My dear dad always said, "If you want to make sure something gets done, give it to the busiest person you know." While this baffled me as a kid, I now see the truth in his words. Looking back, I realize that I always got my best grades when I was also playing a sport.
As an adult, I've discovered that I do my best work when I am actively engaged in physical activities from running to yoga. The connection between fitness and high performance in other aspects of one's work is not a coincidence. In today's overwired world, it is common to feel constantly pushed to your limit.
In my work as a psychologist and executive coach, however, I've discovered that while some people are highly effective at accomplishing multiple tasks others are prone to cracking under the constant pressure. Why is this? What separates people who can persist from those who cannot persist is a combination of willpower and strategy.
Getting things done begins with a simple commitment or decision, but realizing goals requires disciplined implementation. This holds true for both work and fitness. Someone on my team recently asked me, "How do you stay in such great shape?" This member of my team knows me well enough to know that I don't have a lot of extra time.
In addition to running a business, working with clients individually and as a team, writing books, and traveling to give talks and workshops, I have two small children and two older relatives in my life who require attention and care.
I paused for a moment and then told my team member, "I don't feel like I'm in as great shape as I was in my single years and yet, I'm doing okay given what's on my plate." This caused me to further reflect on what is working and why.
Choose an Active Lifestyle
My family and I have crafted a lifestyle where we can do 90% of what we need to do without driving. Yes, this is partly thanks to Amazon, which now does a lot of our hauling of essential goods, like diapers, for us. I also try to schedule walking meetings (as tempting as a coffee and pastry might sound), but I always feel better after a walk.
I also opt for a standing desk at least 50% of the time. I even track my steps to keep tabs on how active I am versus how active I think I am.
Get Clear on the Outcome but be Flexible on the Approach
I aim to be active 6 days a week, even if that is just hitting my 10k steps. You can pick up a lot of steps picking up after 2 kids, even in a small apartment. The key is to have a lot of different ways to hit your target whether it is 10k steps or just 3k steps. I also have 2 weights by my desk that are my last resort. Snowed in?
There is always shoveling, burpees, or yoga. Kids need attention? Try walking lunges with them on your back. Need a little more Zen? Try doing plank with a toddler sitting on your back? When the weather is great, I put the kids into a double stroller and go out for a morning run.
Break Up Your Workouts
Sure, I longingly think about a time in my life when I used to take a 5-mile run every morning or attend a 1.5-hour yoga class consistently. Today, large blocks of time are harder to come by. Breaking desired outcomes into smaller parts means that it is easier to get things done with the windows of time you have available.
Here are a few small ways to break up your workouts: take the stairs, walk to work, or squeeze a short 20 minutes of yoga into your lunch break. In other words, don't assume there is only one place or way to exercise.
Be Here and Now
Staying present is simple and empowering. It is also 100% inside your circle of control. Rather than resent my kids for interrupting my workout, I think about how they can join in and about what I'm teaching them about health, well-being, and quality time in the process. Simple reframes like this are powerful, and they can happen anywhere.
Arriving at yoga this morning, I commented on how delicious the bakery smells were. One pre-coffee yogi growled, "I wish I were eating one of those croissants rather than being here." I (post-coffee) smiled, "Think about enjoying the experience without the calories and remember, after yoga, you'll feel so much better than you would post croissant."
Life is full, and for most of us, it is overfull. We are living in an always on, always connected over-wired world. While there is so great richness that comes with being connected, it is also draining. Taking care of your body by staying active is one way to counter the constant drain but doing it doesn't need to consume all of your time.
As suggested above, begin by scanning your daily routine and finding multiple ways to build increased activity into your day. This is the first and most important step you can take to remain active wherever and whenever.
About the Author
Dr. Camille Preston is a psychologist and executive coach. A recognized thought leader in the tech-mindfulness movement, she is known nationwide as an expert on virtual effectiveness. She is the author of the highly acclaimed Rewired (2011) and Create More Flow: Igniting Peak Performance in an Over-wired World (2017).