Coner Murphy

Published on 19 Jun 2022 | 5 Minute Read

#37 - Runnin'

Running and time management have more in common than you think. I've been getting back into running and here is what it's taught me about time management.

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#37 - Runnin'

Hey Friends 👋

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been getting back into running. (Or, at least trying to with the current UK heatwave 😂.)

The reasons for this are twofold:

  1. We all know that exercising is both good for you physically and mentally, yielding productivity and creativity boosts.
  2. I spend a lot of time sitting due to my work and side projects. So, running is a great way to get up and do something to try to negate the issues of being sedentary.

Now, full disclosure, this isn't the first time I've tried to get into running. In fact, I probably can't tell you what time it is as it's been that many over the years. But, this time, it's different. Now, I don't mean that in some blindly hopeful way. But, rather this time is objectively different because I've changed how I structure and plan my runs.

Which is to say, I don't structure or plan my runs.

Before I explain what I mean, let me quickly cover what I used to do when trying to get into running and explain why that didn't work. If you've ever tried to make running a regular thing, you're probably aware there are different types of runs you can do, long runs, speed runs, interval runs, etc. So, in the past, there would be a lot of decisions I needed to make before I could even go for the run I wanted to do, some of these being:

  1. When to run? What day of the week? What time?
  2. What type of run?
  3. Where to run?
  4. What distance to run?

It doesn't seem like a lot of decisions, but when you have to make them every time you want to run, it becomes a mental burden. This burden makes running unattractive which eventually leads to us not running at all. So, what's the solution to this problem? What am I doing differently this time to ensure I don't give up? Simply put, I'm not making these decisions.

When I run, I use the Nike Run Club app to track my runs and within it, there is a handy "training plans" section, similar to what they have on their website. These training plans are amazing, they tell you exactly what runs you need to do each week, for how long, and for what distance. All you need to do is decide on a race distance to train for. (You don't need an official race to do these plans, just pick a distance you want to run.)

NOTE: The website version doesn't do it but on the mobile app, it also plans the runs out to the days of the week. E.g. Monday, a long run, and Thursday, a recovery run.

This has been an absolute blessing for me, now every Sunday I can check the upcoming week's runs to see what I'll be doing and when. All of the decisions and mental burdens have been taken away from me so now, I can just focus on actually running, not the logistics of it.

Applying It Outside of Running

So, with my story across the finish line. How can this actually help you if you're not interested in running?

Well, I think we can take some key lessons away and apply them to our daily and weekly processes to help us achieve more. Chief of these lessons, is reducing the cognitive load associated with decision-making. Right now, when you sit down and decide to work on a project, do you know exactly what you're going to work on? Not, just the project, but the actual task?

If you don't, do you then spend the next 20/30 minutes figuring out which task has the highest priority and therefore should be worked on? Yes? Then, this is 20/30 minutes we could've been working if we already knew the task that needed to be worked on.

So, instead of wasting time working out what is the priority, if we take the same approach shown in the running story, we can save time and achieve more. Now, while we can't get a computer or algorithm to automatically decide our tasks and schedule them for us, we can get our past selves to do it ahead of time.

There are a couple of ways we could do this.

  1. Every Sunday, sit down and allocate the tasks you want to complete for each day of the week. Make sure to get as specific as you can with them so there's less decision-making needed when it comes time to work on them.
  2. If weekly planning isn't quite your thing or you never know your schedule that far in advance, try the night before instead. Every night before going to bed, sit down and list out the highest priority tasks for the following day.

I currently do method two as part of my journaling process but going forward, I'm going to trial method one to see which I prefer. But, in both methods, I recommend listing three items per day and no more. Why three? Three is a manageable number, it's not such a long list that we introduce more decision-making into the process and risk not completing our tasks that day. But, it's also not so short, that we risk running out of work and having to spend more time making decisions on what to do next.

I hope you enjoyed this week's edition and found it insightful and/or helpful in some way.

Until next time, thank you for reading. 😀

Coner x

Thought, Question, Challenge 🤔

  • Thought: To make something long-lasting, you need to remove as many of the decisions required to do it as possible.
  • Question: How can you change your processes to remove decisions and allow you to focus more on completing the work instead of organizing it?
  • Challenge: This coming week, every evening pick out three tasks for the coming day you'd like to complete.

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