The best athletes know that time management is crucial. You have a finite amount of time in your career–four years in high school, four years in college, and at most, ten to fifteen years as a pro. And then there’s a never-ending list of ways you can improve, not to mention obligations to family, friends, school and the community.
As a former professional basketball player, longtime private coach and the founder of CoachUp, I’ve come to realize that there is a tremendous overlap between how the best athletes train and manage their time, and how the best business leaders do the same. Here are three ways you can improve your time management today.
Develop helpful habits
Whether we know it or not, we rely on hundreds of habits to get through our days. Brushing your teeth is a prime example – do you keep your toothbrush in the same place, or constantly move it around? After you use the toothpaste, do you put the cap back on? Do you brush with your right hand or your left? If you think about it, those are only a few of the habits you have likely developed for brushing your teeth – one of many routines you follow without too much conscious decision making.
To give another example, President Obama has only two suit choices to choose from every morning. Surely, he has more than two suits. Why does he limit it? Because he has a million things he needs to think about, and thousands of decisions to make, so by removing “what to wear?” as one of the decisions, he can focus that energy elsewhere.
The best athletes are obsessed with their schedule–and look for ways to build positive routines that make them better. I knew one player who went for a run every time it rained, regardless of whether he worked out earlier in the day or not, simply because he liked the idea of training when most other players would be sitting on the couch. My partner at CoachUp, Stephen Curry, does the same intense shooting and two-ball dribbling drill before every game. Why? Because that habit forces him to hone in on the details that make the difference under pressure.
For a good read on habit-forming, check out Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.
The professional athlete’s schedule is full, despite official team practices only taking up a few hours of the day. Every athlete’s priority is to develop themselves into an even better competitor. This commitment to personal development and reliance on others to achieve it – such as trainers, private coaches, nutritionists and massage therapists–enables the best athletes to improve during every season, not only in the off-season.
Whether they are in practice, at a workout or on a run, all good athletes push themselves hard. But, great athletes differentiate themselves by their discipline and consistency both on and off the court. How often, and with how much discipline, do you train? Do you always eat healthy, or just sometimes? The best athletes are consistent in how they approach their work, training and life. This empowers them to make the most of every minute in their day.
What lessons can you take from how the best athletes train, and apply to your own life?
- Develop helpful habits: These habits should help you maximize learning. Subscribe to the relevant blogs and papers in your industry and read them every day. Have a goal of reading a new book every month that expands how you think about your field.
- Leverage resources: Challenge yourself by taking professional development courses. Ask colleagues to teach you new skills. Do you struggle with PowerPoint or excel? Maybe you are a great digital marketer, and can trade lessons with a colleague.
- Be consistent: Set a schedule and stick to it. Have a fixed wake up time. Plan out your vacations well in advance. Set aside time for email, time for reading or blogging, time for thinking creatively about the challenges you, or your company, faces. Even if it’s free time, schedule it.
And most importantly, remember to take care of your body. Physical exercise, nutrition, deep-tissue massage – these things are important for everyone to perform at their best, whether it’s on the court or banging away at a keyboard. Make time to care for your body in your busy schedule, and treat it like work. If anyone asks you why it’s so important – since you aren’t a professional athlete – tell them that you are a professional, and that all of us are athletes in the game of life.