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Say “YES” Culture? Is it GOOD or BAD for “Getting stuff Done”??

Hey Team.

Welcome to another Sunday.  Somehow it’s mid-April and the temperature is still regularly surpassing 30-degrees.  I’m not sure exactly WHAT is going on but I’m 100% ready for Autumn to become Autumn and – essentially – for ‘normal’ processing to resume.  35-degree days can go in the bin…please and thankyou!

Big thanks as always to everyone who has gotten into the gym over the past couple of weeks – really happy with how the programming is going (hope everyone is loving our return to moving classes in boxing AND the current ‘WAVES’ block in Functional) and hopeful that progress for each of you has been positive.  Remember though – what you are doing in the gym is only half the story in terms of your Body Composition…if you need help with your nutrition in order to help you make the progress you deserve, please reach out.

Before cracking into today’s blog – which is in part inspired by this crew to be fair – I wanted to say a big congratulations to everyone who participated up at the Festivus Games competition yesterday (Saturday April 20th).  The photo showing all ten (10) of our participating athletes wearing medals up on the Round 1 Members group Facebook page is pretty awesome…I know when I was up there I had the chance to watch one ‘workout’ (aka event) which featured 3x wins by Round 1’ers (2x teams, 1x individual) and 1x second place…incredible effort by everyone.  All credit of course to the individuals involved and the hard work they have put in over and above their regular class schedule!

I have been reading a pretty cool book recently called ‘Slow Productivity – The Lost Art of Accomplishment without Burnout’.  To say that it has been a challenging read for me is a bit of an understatement – not challenging in the “It’s a hard slog and I don’t get it” type way, but more in the “That’s a great way to look at things…why don’t I do that” type way.  Cal Newport is a very entertaining writer and the book itself is an ‘easy’ read – it’s looking at the content and comparing it to your life (well, my life!) THAT is the challenging part.

I guess if I could simplify the book it has 4-or-5 primary themes:

  • It tries to ‘Define the concept of being ‘PRODUCTIVE’
    Rather than making the measure of productivity doing ‘more’ in less time or with less resources, he talks about creating a ‘deeper understanding’ that emphasises EFFECTIVENESS over simple efficiency.
  • He doubles down on the ‘DEEP WORK’ concept 

(Think of this as a bit of an extension of the ‘Deep Practice’ concept used by Daniel Coyle in “The Talent Code”).   “Deep Work” involves focusing intensely on cognitively demanding tasks WITHOUT distractions. He argues that deep work is essential for producing high-quality work and achieving meaningful results.

  • He introduces ideal of “Attention Management”
    I guess this could be the central theme – the importance of managing attention in an age of constant distraction. Newport provides strategies for improving focus and concentration, such as setting aside dedicated time for deep work and minimizing digital distractions.  I guess you could say some of this reflects what James Clear talked about in “Atomic Habits” but is that a bad thing?
  • The importance of taking time for Mindfulness and Reflection
    Newport emphasizes the value of mindfulness and reflection in enhancing productivity. He encourages us to regularly evaluate their priorities and goals – is what we’re working on aligned with those?? – and to cultivate a habit of deliberate practice to improve our skills over time so that future projects/activities are not sidelined by the same problems!
  • Slow Living
    Throughout the book, Newport advocates for a “slow productivity” approach that prioritizes depth, intentionality, and sustainability over speed and “the appearance of busy-ness”. He suggests that slowing down can lead to greater fulfillment and effectiveness in both work and life.

So…there you go.  6-hours of my life (reading) and no-doubt thousands of hours of Newport’s life writing it compressed into 5-points…I guess that’s it, right?

But that sentence – in essence – is part of the point Newport is making.  We do so many things in a rush these days and take on so many different projects and responsibilities, that we end up the jack-of-many-things, master of none…and end up continuously dissatisfied with the outcomes we achieve we a continuous cycle of “I need to go back and tidy that up” hanging over so many of the tasks we “complete”.  Further to that, the “Say YES” culture – which I have been a big advocate for as a way of both finding and embracing new experiences, has the side effect (unintended of course) of leaving you further chasing your tail, trying to stay ‘on top’ of the noise.

Newport further talks a lot about something he calls ‘Administrative Overhead’.  What’s that?  It’s all the extra ‘stuff’ that happens as part of every new ‘project’ you take on.  His point is of course that BEFORE saying yes to the ‘work’ – which might be within your scope to achieve – you need to have a serious think about whether you also have capacity to take on all of the extra ‘stuff’ that will be added to your life by doing so…maybe it’s a weekly meeting, a daily phone-call, maybe you need to have a new app on your phone to track some data, maybe it’s a simple matter of updating a spreadsheet…whatever it is, it WILL be something.  His point is that when you are only working on a few things, this overhead is manageable – particularly when ALL of the tasks are somewhat related.  But once you begin to spread yourself a little more thinly – and once the ‘projects’ begin to have a wider scope that involves more (and more, and more) people…this overhead can quickly become unwieldy.  Before you know it, answering emails – which is not really your JOB – becomes a full-time concern.  Meanwhile, the ‘work’ you are responsible for is getting lost in all the noise.

How did the crew from the Festivus Games remind me of this?  Well – pretty simple.  As a group, they set themselves a fixed goal – for a fixed date.  They had to make sacrifices in other parts of their lives in order to come together to ‘practice’ for the event – these may have been to their work, their family time, their ‘regular’ training…you would have to chat to the individuals to see how they did it – and ultimately they were successful in achieving their goals.  What they did reminded me of the times I have tried to do ‘more’ in my own training – specifically when running the City to Surf marathon – without being willing to sacrifice other things in my life.  So in the end, EVERYTHING suffered.  AND, because of my lack of focus, I didn’t achieve the result I was looking for when originally committing to the event.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  Your regular training sessions – OUR regular training sessions – should generally be on that 3x per week, 52-weeks of the year schedule.  We support that with our basic nutrition management…and – often with the support of our friends and family – we fit those sessions into our regular weekly routine amongst other family commitments, work etc.  It is a LOT but we each have our own plan…and we WANT to be fit, healthy people (so it aligns with both our goals and our vision of ourselves) – so we do it and we are effective, efficient and SUCCESSFUL!  

BUT THEN we decide that we want to take on a new challenge – it might be something as simple as losing 5kgs before a wedding or holiday in a couple of months time – it might be something more complicated like the Festivus games crew did or like the Hyrox team are planning for in September…no matter what it is – this extra load and focus cannot HELP but have an impact on other parts of our lives.  Some of it will purely be the extra training time…other parts will be the administrative overload of adding these ‘small extras’ into our lives…and before you know it, the big house of cards is all tumbling down!  Lose an extra 5kg?  Now you can barely get to the gym at all – and not only is the new ‘goal’ slipping away, now you can’t find time for those 3x sessions each week that you had done so consistently for so long!  What’s changed?  Your small shift in focus caused a ‘FEW’ extra tasks to hit your weekly workload – which essentially pushed you over the edge…

Ultimately the key takeaway from ‘Slow Productivity’ for me is that you CAN do anything you want.  And if you REALLY want to do something, you 100% should.  But not EVERYTHING can be an extra.  You need to prioritise quality over quantity, depth over looking at things as presented/superficiality and completing INTENTIONAL tasks rather than being mindlessly busy.  By extension I guess the message is that by embracing a “Slow Productivity” mindset you will have a better chance of really unlocking your creativity and potential on each ‘project’ you are working on – and therefore achieving more meaningful results experiencing a greater sense of fulfilment.

I think that’s it!

See you in the gym,

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