One of the things I’ve learnt to be key if you want to be more productive is to break bad habits and implement better ones. I learnt this because looking back now I can see that I was lazy as hell. I still am a bit. However, in recent years I have started replacing a lot of my bad habits with better ones and I’m starting to introduce new habits which have made a big difference to my life. In order to do something consistently and achieve a positive result you need to create a habit which can be repeated. This will be the first of a series of posts (if I can get my lazy ass to write more) looking at which current habits you can change or which new habits you can try to implement in order to achieve better results.
More often than not sticking to a new habit is hard. If it wasn’t then we would already be doing it. In order it to be repeated it has to be embedded in your routine. Another reason it can all go belly up is that we often try to change too much too fast. For example, many people trying to lose weight will try harmful crash diets and grueling exercise regimes which are doomed from the start. By making smaller changes, one at a time, you are going to build a routine which is much easier to stick to and far less likely to fail. I remember someone I used to work with trying to live off of a couple of shots of some kind of aloe vera drink a few times a day. Actually she was allowed more than that, she could also eat all the raw carrot sticks she wanted.
If you study the world’s most successful entrepreneurs you will notice that the majority have productive habits embedded into their daily and weekly routines. One of the most common I have found is a regular exercise routine. Finding the time for regular exercise, even if it’s just a 20-30 minute walk, will have huge benefits – both long and short term. We all know that regular exercise is good for us but just how beneficial is it to entrepreneurs in particular?
The benefits of exercise for an entrepreneurs
After a stressful day most of us just want to get home and unwind (sofa – phone – beer) but how much does this help to reduce stress? Studies have found that heavy technology use increases stress, so if “unwinding” involves watching TV and browsing social media it’s actually not benefiting you much at all. Exercise, however, has been proven to reduce stress and increase the production of endorphins – natural pain and stress fighters.
Distracting your monkey brain
Ever had a great idea pop into your head whilst carrying out a mundane task like washing up or driving to work? The reason for this is that you are keeping your “monkey brain” occupied. In order to stay creative you must keep that annoying, hyperactive monkey occupied as much a you can. Exercising is one of the best ways you can do this. Daniel Priestly uses a great analogy in his book “The Entrepreneur Revolution”. In the book Daniel refers to the three key parts of the “entrepreneur brain”: the reptile, the monkey and the empire builder. The reptile is the survival part of the brain which senses danger and helps you through survival situations. The monkey is the worker and looks at the world as a set of challenges to be completed. The reptile and the monkey can be very overpowering (fear, stress, boredom etc) but if you can keep them occupied then you release the creative part of the brain – referred to by Daniel as the “empire builder”.
It’s a great feeling to accomplish a goal. As a man, even something like vacuuming the house feels medal worthy to me. The high you get from an accomplishment can motivate you to achieve bigger and better things (vacuuming upstairs too?). If you aren’t much of a runner you may think that completing a marathon is way beyond your capabilities. However, if you were to complete a 5km run, you may then set your sights on a 10km run. Finish the 10km run and you may consider a half marathon. Before you know it, running a marathon won’t seem like such a mammoth task. The boost you get from achieving your exercise goals will filter into every aspect of your life and help you achieve greater things.
Regular exercise, of course, improves your health. There’s not too much that needs to be said about this. Good physical health promotes good mental health. In order to achieve peak performance you want both to be ticking along nicely. If you start experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety over a long period of time, it will eventually affect your physical health. Likewise, if you allow your physical health to deteriorate, it is highly likely to affect your mental well-being at some stage. Regular exercise will help you look after both.
Studies have found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week provided a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality. Sleeping better at night has all sorts of benefits, such as improved memory, increased creativity and improved physical performance. If you want to be performing at your best then a good nights sleep is vital. Regular exercise is a great way to try to ensure you get it.
Making exercise a regular habit
Now you know a little more about how exercise can benefit you as an entrepreneur, how do you go about making it a habit? The reality is that if we don’t enjoy something there is very little chance that we will continue to do it for a prolonged period of time. If you don’t particularly enjoy exercise, or are not very athletic, you need to get creative to ensure you can make exercise a regular part of your routine. One of the best ways I have found to stick to regular exercise is to have someone to exercise with. Exercising with a friend or partner makes it much more enjoyable and you are less likely to miss a day if you know you will be letting someone down.
Just as important is ensuring that your workouts remain interesting. I usually get bored on the treadmill after about 15 minutes so instead of trying to stay on there for long periods of time I do high intensity interval training instead. After a few minutes warming up I alternate between 30 seconds of sprinting and 30 seconds of slow jogging. This enables me to complete a good cardio workout in a short space of time and prevents me from getting bored. If the gym isn’t for you then you could look at trying an exercise class or taking up a sport. One of my hobbies is golf and an average 18 hole round involves around 7km of walking. It’s also customary to end your round with a beer in the clubhouse (I don’t make the rules). Whatever you decide, it will be much easier to stick to if you look forward to it rather than dread it.
Introducing regular exercise to your weekly routine is by far one of the best habits you can get into if you want to be a better entrepreneur. Improved health, reduced stress and a better nights sleep are just a few of the benefits. Ensure you are performing at your best by making regular exercise a permanent habit.
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