productivity champion

4 Proven Ways To Become a (Productivity) Olympic Champion

Olympic champion.

The highest title in sports. The ultimate goal for generations of athletes. The designation that says you are the best in what you do.

What does it take to become a champion?

Hard work, consistent honing of your skills and above all, a champion mindset. These are basic ingredients of the recipe for success for Olympic champions. In fact, you can take the same recipe and apply it to any other area of your life. Academic, business, other sports, the skillet needed for success is universal. There is a lot you can learn from how athletes become champions.

You can even learn how to be more productive.

Concentrate like an Olympic champion

productivity champion

Imagine a ski jumper. Going down the ramp at speeds in the excess of 60 mph, he is getting ready to leap into the air and fly for a 100 meters. No protection, no padding, no safety net. Just him and his skies. Flying like a bird, hoping not only to land safely, but to go further than anyone else and secure himself a Gold medal.

Do you think he is thinking about his to-do list? Or how many emails he needs to reply to?

Unlikely.

He is fully concentrated on the task at hand. Nothing else exists for him in that moment. No crowd, no hopes and dreams and certainly, no other tasks that he needs to do afterward. This ability to concentrate on the task at hand, to be present in the moment and completely shut out everything else that currently makes no difference is what makes Olympic athletes so extraordinary and so successful.

The same tactic can be used in your daily routines to boost your productivity and your ability to get things done fast and efficiently.

Start by dividing your time into periods of 55 minutes. Choose one task to work on. Something important, something that will bring you closer to your goals. Something meaningful, not just busy work. Set a timer (use one online, not your cell phone) for 50 minutes and get to work.

This concept is called “single-tasking”. Working on a single task during a set period of time. It allows you to fully engage your creativity and concentration and dedicate them to a single goal: getting the best possible job done, fast. Because you are not getting distracted by other tasks (aka multitasking), you work much faster, but also the quality of your work will be much better.

After the 50 minutes are up, take a 5 minute break. Stretch, walk around the room, have a drink of water (this will even boost your energy). You might be tempted to skip the break and just continue working. Don’t. The break is just as important as the concentration period. It allows you to relax mentally and physically and to disconnect from your work for a moment which will help recharge your creativity and concentration when you are ready to get back to it.

Set the timer for 50 more minutes and repeat the process.

Remove the unnecessary

speed skater chamption

Have you seen what speed skaters wear?

A slick looking track suit that cover their entire body, a pair of goggles and their skates. Nothing more, nothing less. When the difference between getting a medal and going home empty handed can be a 100th of a second, you cannot allow unnecessary clothing and accessories  slow you down. It is all about aerodynamics and sticking to only the essentials.

How can you make yourself more “aerodynamic” so you can fly through your tasks like a speed skater on ice?

Prioritize your tasks and eliminate the unnecessary ones that just slow you down.

Start by making a list of all your tasks for the week. Score them on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being the lowest priority and 5 being the highest. If these are work-related tasks, an easy way to decide on their importance is to attach a dollar value to each one.

Look at all your 1s (the lowest priority). Consciously decide not to do them. Seriously. Scratch them off your list, mark them completed and never worry about them again. They are killing your aerodynamics and slowing down your progress.

You can only reach your ultimate goals in life and in business when you concentrate the majority of your time on what truly matters. Yes, cleaning out your desk is important, but not as important as writing that blog post, or book, or preparing for the next meeting.

You cannot do it all. Noone can.

Let go of the need for perfection, cross all 1s from your list and get the important stuff done.

The importance of a quick recovery

figure skater

Let’s get back to the winter Olympics. This time to the ice skating rink where figure skaters are gracefully executing their routines. Every move is carefully calculated and in sync with the music. Everything is going according to plan. The skater lifts off to do a Salchow jump and lands just a millimeter to the side…

He crashes on the ice.

He falls in front of the judges, the crowd, his peers, coaches and millions of people watching on TV. An embarrassing moment that would stop most people dead in their tracks. But not a figure skater. He gets up, brushes himself off for a split second and continues with his routine as if the fall never happened.

He recovered from an unexpected failure, quickly, like a champion.

Life happens. Even when you have a careful, detailed plan about your day, something can always go wrong. Something unexpected, something you did not plan for that will throw your entire schedule off track. You can let it ruin your day and your progress or you can deal with it quickly and recover. Your call.

Here is how to recover from the unexpected:

  • Step 1 – acknowledge that a change of plans is needed. Don’t fight the unexpected, deal with it instead.
  • Step 2 – re-arrange your plans to fit the situation. Maybe you need to wake up tomorrow a little early to do what you couldn’t do today, or stay a little late tonight. Make the necessary adjustments and adapt to the situation.
  • Step 3 – deal with the unexpected in way that will make sure the job is done. You might be tempted to go for a quick fix so you can get back to your schedule. This increases the chance of getting interrupted again. Go for the permanent solution of the problem, even if that costs you more time to execute.
  • Step 4 – take a deep breath and take a minute to relax. Being thrown off balance can cause stress and overwhelm. Take a breather to restore your piece of mind before you get back to your to-do list.

Practice, practice, practice

hockey practice

Do you know what athletes do in-between the Olympic games (which are once every 4 years)? They train. Hard. Every day. It takes intentional repetition to develop any skill. Olympic champions are not born, they are made.

In the same manner, productivity and time management are skills that you acquire with consistent practice and taking action. You cannot become good at it by reading a book or a blog (**cough** except this one of course **cough**), or downloading the latest app from the app store. You need to take action and put all this knowledge into practice. Discard what doesn’t work, but the techniques that do, work them into your habits and routines so they become second nature to you.

They are no productivity Olympics (there should be right?) and you might not win a medal for your efforts, but you’ll get something even more important: time. Time that you can spend making those big goals a reality, or to have fun and enjoy life. What you do with that extra time is completely up to you, but the only way you can get it is trough consistent action and practicing your productivity.

Over to you now

Being an Olympic champion in a sport might not be your ultimate goal (it is not one of mine either), but there is a lot you can learn from those who strive to become one. Concentrate as if you are about to jump off a ramp at 60 mph. Remove the unnecessary and become more aerodynamic in your day, like a speed skater. Recover quickly like an figure skater. Above all practice daily, like a true Champion!

What other productivity lessons can be learned from the Olympics? Share in the comment section below: