10 ideas every day.
I’m not a creative kind of person, not an ‘ideas’ kind of person at all really. I consider myself pretty analytical and someone who works well with systems. This seems to me to be something that is quite limiting on my ability to work effectively so is something that I’m attempting to improve on.
In one sense, my study of law helps. The law isn’t a black and white situation and the way that we are encouraged to think in the ‘grey’ areas I think is helpful for me. It’s one of the main reasons why I am actually doing the study to be honest as I don’t intend on practicing as a lawyer.
More immediately, I am trying to write down 10 ideas on a different topic every day. Practice and regularity is something that I can do so I am effectively taking my analyst approach to creating a more creative mindset. Hopefully this will help me with more original thoughts.
Productivity and efficiency are two things that I’m endeavoring to improve on in my day to day life. I have always been good at keeping to a routine when it comes to fitness and diet, but I haven’t really applied that to my work life. As a result, it’s very easy to get distracted by a call or an email and the actual projects that I’m working on get left behind.
With that in mind, and a bit of inspiration from Kevin Rose’ podcast, I’m experimenting with separating my day into individual blocks for ‘real’ work, emails and phonecalls, uni study etc. That way, if I have to schedule a call, I can include it in that block of the day and wont throw everything else out.
It makes good sense in theory so looking forward to seeing how it goes!
Back on the topic of exercise. This time it’s the gym.
I go to the gym 3-4 times each week. For 3 of those, I do bootcamp-style group workouts. I find that knowing that I’m going to be doing a class gives me a lot more motivation to get up at 5am and show up than training by myself.
On a Wednesday though, I do my own personal workout. I don’t have particularly good strength or explosive power so that is something I’ve been working on for the last 6 weeks. I don’t have the time for more gym sessions so any progression I want to make has to be achievable in that 1hr each week.
I listened to a podcast with Ryan Flaherty who works for Nike. His theory was that the speed of an athlete directly corresponds to their max trap-bar deadlift. The idea is to build up your strength in the deadlift without adding muscle and weight. With this in mind, and the overall goal of being able to run faster/jump higher etc, I have set the goal of achieving a 2x bodyweight deadlift by the end of 2017.
I can very honestly say that I go to the gym for overall fitness/functional reasons rather than for any aesthetic goals. More than anything I want to get more flexible, fast and agile.
A further item on my checklist for the remainder of the year was to learn a new skill. I think that actively taking steps towards doing this is helpful. Obviously I am learning all of the time through work, reading books and listening to podcasts etc. but I think that there is a difference between this general ‘learning’ and taking a purposeful approach towards a new skill.
I had first thought that learning a new language would be a good place to start and it is definitely something that I want to do at a later date. I’m keen to implement some of the learning techniques that I have read about such as doing an 80/20 analysis to identify the words that are most necessary for basic conversation and mastering those.
I then decided that there was a different kind of language that I would like to start with, the language of computer programming. It’s something that has always gone totally over my head but I feel that a level of coding literacy is a really important skill in our increasingly digital world. I’ve decided that by the end of 2017 I want to have built a reasonably professional website using HTML and CSS coding.
My immediate steps for this are to do a lesson on Codeacademy each day. I had looked at options like Udemy and Treehouse but decided that the best place to start was with free. So far it has been really good teaching which I would recommend to anyone who is interested in putting their own website together.
This means that as well as my regular morning routine of mobility and exercise, I now have a beginning to my work day that includes posting on this site and doing a lesson on Codeacademy. I think that discipline in all of these areas will be really beneficial to my development.
Back to running.
One of the hardest things about trying to run long distances is that in theory your training runs should be long to prepare yourself. Long runs means a long time spent running. No doubt for some this is therapeutic but for others (i.e. me) it’s a real struggle to find the time and even if I could, I don’t want to spend all of my free time running.
With this in mind, I have come up with a variety of training ‘runs’ that I can do in 15-20 min on any given day that seem to do a pretty good job of keeping me in long-distance shape. I combine this with a longer run every few weeks (maybe more regularly as a race gets closer), for a preparation that is a lot more achievable and time-efficient than trying to find time for 100km of running each week.
The aim of the 15-20min training is to work hard. It invariable involves some kind of sprints so that you are still pushing your body. A few of the sessions that I have found to be effective are:
- Beep test – this seems to give the most value for time. Before my first marathon, I would do at least one of these each week. Getting to a 15 or 16 (I maxed out at 16.1) only takes 15 minutes and you recover fairly quickly afterwards without much fatigue.
- Hill sprints – again for 15 minutes only, I have found that sprints up a hill are great for both building leg strength and leaving you out of breath.
- Skipping – I find this particularly helpful for ankle and calf strength as this is a weak point for me. You can also get pretty creative with this as there are so many variations. I generally skip for 10min and then do 200 double unders to finish.
- Soft sand – everything is harder in soft sand! I also find that regular soft sand running seems to do a good job for injury prevention for me. In 15 minutes you can get a serious workout in with a combination of sprints, lateral shuffles, backwards etc.
These are just a few variations that I have found to be really good at building long-distance running ability in a short time-frame.
At the start of 2017 I decided that finishing 20 books over the course of the year would be one of my goals. It sounds easy but sadly most of my reading time is spent with such illuminating material as “Alternative Dispute Resolution” and “Contracts: Cases and Materials”. This meant that my 20 book goal is actually something of a challenge.
As an avid reader during my childhood, I became a bit ‘too cool’ for books during high school and have really only rediscovered the joy of a good book fairly recently. For my 20, I’m trying to mix things up between fiction and non-fiction. I very much enjoy ‘personal development’ kind of books but at the same time, they don’t have me reading into the night like a captivating novel.
At this stage, nearly half way through the year, I’m stuck on 6 books. It’s a long way off track but it will be when uni is over in September (and I am able to put down Contract Law) that I am really able to get stuck in so this particular goal is very much still in reach!
I’m continuing to work my way through my initial goals for the remainder of 2017. Two sixths represents completing the 2nd year of my law degree. I was a bit late to the uni-party, only starting the degree when I was 23 and after a year of studying engineering. At times it definitely feels like I’m adding unnecessary stress to life when I don’t actually plan on practicing as a lawyer but I’ll wait to explore that in another post.
In terms of starting the degree late, I do think that the extra ‘life experience’ etc. means that I can be more efficient with study and I definitely approach it differently (read: sensibly) than when I was straight out of high school. Having said that, completing the degree is going to take 6 years all up, so I’m committing to having no weekends/life until I’m 30 which is hard to think about at times. If you could take the maturity of being 25 and combine it with the lack of responsibility of being 19, that would be the dream uni situation!
For now I’m happy to just keep working through it. I really don’t have the time to take on more subjects without making a pretty significant sacrifice somewhere else in life and I don’t want to elevate the importance of uni above work or fitness because they’re both more important to my happiness and well being.