In the business world, personal productivity can be the difference between sinking and swimming. Choosing what you’re going to do, and sometimes more importantly, what you’re not is the key to getting things done. It’s not about doing more, it’s about choosing the right things to do in the time you have that will make the biggest difference. I have spent many years learning new ways of giving myself more time in the workplace to focus on the things that are truly important.
1. The 80/20 Rule
Our first technique takes us to the spiritual home of cycling, Italy. In 1896 Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto published a paper showing that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Over recent times this has been taken on as a key management principle, and has become more commonly known as the 80/20 rule. The theory goes that 20% of your input produces 80% of your results.
Does this really make sense in real life? More often than not the answer seems to be yes. Consider the following:
- 20% of your wardrobe is worn 80% of the time
- 20% of the tools in your toolbox will manage 80% of the jobs
- 20% of the things you do give you 80% of your happiness.
Ok, so this doesn’t work exactly all of the time, but you have to concede Pareto had a point. So if I’m winning you over to this way of thinking, the next question has to be: How is this relevant to cyclists? Using the 80/20 rule and applying it to cycling can help you make better use of your limited time and energy. It’s time to start thinking about your 20%. What are the things you can do that will give you the biggest returns in the smallest amount of time?
- Spending a small amount of regular time cleaning your bike, which will prevent bigger more time consuming problems in the long run
- Allocating some of your ride time to interval sessions, giving you a faster fitness boost than grinding out long rides
- Focus on the 20% of things in your diet which will give you an 80% improvement. Less sugar? More water? Less alcohol? More fruit? Less chocolate?
2. Get Up Earlier
There is time in the day, if only you can embrace it. That time is early in the morning. Wherever you search the internet you’ll see examples of top business leaders up early and ready to face the day. Putting yourself 10% ahead of the competition when they haven’t even opened their eyes is a satisfying feeling!
If you really want to get that big ride in on a Sunday morning and still see you family, then the answer is setting your alarm a little bit earlier. Don’t start too big. Maybe set your alarm 15 minutes earlier this Sunday to see how you get along. If you do that every week for month, before you know it you’re home and with the kids an hour earlier than before. My tips:
- Get your kit ready the night before. Lay out everything you’re going to need from your jersey to your Garmin so you can run on autopilot the following morning
- If you’re a ‘snoozer’, then put your alarm somewhere you can’t get to it without getting out of bed. This will force you up which is half the battle.
- If you’re worried about waking up your partner, then there are a number of wristbands that vibrate rather than having an alarm disturbing the house. These give you a real jolt, and help you up whilst maintaining a stable marriage!
- Drink as much water as you can the second your alarm goes off. This was advice given to me by a surgeon friend of mine who has to deal with the difficulties of shift work. Up to a pint of water will really kick start your body, and help ease the dehydration that has built up over night.
- Know your breakfast routine. Mine’s simple. Black coffee, bowl of porridge and a banana. Quick and easy to put together and not heavy on the stomach.
- Enjoy it! There is no better time than early in the morning when the air is still and no cars on the roads. Make sure your mindset is positive, and your body will overcome any hurdle you throw its way.
If you want to read up on this further head to my article ‘My Techniques For Getting Up Early To Cycle’.
3. Have A Single Purpose
One thing many successful busy people have in common is to focus in on a single purpose, and then not rest until they get there. I once attended a fantastic presentation by Ben Hunt-Davis, who was part of the men’s coxless 8 that won gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. From 1998 they had a single purpose. After a disappointing 7th at a regatta in Cologne, they sat down and set themselves the goal of winning gold in Sydney. They summarised this in one phrase…
“Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?”
They stopped doing everything that wouldn’t make the boat go faster, and honed in on the key things they needed to do to win gold. They stopped wasting time on the things right in front of them, and got on with dealing with what really mattered.
So What Is Your Single Purpose Right Now? Losing weight? Cutting down that 10 mile TT time? Building the endurance for a 100 miler? Getting past 5000km this year? Sit down and think.
You’re here right now because you know you don’t get enough time doing what you love. But if the time you spend doing what you love isn’t focused on helping you achieve your goals, then you are just going to carry on feeling like you’re not getting anywhere. I know some of you may be thinking “I ride for pleasure and pleasure only”. Fine, crack on! For the rest of us who are looking to make some cut through, consider what your purpose is for the year ahead, and start to focus your time in on achieving that purpose.
4. Announce Your Goals Publicly
This is a great tip for maintaining focus, and keeping you on course. Sharing your personal goals is a great way of getting others involved in holding you to account. At work I do this with my team all the time. I share my goals for my own personal development, so they can then give me feedback if I step out of line. If my goal is, for example, to get to the point quicker in meetings, then my team will quickly point out if I’m not doing that! It is a really useful conscience prick for performance.
So how can I apply this to cycling? In the cycling world this can be applied in a very similar way. If you’ve read tip 3 you’ve already got a single purpose. Now’s time to attach a clear goal to that purpose…
“I Want To Improve My 10 mile TT by 10%”
“I Want To Lose 1 Stone”
“This Year I’m Planning to Ride 5000km”
Announce it to the world. You will feel a bit more pressure on the days you feel like getting out there not to give up, and get your family and friends to hold you to these goals.
5. Set Up Lists For Repeating Tasks
This is one I use all the time both at work and home. Think of the tasks you do regularly, then next time you do them write down the steps. Keep this list and you’ve just saved yourself a whole wedge of time. For example, I don’t go away very often with my bike, but I used to find it quite frustrating. It’s not until you’re trying to pack it all that you realise how much kit you use on a bike. Jersey, Garmin, glasses, gels, it can go on and on.
So next time you do this, write it down. I use Evernote for jotting down notes, as I find it simple to use, and the folder system means I can tuck things away in an easy to use place. On the right is the list I use as a prompt when I am packing to go away. This saves me time, and gets me on the road quicker, and hopefully on the bike sooner!
You can use this idea for anything you do regularly, no matter how big or small. If it saves you time in the long run, then why not?