The Challenge, Procrastination And Parkinson’s Law

Ding Dong, The Winter’s Dead! Sunshine and warmth are wonderful things! It’s been amazing to ride my bike outside and to wear a normal cycling jersey. Instead of bundling up in multiple layers and freezing my extremities off!

Ge ting back into riding has been a great (albeit humbling) experience the past few weeks. Reflecting on these recent rides inspired me to write today’s post. And to showcase the power of challenging yourself.

As a Coach, one of the most common questions I get asked is “What’s the best way to get (and stay) in shape?”.

Usually, this question is followed up by some additional queries about the best workouts, gym exercises, or classes to attend. If you’ve read any of my posts, you will know that fitness, weight loss, and overall health have nothing to do with the gym.

My answer to the question above is “find active things that you love to do, and do them regularly.”

At the base level, this is where it all starts. Once you have a list of fun, active things that you are excited about, success generally comes down to doing those things consistently.

This is often easier said than done, and where people often struggle. It’s also the topic of today’s post: PROCRASTINATION and PARKINSON’S LAW.

As mentioned, I’ve been riding regularly for the past few weeks. Yes, part of it has to do with the weather improving, but if you remember, we still had snow a few weeks ago.

The main reason for getting back on the bike with gusto is that in January I signed up for a 6-hour Mountain bike race in Salmon Arm. The race happens in mid-May, whether I’m ready or not.

Yes, I know that starting to train earlier would have been better. But, my late start actually reinforces the power of my point today.

A few weeks ago, it dawned on me that I only had 6 weeks until the race (compared to the 5 ½ months I originally planned for). The image of suffering needlessly due to lack of training was clear in my mind. And spurred me to set a simple and clear process goal that would reduce my level of embarrassment on race day!

See…knowing what to do, and actually doing it is something we all battle with at one time or another).

In case you were wondering, the goal I committed to is to complete at least 20 bike rides totaling a minimum of 20 hours in 40 days. Why did I think the outcome would be different now, compared to January (when I registered)? Because the “pain” was greater!

I had arrived at a point where the psychological (and physical) conflict associated with my procrastination outweighed the effort needed to take action. As a coach, I’m well aware that “People won’t change until they are ‘ready’ to change”. Another way to say this is “People won’t change until the pain becomes too great”.

That pain can be physical, emotional, psychological, or social. It doesn’t matter. When the consequences of inactivity outweigh the benefits, change is inevitable, and nothing will stop you.

The key is to challenge yourself to get to that point sooner and avoid waiting until there are serious long-term repercussions. Like those people who only stop smoking once they’ve had a lung removed due to cancer.

The process of getting started was (and should be) very simple. I grabbed a blank piece of paper from my printer. Grabbed the nearest writing implement (a pencil from my daughter’s homework folder), wrote the numbers 1-20 in a 4×5 grid, and wrote that day’s date (April 8th) under number 1.

Since I knew that it was best to get build some inertia at the start of the journey, I walked to the garage, grabbed my road bike, and took it downstairs to put on my wind trainer.

If I had waited until the next day, my initial motivation and inspiration to start this challenge would have died down, and these small barriers would have seemed insurmountable.

It took 18 minutes to get everything about the bike set up (including a Netflix movie on the TV). And I was on it, riding. Since it was late, I decided to only ride for 40 minutes. The pace was easy, but I worked up a little sweat.

The most important point was that I had overcome the initial resistance to change, and had set up a simple accountability system to track my progress.

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After the ride, I was amazed at how great I felt (and proud of getting started). So I decided to continue that momentum and take 5 minutes to get my cold-weather cycling gear organized in the mudroom so it was ready to go when the temperature got above zero.

After a glass of water, a short stop at my desk to write “40 minutes” under the dated #1 on my tracking sheet, and a quick shower, I was in bed by 11 pm and feeling great. That night I slept like a baby! It’s been 20 days since then and I’ve completed 12 rides. I’m feeling MUCH better on the rides, and I’m on track to reach my goal by mid-May.

Throughout this journey, I’ve been repeatedly reminded (remember, I coach clients on this stuff all the time, and still need firsthand experience), that the actual effort needed to get started wasn’t as hard as I initially imagined. And that the momentum builds quickly.

In fact, within a few days, I was feeling fantastic. I had more energy, my junk food cravings were reduced, I was eating better, sleeping better, and was WAY more productive at work.

With the final book preparations, holidays, skiing, business trips, family vacations, work, kids activities, etc. it’s easy to lose sight of the fundamental routines that keep you firing on all (or at least more) cylinders in life!

We ALL have these types of barriers in our way. Without having a purpose that we are excited about, a plan to make it happen, and a hard deadline for it to be done, the chances of it happening at all or slim to none!

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Scheduling a race, event, or challenge is a great way to motivate yourself to take action towards your bigger picture goals.

If I had merely said that my goal was to ride several times each week in the spring, I wouldn’t have done any rides yet.

This is the essence of Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s law is the principle that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. As the timeframe gets compressed, your ability to gain clarity, focus, and motivation for the project completion becomes much greater.

Without having the race booked and paid for (and the specter of embarrassment), I would still be contemplating how miserable I felt about not riding. 

In previous posts, I’ve talked about the difference between goals, process goals, outcome goals, and the short, medium, and long-term versions of each. These are important and fit nicely with a race or event.

Races and scheduled active events are generally short to medium-term outcome goals that are part of the journey you are taking towards your ideal health, fitness, and lifestyle plan. They help you put a stake in the ground and have something to aim for. Process goals ensure you do whatever is necessary to reach those outcome goals.

Outcome goals are also a fantastic way to challenge you to step outside your comfort zone. If your goal doesn’t scare you a little, you’ve probably set the bar too low.

We don’t dive into the logistics of how to set each of the goals here. I merely wanted to share this experience with you, and get you thinking about your own situation.

The journey I’ve shared is similar to the story I’ve heard from many clients at FRESH!. I guarantee you are facing situations similar to this in your life.

Now is a great time to get clarity on those situations and barriers, and to start taking action!

If they haven’t already come to mind, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
  • What challenges, events, or active experiences have you wanted to do, but keep putting off?

  • What’s stopping you?

  • Do these challenges scare you a little?

  • Are they realistic? Can you do them? (You can do MUCH more than you think is possible).

  • What ONE challenge are you going to commit to completing in the next 90 days?

90 Days. Twelve weeks. This is sample time to train for many awesome physical challenges.

Find something that excites you, commit to it, and let me know what it is. I would love to help in any way possible! My suggestion would be to say pick something that challenges you but is within your current scope of possibility.

For example, if you’ve never run before, a 100-mile ultramarathon may be setting you up for failure. However, if running is something you’ve always wanted to do, but never acted on, a 5 or 10K in 90 days is a great option!

Keep in mind that running was merely an example. Get creative, search your dreams and wishes for great opportunities…and then make them a reality!

If you are embarking on a physical challenge, it’s helpful to get a physical check-up. This includes seeing a physiotherapist (or your doctor) about any injuries or medical conditions and getting a Functional Movement Analysis from a qualified movement coach.

The team at FRESH! can help you out with this. Just book your complimentary Success Coaching Session right now! We would love to help you conquer your next challenge!

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