By Jacob Shriar
If an athlete is good enough to make it to the Olympics, you know they’re amazing.
The amount of hard work and dedication that it must take to make it to the Olympics is too hard to think about. All those early mornings training, late nights, years of practice, support from friends and parents, is probably all worth it if you make it to the Olympics.
The crazy part is that most Olympic athletes make very little money, some make nothing at all. I think that’s what impresses me so much. You can tell that these athletes are truly dedicated to what they do, because they’re definitely not in it for the money.
There are a lot of lessons that we can learn from Olympic athletes on how to set up a better daily routine to make sure we’re successful at what we do. An office job is less glamorous than freestyle snowboarding, but certain habits or routines can definitely be applied.
Below, I’ll share 11 great routines that Olympic athletes have that we should all try and do, to make us more productive.
1. Waking Up Extra Early
I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you don’t become an Olympic athlete by partying all night and eating McDonald’s at 3am. Olympic athletes are insanely focused, and they wake up at the crack of dawn to start training. Olympic athletes aren’t the only ones who wake up really early to find success. Some of the biggest executives in the world also wake up early.
It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not necessarily the fact that they wake up early, but that they establish a routine. So they go to sleep earlier as well, and are consistent with when they wake up and what they do when they wake up. Don’t think that if you just set your alarm for 6am tomorrow suddenly you’ll be the next Bill Gates.
2. Practice, Practice, Practice
“I am not smarter than anybody else but I can out work you – and my key to success for you, or anybody else is make sure you are the first one in there every day and the last one to leave.” – Michael Bloomberg
This is important to understand. It’s not rocket science, it’s just hard work. You have be willing to practice non-stop to get good at whatever you’re trying to get good at, especially when you’re tired, not really feeling into it, etc…never put it off.
Don’t say something like “I’ll just train tomorrow”. Get up and like Nike says “just do it”.
I’ve written before about personal development, and I how I believe you should learn something new to always be bettering yourself.
3. Focusing On One Thing At A Time
You don’t see Olympic athletes running track and playing hockey. You have to focus, and concentrate on one thing, and then be the very best at that one thing. In the business world, I would say that this applies to working in small sprints. Some people call this “time chunking”, but essentially it’s about focusing on one thing at a time. Your brain can’t handle much more than that.
The way I work is using Pomodoro’s, and I’ve written about how they can be used to make you more productive. Block out all distractions, and make sure to stay focused on one thing at a time.
4. Using Intrinsic Motivation
Like I mentioned earlier, most athletes don’t get paid well at all. The only ones that really make money are the famous ones, and the winners. This is why you have to assume that most athletes aren’t in it for the money. They’re in it because they truly are passionate about whatever sport they’re doing.
The same can be said for companies looking to motivate employees. Use intrinsic motivators to boost engagement, and find what works best for your employees. If they’re passionate about what they’re working on, they’ll be so much more productive, and the results will be so much better. I’ve written previously about incredible TED talks, like Dan Pink’s The Puzzle of Motivation, which talks about why intrinsic motivators matter.
5. Having a Mentor or Coach
I don’t think any Olympic athlete would be anywhere without their coach or mentor. Their coach is the one who trains them, and instills those values of waking up early and practicing. At work, I have a mentor and he’s someone who I really look up to, and has taught me so much already. He’s also arguably the hardest working person I know, so it’s really motivating for me.
You also might consider being a mentor to someone else. There’s science that says that when you help someone else, and give your time to someone else, you end up feeling better and are more productive.
6. Asking For Feedback Often
This one is very closely related to the one above, having a coach or mentor, but athletes are always working on improving themselves. They often record videos of themselves, and then re-watch them to see where they went wrong and how they can improve. They’ll ask coaches and other peers that they respect for feedback.
In business, it’s very similar. You won’t get great at what you do if you don’t ask for feedback often. In fact, inside the Officevibe platform, asking for feedback is one of over 250 activities.
