A very long time ago while I was earning a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I used to have to break multiple sets of #2 3/4 of an inch thick pine boards. With my feet. My hands. Once, even with my forehead (don’t try that at home).
Once in class, in the rush to get two classmates set up to hold a couple of boards for a jump sidekick, I made a mistake. A big one. In the rush to break the boards, I handed my boardholders two boards at once – but the one board’s grain was vertical while the other board’s grain was horizontal. When I kicked those boards – they didn’t move. At all. It was like kicking a brick wall two feet thick – the boards didn’t break, but I thought my foot had.
As I limped around in circles wondering what I’d done wrong, the instructor came over and said, “You can’t break through if you don’t have alignment.”
That was true then, and it’s true now, although instead of kicking pine boards, I spend most of my time emailing, writing, coding and blogging. Whatever you get paid to do, are the things you work on and the apps you work in aligned?
Here’s a checklist of some of the places in your life where not having alignment is going to feel like kicking a brick wall:
Odds are good if your gainfully employed you’ve got a list of projects. In your email app, do you have a folder for each project with exactly the name of each project?
As much as you don’t want paper in you life, some of these projects will involve bits of dead trees. Does each paper project folder’s title align with its project?
How about the billion or so files on your computer? Is there a folder for each project – whether it has files yet or not? Are all the files for each project in that project’s folder?
Let’s not forget bookmarks and favorites – granted we all have to use search to re-find the sites we marked because the whole bookmark concept died of a heart attack a few thousand bookmarks back – but do you have a folder for each project in Firefox and IE that at least is supposed to be where you put URLs?
The more of these “information boards” you can align, the easier it gets to go through them. You’ve got enough cognitive dissonance without having to figure out where things belong as you move through different slices of your digital life.
Bob Walsh writes, codes and blogs about different aspects of the digital lifestyle at ToDoOrElse, MyMicroISV and Clear Blogging. His second book, Clear Blogging, will be out Feb. 12th.
It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again? Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.
Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.