Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Time-Management Conundrum Revisited

"Put your oxygen mask on first, otherwise you won't be able to help anyone else...." -A Former Professor.

Today I'm talking a little about the challenges of being a busy professional and athlete in training. Sometimes it is easy. Sometimes it is tiring. Ultimately, I am always in a fair degree of control if I choose to exercise it (and so are you!). The vast majority of us have numerous commitments and many have much more than yours truly, but the balancing act is science and art and those who pay the most attention are the most successful. This post is written for me as a permanent 'note to self', but it is also for anyone who strives to give 100% all the time. SPOILER ALERT: Sometimes 80% works better! 

Week before last was challenging. Not in a negative sense per se, but positive stress is still stress for a busy working athlete. Funny thing about these weeks is how I feel 'like I'm being squeezed through a metaphorical tube that makes me more tired the further I travel down it' that I walk away satisfied that I a.) got so much done and perhaps more so b.) I persisted yet again in the face of my own questionable decision-making!

Generally speaking, I like to plan and most of my life revolves around the hourly schedule (hey, its part of working by the appt., after all) and I get stuff done without coming home mentally and physically zapped.  It's when I say 'yes' without fully considering the whole picture: other commitments, training, family and friends. Of course I have good intentions: making person X happy, being a good friend/family member, consultant, boss (ok that sounds weird), and of course, runner. Can't say I don't try extra hard! 

So what made this week so intense? Perhaps it was a collision of my different 'selves'-professional, personal, and athletic; each trying to run through a three-way intersection. There was no damage, but a few close calls and tricky maneuvers involved. Each has it's turn and space on the road, but has to wait it's turn from the others. Bad analogies aside, within a 72 hour span I had seen over a dozen clients, given two presentations, rolled along 18 holes of a golf course, ran 12 miles, dropped my dog off at the kennel, ran more miles, and drove three hours to see my nephew for his 5th Birthday. I'm sure there was a meeting or two that goes in there too somewhere! 

While I was so tired I barely made sense when I got to my sister's house (two workshops scheduled within 18 hours of each other in different communities-ouch!), I did feel accomplished for all I got done in a short time, but was the extra stress and juggling act necessary? Not really. 

Here's where I think I succeeded: 

What I did to work training and recovery in was to move my weekend long run to Wednesday morning. The heat and humidity have been making me a cooked chicken lately so I hit the treadmill for the whole thing before work. Not that bad, actually. In order to get my PT exercises and drills in, which are AS important as the actual miles themselves, I skipped my morning routine of staring at random nothingness on the internet before hitting the more important things. A small change, but changed the complexion of the morning and I walked out the door earlier than usual and warmed up to run already.

To recover from the run and conserve energy for a thirteenish hour day and short night's sleep I took Thursday as my rest day instead of Sunday and moved a Friday workout to Saturday when I could get a full night's rest in. I give myself a pretty good grade for training, it just took being flexible and balancing hard and easy. Training's like a math equation, you can move numbers around and still get the same answer. Boom!

Somehow, and with the help of my wonderful intern, all the work was done and both talks were successful, even if they couldn't have been more different. One was in front of medical staff and community members at a hospital, the other at a cross-country practice. I say it all the time but it's true, my job is dynamic and FUN. 

Adjustments and 'do-differentlies'

While there were moments of fun and accomplishment, It didn't have to be as hectic and rapid-fire. Knowing myself and how I like to focus on as few variables as possible ran into a lot of times I found myself ruminating about how much I had to do and how the heck I was going to fit it in (great strategy, right?!). Some people thrive on multitasking-good for them because I ain't one of them! A starting point would be to simply focus on approaching one task at a time. I relentlessly tell clients this-because it's often the best strategy for managing life's busiest points. Even if you have 100 things to do in a day. You gotta start at one. 

Other things to implement are making sure I take a step back and prioritize. Colleague Brian Cain uses the acronym "W.I.N." which stands for 'what's important now?".  Simply asking oneself "can this be done another time" is a good starting point. If the answer is no, do that thing first. Thinking about EVERYTHING all at once usually keeps you awake, makes you grouchy, and causes intense caffeine cravings. 

Trim Distractions. Facebook, mindless TV, and any other time-wasters can wait-especially in the beginning of your day. Being intentional in what you're doing saves a lot of stress. 

Communicate. Sometimes, you have to lighten the load in the planner and you need to talk to others about it. Usually they understand and it feels great after you do it. 

Be nice to yourself. We don't always have to get everything right and we're often doing better than we think we are. You have to fill yourself up in order to really give to others anyway, whether it is in relationships or in my line of work helping others. 

Perspective. Give it your best and realize life wasn't made to be easy, but you feel like a boss when you tackle your longest days. Just don't forget to rest afterward! 

Cut the comparisons. Others are probably capable of doing and handling more than I can, Good for them. 
Long story short and backed by research, one of the biggest causes of stress in most people is the feeling of having too much to do in too little time-this goes for busy adults and the younger crowd, especially HS and College students. Those of us also working on athletic goals while working have a unique dynamic. I myself am constantly testing (even if not intentional) my limits of what load I can take on and realizing that I have more control than I usually think I do. One thing is for sure, I have no interest in being a one-dimensional individual.

Looking back I'm happy with both the work and training I did, and once I finally stopped moving-really enjoyed the visit with my family. Although at times I felt like I was launched from a cannon, I got it all done. Now I am counting down to a low-key trip to Colorado next week to get re-centered and run the trails of Boulder likely with a recap to follow. 

How about you? What are some strategies you use to help manage your busy life and training? 


Andrew DeSimone said...

One thing i need to get better at is just stoping to pray and study my Bible. That helps me to prioritize what is important. Also taking Sunday to just relax and then look at my week ahead. I soon find out hey i can move this here if i need to.

L.A. Runner said...

I like the way you switched your schedule to accommodate your appointments/engagements. I think that making own schedule is going to help me tremendously in the coming months when I start working again. It's VERY stressful to have a work schedule and a training schedule that won't move!