7. Caring About The Details
Athletes care so much about even the smallest details, because sometimes they can make all the difference. How you bend your knees, when to start the jump, how to stick the landing, these are not things that are taken lightly by Olympic athletes.
All employees, leaders, and managers should care more about the little details, because it’s the little details that count. For example, something as simple as saying good morning to a coworker can have a huge effect on their mood and therefore their productivity.
8. Getting More Sleep
“There are lab studies that show that if you’re an eight-hour sleeper and you get six hours of sleep, that two-hour difference can impact your performance so that it equates to how you would perform if you had a 0.05 blood-alcohol level.” – Mark Rosekind, PhD, president of Alertness Solutions and a former NASA scientist.
People don’t realize how important sleep is. Athletes have their sleep routines down to a science. The lighting has to be perfect, the temperature has to be perfect, and they understand that in order to perform their best, they need a good amount of sleep.
Of course this doesn’t only apply to athletes, everyone needs sleep. I’ve written a lot about sleep and the importance of it, and how bad lack of sleep is for you. Sleep is an important part of employee motivation, and I hope more companies start to realize that.
9. Establishing A Routine
Like I mentioned in number 1, athletes have a very strict routine. Their training schedules, their sleep schedules, even their eating schedules are formulated on purpose with excellence in mind. Establishing a consistent routine is one of the keys of their success
Similarly, employees and managers should be establishing a productivity routine. Things like checking your emails at fixed times of the day, bundling meetings in your schedules, having something like “no meeting Wednesday’s” are all ways to boost your productivity.
10. Always Be Learning
I’m sure you’ve heard of football players taking ballet lessons to improve their performance on the field. Or what about George St Pierre, arguably the greatest UFC fighter of all time training in gymnastics to be an all around great fighter. This makes a lot of sense for athletes, to try and think creatively about other cross-disciplinary fields that will improve their performance. To be the best at what you do, you need to master that craft.
I think we can all learn from this and try to learn new skills whenever we can to help us in our work. I’m personally learning web programming so that I’ll be better at my job as Growth Manager. I probably won’t ever write a single line of code in our production environment, but it’s good to be able to talk to the developers knowledgeably.
11. Understanding Team Building
Athletes understand that it’s a team effort, and even the greatest athletes wouldn’t be anywhere without their team. Hockey teams are my favorite example. They travel together, workout together, practice together, party together, play pranks on each other. The team bonding that occurs on a hockey team really is like a family. The coaches understand this, and actually even encourage team building activities among the players. The hockey players communicate with each other on the ice, and the closer they are, the more “in-sync” they will be.
I really hope that this example of hockey players “clicked” with any manager reading this. If you encourage team building activities within your company, you’ll see a huge increase in productivity. In the example above, you as a manager are the coach. Encourage that team building, don’t stifle it.
12. Take Some Time Off
Yes, athletes work hard, there’s no denying that, but even they understand the meaning of “recharging their batteries”. The best athletes in the world know that if they take proper time to rest and recover, they’ll come back stronger than ever.
I think it’s important for everyone to remember this. We’re all becoming workaholics, and with mobile computing, the line between personal and work life keeps getting blurrier. I know everyone wants to be a productivity machine, but you’re just fooling yourself. Not only will you not be more productive, but you’ll be doing damage to your body.
13. Use Visualization Exercises
Being at the Olympics must be insanely nerve racking. What a lot of athletes do is use visualization techniques to try and visualize the outcome of a game or race. What this actually ends up doing is it sets the goals higher for athletes, and makes them ultimately perform better.
I think there are a lot of use cases where employees could use visualization techniques if they have a presentation or big sales meeting coming up. Meditation is a great way to calm yourself, and make sure you’re working at your best.
There are probably many more tips that you can get from athletes, but we as employees can learn a lot from them. It’s been a lot of fun watching the Olympics this winter, and I’m hoping to learn lessons from these athletes that will help me in my life.
What else do you think athletes do that can boost your productivity?
Let me know in the comments!