How to be Productive Like an Olympic Athlete

How to be Productive Like an Olympic Athlete

The Summer Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 5 to 21 August. While the participation and the fairplay are more important than winning, the Olympic games motto says: “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. Each nation has sent their representatives and hope they will bring as many medals as possible.

How do Olympic athletes keep their productivity? Kevin Kruse has interviewed a few Olympic athletes from around the world to ask them how they keep their focus and discipline in relation to research for one of his books related to time management. The athletes varied in gender, nationality and sport direction.

Here is what some of them have answered:

Shannon Miller. She played for the 1992 and 1996 US Olympic women’s gymnastics team and she won seven Olympic medals. She stresses the importance of scheduling down to the last minute:

“During training, I balanced family time, chores, schoolwork, Olympic training, appearances, and other obligations by outlining a very specific schedule. I was forced to prioritize…To this day, I kept a schedule that is almost minute by minute…Grabbing a power nap to facilitate recovery instead of wasting an hour online. Focus on those things that bring you further to your goal each and every day. Every moment counts!”

Toby Jenkins. He was a water polo player from Australia and played at the Athens Olympics, 2004. According to him, it is very important to have good mentors and coaches. He says:

“Find someone whose work you trust and admire and who has already done specifically what you want to do. Ask them for help and then filter their advice for your own situation. It’s not about saving an hour. It’s about saving you potentially years to get to goal.”

Sara Hendershot, an Olympic rower who competed in London 2012 for the United States says it is important to know your limits and thus be able to say “no” when it is needed because if an athlete passes his or her own limits, it may lead to injuries and even stop the athletic career earlier than expected:

“Part of being an Olympic athlete is just that there are a lot of things that I have to miss, and moments or events that I have to skip. I’ve almost just gotten to the point where I’m used to having to say “No” to things. It’s just getting good at knowing your limits and not trying to overstretch those limits because when I do, that’s the time that I get injured or I get sick.”

Katie Uhlaender, winter Olympic skeleton for the United States in Turin, Vancouver and Sochi. She also underlines the importance of having an agenda and following it. The agenda needs to include time for work and time for rest:

“One of the most important parts to managing your time well is having an agenda, meaning you have a focus each day and a goal each week. When you are an athlete and constantly training and competing, rest is incredibly important so that you are able to be at your very best physically and mentally. It is important to also schedule time for yourself, to rest, or to refocus.”

Chris Carmichael. He competed for the 1984 US Olympic Cycling Team. To him, rest is also one of the most important things in an athlete’s productivity world:

“Rest is perhaps the most overlooked and undervalued aspect of time management. In training we have to teach athletes to focus on prioritizing quality over quantity, and to achieve higher training quality an athlete has to be properly rested and recovered between hard efforts. Rest, therefore, becomes part of training rather than the absence of training.”

Julie McDonald, a swimmer bronze medalist at the 1988 Olympic in Seoul for Australia, also confirms the power of scheduling one’s own time:

“For me, it’s about scheduling my time. If I don’t schedule my time I get distracted and am not productive. So I allocate time for exercise, charity, work and fun! That way I stay organized.”

Roy-Allan Burch. He is an Olympic swimmer from Bermuda and competed in Beijing and London during 2008 and 2012 Olympics. His advice is to be dedicated towards a goal and to allocate time for rest as well:

“Each day is dedicated toward a vigorous amount of training and when not training, it’s important to maximize recovery for the next workout…Having a detailed schedule to follow makes maximizing each day easier. Rather than thinking about what needs to happen in an allotted time, one can just execute the training or recovery that needs to take place.”

Although we may think the lives of Olympic athletes are far from ours as we do not compete for Olympic medals, we actually do compete for medals too. It happens at our work, at home, in our own life. A medal is when one achieves a long-term goal, when one has nice time spent with family and friends, when one feels satisfied of his own living.

The three most important lessons we can learn from the Olympic athletes are:

  1. Schedule. Having a schedule that includes time for work and time for rest.
  2. Limit. Knowing our own limits and being able to say “no” when it is needed.
  3. Dedication. Being dedicated while following the schedule towards a goal.

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