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Integrating exercises in my daily habits

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Last week I finished reading this book called “The Power of LESS” which is all about doing less and getting more done. The author (Leo Babauta, also author of the Zen Habits blog) provides all kinds of tips and tricks designed to help you identify, prioritize and concentrate on what’s essential for *you* (whether short or long term) as well as ways to avoid getting sidetracked along the way. The book also illustrates how you can motivate yourself and change your behavior, which is key to creating new habits.

Overall, The Power of LESS is in the same category as David Allen’s excellent book called “Getting Things Done” which describes a simple & efficient time management methodology. I see both of these books as complementary since they’re like two sides of the same coin. On one side you want to de-clutter your life, avoid over-commitment and concentrate on what matters while on the other, you want to be efficient in whatever you do and the only way to achieve that is to be organized.

You might argue that such books are boring as hell and/or that they are full of **** …and that might be true — to some extent. It’s true that a lot of the material presented in these is just common sense, but the thing is that most people never try to analyze the use they make of their time; they just complain about the fact that there aren’t enough hours in a day and they fail to tackle the real problem: their behavior, their organization, their “system”. I’ll write about my own management “system”, but that’s for another day!

Reading books such as “The Power of LESS” or “Getting Things Done” has the huge benefit that it forces you to consciously think about the use that you make of your time (the single most valuable currency that we have at our disposal) and just by doing that, you can identify waste. Try this once: analyze your Internet usage for a week. How long do you spend surfing the Interwebs each day? Is the time investment worth it? Can it be reduced and spent doing something else that might have more impact on your life?

At some point in his book, Leo Babauta proposes a set of habits that might be useful to integrate in our lives. One of these being to do some exercises daily. I’ve heard countless times that exercising regularly helps lower the risks of cardiovascular diseases, help you control your weight, etc, but at the end of the day that didn’t motivate me enough to start exercising.

Thinking about that made me realize that it had been like forever since I last exercised (well did you ever exercise you may ask? … fair question for sure ;-)).

Just for fun, I then decided to integrate that habit in my daily routine.

Result after 15 days:

My current progress

I started with abs only. On the first day, I’ve tried doing as many as I could (just to see whether I would survive, otherwise there’d be no point in continuing :p). Retrospectively that was a mistake, as I felt very demotivated a few days later. The thing is that I just set the bar too high all at once and during the days that followed, I’ve just tried to push further, but I didn’t have enough margin for improvement (you just can’t go from 10 to 100 in two days :p

That explains the huge drop on the fifth day. After that, I felt pretty bad because I was already abandoning and during the following days I set out to continue and tried to do more each day without pushing too hard.

After 15 days, I’m pretty happy with the results; I already feel a huge difference and as the graph shows, I keep improving the number of abs I’m able to do each day.

You might have noticed that I have skipped two exercise sessions in the last days. I don’t really feel bad about it because I didn’t have a choice for these two. I’ll report on my progress in the coming weeks.

Next to the abs sessions in the evening and seeing my progress, I’ve also decided to add other habits to my daily routine:

  • speed walking between the train station & my work place (5 minutes in the morning & afternoon)
  • taking the stairs whenever I can instead of lifts & escalators
Little by little, I’m pushing further & further. Next up: push-ups.
These are simple things and indeed I’m only at the very beginning, but basically the lesson here is that creating new habits isn’t that complicated and involves three basic and simple steps:
  1. take the decision & set daily reminders to create the habit: most difficult part
  2. start small and go further progressively: keep a margin for progress
  3. keep track of your progress: visualizing the results of your efforts will keep you motivated
Try it out!
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