Experiment #4 - 30 minutes exercise a day. Every day.
Updated: Feb 22, 2021
This is #4 in a series of experiments where I take on something every day for 30 days, document the outcomes, and provide some learnings and reflections.
Experiment 4 started out so simple, and straightforward, yet ended up becoming so beguilingly awkward that it brought into question how I mange time, how I prioritise and a bunch of other things I'll come on to later.
As Simon Sinek said. Let's 'Start with Why'
Why: Since starting up my own business, my back has started to suffer. My posture has worsened through being hunched over a laptop and carrying around a fairly heavy back pack usually around London. Whilst working from home IS an option, I choose not to, as with 2 young kids (6 and 3 yrs old), and my wife who runs her own part time (but very full time) business, my home is a world of endless distraction and a fair amount of noise.
So when I'm not seeing prospects and clients, my office is a choice between a variety of cafes, co working spaces and the British Library in London. However, whilst this variety does bring about many benefits, I am now the owner of a slight stoop I'm not particularly fond of.
The fact that my 3 year old daughter had started saying "Papa, your back doesn't work any more" was the last straw...so to speak.
So I decided I had better do something about it. I've also put on a few pounds since leaving permanent work, so 30 minutes exercise a day seemed like it should be well within my grasp. If I limited it to low impact stuff, like walking, swimming or cycling, then how difficult could this be? Well....
The thing to admit was that I didn't manage to do this every single day. Whoever said intention is half the battle was lying. You have to build a routine around any new habit and be consistent. I had a strong Why, it's just there were other stronger Whys competing against it.
Still I managed a 73% success rate. Which doesn't meet my daily habit criteria. But it is at least reflective of real life.
(Note: Screenshot is from a free app called Habit Tracker. Its brilliance is its simplicity)
What follows are 5 reflections. These apply to work, business and I suppose life in general!
1, Fast Feedback Loops - Look out for them.
I went for a brisk 30 minute walk on Day 3. It hurt my side and all down my leg. I changed my pace. And it got me thinking about fast feedback loops. The kind that go something like, 'if I do x, then y happens'. The response is often immediate. And you can instantly self correct and intervene. Or if it worked well, claim a small victory. Either way, fast feedback loops are a cornerstone of habit formation. Reflecting on business, it made me curious to understand when they happen and to be proactively looking out for them.
Here is an example
Cue: Your stakeholder or client is just not responding to your emails. Or any of your follow ups. You consider it impolite.
Response: Consider that your email may be drowning in a sea of others. And as much as you may not like speaking on the phone, that maybe their preferred mode of communication.
Possible Solution: Break the pattern. Do something different. Find a different way to communicate.
2. Good habits breed other good habits.
Like any good experiment. I use a "control". In other words, everything else stays the same, while you change one variable. In this case, I intentionally kept my lifestyle the same more or less including my diet. What I noticed is that good habits start to breed other good habits. So by the time I was around Day 10, the benefits of exercising everyday, led to willfully choosing an apple over a chocolate at 4pm (4pm is my personal break point where I reach out for a treat). At first, I found this choice in many ways as tough as going for a swim at 6am. Recognising I didn't need the chocolate fix was actually more motivating than the exercise itself.
3. It's ok to miss a day - you're human!
There were a couple of days in a row where I was up doing an "all-nighter" preparing a proposal for a client. There's little point in berating yourself. The road is long in any pursuit worth doing, particularly in business. And you can always double up your effort later that week. It's limiting trying to look after your physical health, if your state of mind is a counterweight dragging you down.
4. Find a system that works for you.
You would think finding 30 uninterrupted minutes in a day should be fine. We do after all each have at least 16 of those slots available each working day. However when it doesn't happen you just change the game. Rather than 30 minutes at once, how about 20 minutes at a stretch? Followed by 10 minutes later in the day. It's perfectly acceptable to change the rules. If you change the steps, but reach the same outcome it's ok. Don't micro manage yourself.
5. Motivation wanes after the start.
At the beginning of embarking on any goal, we have tons of enthusiasm. You can see from the tracker, that my longest streak was 7 straight days. At the start I actually told myself this experiment was to SWIM for 30 days straight. But by day 3, I'd all but given up that idea as it just wasn't practical.
After the initial burst of enthusiasm, the wheels start to come off slightly. In order to stay motivated, I needed to re-examine why I was doing this in the first place. It wasn't to become a better swimmer, it was to build strength and stamina for the demands of starting up a business. That meant incorporating some form of exercise into my daily routine.
These challenges are always enjoyable, but this was also one of the more surprisingly difficult experiments I've done. It's required more self discipline, a reality check that there is no business, unless I'm fit and well. And it's led to some positive health choices in terms of my diet.
I lost 2kg. I'm pleased to report that I'm back to Dad duties pretending to be a horse (see photo). Although the rider has gotten heavier! And I now have a goal to swim 1km non stop by the end of Feb.
#30dayexperiment is a project I created to better myself, stay disciplined, whilst I pursue a long term goal of creating a business that I love. Stay following for Experiment#5. I can't wait to get going with it, as it takes me personally way outside my comfort zone.