Monday. Often your free time will tend to follow this pattern as well: you have no plans for Monday night, but by Thursday there’s a wall to paint, a car tire to change and a light fixture to return. This cycle means that on average, you are more swamped both at home and at work Wed-Thu than you are Mon-Tue. So, what’s the implication for your workout regimen?
Make damn sure you work out every Monday and Tuesday. If you manage that, the rest of the week is just gravy. Say your overall weekly sports goal is to work out twice and go for a run once. If you hit the gym on Monday and go running on Tuesday, then even if things go to hell at work or at home later in the week, you have at least gotten the bulk of your weekly sports in already! It’s a bit like getting your Most Important Tasks (MITs) out of the way each day. It’s true you lose a few hours at work on Mon-Tue, but if it turns out to be a hectic week later on, you can always make up for it by being more efficient or working longer hours, if needed. But if it’s already Wednesday and you haven’t done any sports so far, that big pile of to-dos is going to look awfully daunting, and you will probably end up skipping more and more workouts. This quickly leads to weeks whizzing by with only a fraction of the exercise completed that you had planned. And hell, in most jobs Mondays and Tuesdays suck anyway, so it’s totally justifiable to cheer yourself up by hitting the gym or going for a good run.
Five simple steps to get you started:
- Open your calendar and make two perpetually recurring appointments for yourself, one for Monday and one for Tuesday, starting next week. You can title them “Sports”, “Personal maintenance” or even “Handbook of Awesome Mon-Tue sports front-loading appointment™”. Choose a time that’s handy for you to go to the gym or for a run, generally before lunch and before dinner are good choices.
- Consider these appointments as fixed and as important as any other calendar entries. If someone tries to book something on top of them, just say “Ugh, sorry that slot is booked”, and make a face like you have chemotherapy or something equally important scheduled there.
- Once Monday rears its ugly head (seriously, can you believe we spend 1/7th of our lives in this shitty day?), make sure you take your gym gear to work. This is critical, as just seeing that stuff around will make it way easier for you keep your appointment.
- If at all possible, ask a friend to join you for this experiment, making sure he or she reads this post. This will make it even harder for you to skip a workout. If that’s not feasible, at least go public and tell people about your plan to start working out in the beginning of the week. They will hopefully pester you if you start skipping workouts.
- On Wednesday morning, pat yourself on the back for your Monday-Tuesday sports sessions, nice job! Repeat the exercise the following week and tell others about it!
Of course taking sports breaks from working carries a number of other cognitive performance and efficiency-related benefits, which should be obvious to anyone who has ever broken a sweat (though strangely enough not to many consulting managers). Those aspects definitely warrant a post of their own later on, so stay tuned!