“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”
This is Parkinson’s law, a simple concept with powerful implications and, in my opinion, it couldn’t be more accurate. Consider right now, did you sit down at your computer with the pure intention of reading my latest article?
I doubt it.
Not because it isn’t a fantastic article – it obviously is, but I’d wager you were likely de-railed from more important tasks and had your attention robbed by a Facebook link or flashing notification. All of a sudden, whatever you were doing before hand will now take 5 minutes longer – not because the task requires it but because you allowed it. Put simply, your lack of boundary and limitation caused a finite task to become infinite – a phenomenon which, if you look closely, you’ll see all around you, even in your own every day behaviour.
I like to use weight training and all that goes with it as the perfect example, it is after all presumably why you’re here.
It’s easy to get blinded by the sheer quantity of information in the fitness industry – we’ve all been there; the latest exercise for x, why you shouldn’t do y, how to improve your z. It’s paralyzing. It leads most of us to use shotgun methodology – everything at once or nothing at all and this black and white world creates faulty thought patterns, poor adherence and, unfortunately, stagnation in the long run.
I’m sure you’ve done it, I know I have, you want to lose fat so you fast, backload, cut gluten etc etc. You try to get bigger shoulders so you must need 20 exercises and 14 different rep schemes. You experiment with mobility but become so bogged down in the complexity you end up never doing any.
Our infinite world is killing our progress and it’s actually our lack of limits that is becoming our limitation.
All we all really want to do is get things done. We have goals and aims, ambitions and dreams, we’re focussed on the future and progress. Ironically, usually we have enough information but we needlessly seek more, we allow too many elements in the equation and get bogged down in the details, missing the forest for the trees.
When it comes to making progress, you’re only as good as your habits allow and when you’re trying to improve physically with a hectic lifestyle, you need a sturdy toolbox of habits to help string together days of efficient action – a stream of days, weeks and months all leading towards your end goal and ultimately success.
Practice makes permanent.
Habits are the epitome of efficiency and limit – meaningful action performed perpetually. One small, simple thing which enable progress and facilitates success. A pebble creating a ripple across a large lake.
Habits are a great way to evaporate the liquid waste leaving a fine sediment of necessity. They’re the best way to introduce this idea of limiting our choices to drive efficient action and learning to focus on the power of less equals more.
The task: once you have a goal, pick ONE relevant action (your habit)
This goal, for example, could be to improve your mobility. Don’t get bogged down YouTube videos, articles on hip tendons and books on shoulder rotation. Pick one stretch or mobilisation. And do JUST THAT for 1 week, every day. Make it measurable, time yourself and cross off the days you complete the tasks on your calendar.
You’re possibly already sifting through things to implement – already being more efficient. Scarcity creates value and as soon as you allow yourself less and build a boundary you’re forced to make the best decisions, distill things down to their core.
This will seem pointless and feel insignificant at first but you have to consider that you’re human. If you make a 30 minute schedule of mobility to do (or equivalent), you’ll eventually find a reason not to do it because it requires significant time and dedication, whats more its very new and you’re not use to freeing up the time for the commitment. The initial intervention should be insignificant to the point of pointless – it’s the momentum and accumulation over time that makes big change – the permanent habit you create not the work you do for 3 days before stopping.
Whats crucial is that you start with one and add a confined amount:
Week 1: Hip flexor stretch for 2 minutes/day
Week 2: Hip flexor stretch for 3 minutes/day, foam roll calves for 1 minute
Week 3: Hip flexor stretch for 3 minutes/day, thoroughly foam roll calves (3 minutes/leg)
This is a lot less daunting, because you’ve imposed constrained limits. In a month, you may be doing 3-4 mobility exercises everyday without effort, spending 20-30 minutes on the task. A vast improvement. By avoiding the abyss of decisions that unlimited choice creates you make a task and ultimately success more accessible.
My checklist for success:
You need a cue: Upon waking/before bed – something you already do that can prompt action. Also, do something you enjoy afterwards not before. I wake up, take TRAC and HRV readings, do one mob for hip/shoulder/ankle etc, brush teeth, shower and dress then I’ll make a protein cake and brew some coffee.
You need a routine: There are no off-days but there are shades of grey, if you’re supposed to meditate for 10 minutes but don’t remember to fit it in, doing 1 min is better than nothing. Don’t let one difficult day derail you, just make some effort towards getting it done (stretch for 15 seconds if its all you can manage)
It needs to be rewarding: Track your streak to create some momentum and self-competition, write it down and tell people – make it public. Just looking back on the past 3 weeks of success will be a reward.
Graduate with purpose, slowly: when you complete 7 days, you earn your right to add another similar habit or increase the current one. Practically speaking I would limit a goal to 3-5 habits -> 3-5 mobilisations in this case. Some habits (focussing on meditation) may require time or (reading) number progression. Make these jumps significant but small. Think where you’ll be this time next year if you add things slowly – these fantastic actions will become the same as getting dressed and preparing your food, just another thing you do. All because you narrowed your horizons and imposed a limit.
Stuck for ideas? Work on the big 5:
Mobility, waking up early, hitting macro-nutrient numbers, reading, meditating
The cornerstones of success. Why? Each one has several downstream effects but on the face of things, appear quite simple and relatively inconsequential.
Waking up early = much more time in your day to ensure you can pack food for the day, have time to train, are never late, have less stress and more structured circadium rhythm. All from setting your alarm for 7 days per week.
Attempt until you get 7 days in a row – then add time/amount
I hope the above can offer some help with getting closer to things you want to achieve. Most people have something they’d like to try and have failed at being consistent with in the past – try the above method and see if it works for you.