My Worst and Best of 2016
Right around this time of the year, many people look back on the last 12 months and share their best of the best content. I wanted to take a different spin on my yearly post of this nature. For one, rather than share blog posts I wanted to include other aspects related to personal development, coaching, business, teaching, and so on. Second, I wanted to also reflect on my slip ups and not so great areas rather than just live in the positives. Although that sounds contrary to winning the popular blog contest, I have learned more this year than ever that brainstorming, staring at, and working on what didn’t go well as well as what did go well crucial to making progress.
That said, here are a hand full of my 2016 “Worst and Best” Thoughts for personal development, clinical/rehabilitation, gymnastics coaching, and SHIFT blogging aspects.
1. Not Enough Sleep + Caffeine Compensations
The first few months of 2016 were ridiculously busy for me. SHIFT and my personal projects were taking off with a boom, so I figured it was just time to dig my heels in and suck it up. I slowly found myself staying up super late, not getting much sleep, and then trying to crawl through the day with growing amounts of coffee. Not only did I inherently know this was tough on my body, I actually got progressively less productive over time by being between this awkward state of up and down. This lasted for a few weeks before I found myself more irritable, less focused, less engaged with clients, my workouts sucked, and I was getting sick often. Changing this made a huge difference in all aspects of my life, and also actually made me more productive in the end (more below in the “Best” section).
2. Undervaluing “Unplugging”
Similar to above, during those first few months of trying to work like crazy, I would often come home after 12 hours of treating in the clinic and coaching, then try to squeeze out another hour of a project while grabbing dinner or watching some Netflix.
Problem #1 = multitasking got nothing done and created the illusion of being busy. Problem #2 = It was really hard for me to fall asleep having things still on my mind. #3 – I found myself always being on technology, which I absolutely hated. I was also having trouble engaging in friend/family activities because my mind was wandering about work. I now refuse to do work after I get home unless it’s an absolute emergency (much rarer than you think). I also shut my phone off when out with friends or family, and will schedule separate time to “go dark” from all things technology. It is unreal how much benefit it has made, and I wish I had done it earlier.
3. Only Studying/Working at Home
In previous years, I would get nervous that if I left my home office I would not have the things I need to get certain projects done. I found myself quickly getting cabin fever or procrastinating sitting in the same environment. Instead, now every once and a while I will take 1-2 major project materials (talk about helping with focus) and go to a local coffee shop or work spot. I slip my computer into “do not disturb” mode and dominate those projects that are looming. Not only does the change in environment give me some positive vibes, it usually is actually the most productive time of my week.
4. Waking Up and Immediately Trying To Be Productive
Maybe other people are like this where they can roll out of bed and start crushing it, but definitely not me. Instead of putting events in my calendar right away in the morning, I now give myself a 30-minute buffer without any set work agenda. I can make breakfast with some music on, shower, journal, do some mindfulness activities, or whatever I feel like doing. It’s actually incredibly refreshing knowing you have built in some time to just do you.
5. Saying Yes Too Much and Accidentally Overbooking My Schedule
This one hit me like a bag of bricks earlier in the year. Without noticing, great opportunities kept popping up and I said yes to a lot of travel, teaching, and courses. Although I was more than happy with them and the outcome, I didn’t do a great job of spacing them out with enough down time or buffer in between events. Two big problems popped up. One, I felt really bad that I was spending time away from the things I personally felt mattered most (friends/family, treating clients, coaching consistently, tending to my residence, etc) and there were negative noticeable consequences. Second, the physical travel and not having a consistent routine built up and definitely took a toll on me.
The reality of the situation is that whatever field you are in, your time is valuable. Even though many of us have goals of pushing forward and growing, spreading yourself way too thin or getting too distant from the things you value most can be brutal. Not considering how much of your time will be spent (prep work, travel, the actual event, follow up work, etc) for each event, and not looking at the bigger month to month layout can creep up on you. I learned this lesson the hard way.
My advice is to first trace back to your “big goals” of the year (more below). With this in mind, when these types of opportunities present themselves don’t reflexively accept even if it is incredible. Instead tell the person you are grateful for the offer, but want some time to consider it. You can then look at schedules, the “work in to gain out” ratios, how much you already have on your plate, and so on. This change in thinking was very helpful for me to not feel like I was constantly neck deep in my time allotment. There is a caveat for extremely time-sensitive situations. If someone offers you front row tickets to the Pat’s game and you are free, jump on it.
1. Really Clarifying What’s Worth Struggling For
That may come off as an odd philosophical point, but it’s true. Two books I read this year, Start with Why and The Subtle Art Of Not Giving a F___, drove this home for me. In anyone’s life, as you continue to push your personal/career/athletic/etc career the amount of items demanding your energy grows exponentially. More than ever this year, my attention and time often felt like it was moving in 400 directions. I wanted to entertain them all, but realized it wasn’t practical or efficient. About half way through the year, I took a full day and sorted out
- What is the most important to my personal life, career, and SHIFT company values
- What things I really wanted to address first and put my energy towards
- What the weekly, and daily plan looked like to tackle these things
Believe it or not this way harder than you think. There are so many projects many of us have and things we want to achieve, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed (I certainly did). I made the decisions to turn down some very great opportunities, in exchange for tackling a few huge projects like finishing my e-book, focusing on my new job at Champion, becoming a better gymnastics coach by giving our team more time, and giving myself more personal hours. It’s not that I won’t address those things farther down on the list soon, it’s just about prioritizing your time and effort in the coming months.
2. Finally Finishing Monster E-Book / Movement Essentials Products
I have a new found respect for people who publish or put together these huge projects. Talk about monsters. From inception to actually creating and releasing these two products, there was quite a bit of time put in. That said I was finally able to finish my E-Book for Gymnastics Education Vol 1, and my man Dan Pope and I released our huge Movement Essentials Product online. I would do it all over again (and plan to this year) not only because the information helped a ton of people, but also because they are very rewarding on a personal level. If you’re someone looking to tackle one of these in 2017, it’s worth it but strap yourself in and start planning.
3. Finding Ways to Read A Ridiculous Amount of Books (Scientific and Not)
Between audible in the car, 30 minutes scheduled in the morning, and switching from electronics to pre-bed reading, I’ve skyrocketed in the number of books I got through in 2016. There are a few reasons I think this was one of the best things I did. For one, staying current in the medical/strength field (or any field) is tough but absolutely necessary. It not only helps you continue to learn your craft, but I also feel it makes your time at work more enjoyable. The more you learn from books or other sources, the more you can help people in your fields, the more you can share with others and gain information to grow your thoughts, and in my eyes the more enjoyable each day becomes. My advice to readers is to read a ton so the curiosity and brain fuel burning keep burning. I think it adds tremendous value to each day, on a career and personal level.
If interested, I highly suggest people check out Ego Is The Enemy, Extreme Ownership, The Like Switch, Tools of The Titans, and Deep Work.
4. Writing Down What Scares the Bejesus (is that a real word?) Out Of Me
I went a long time in my life trying to play up my strengths and skate around my biggest true fears, as I’m sure many people do. Everyone once and a while I would tackle one a little, like trying a skill I wasn’t good at or venturing out into a part of my business I wasn’t comfortable with. In the last year, the biggest way I have grown is to write down these things in a journal and stare them straight in the face. Not like “Spiders creep me out” but the real big ones like ” what if my business goes bankrupt”. It can hit you like a train, and sometimes I even found it uncomfortable to write down.
I did this for my clinical/work fears like fear of failure and going broken when I started in cash-based PT, to my personal development (like a fear of very respectable people in gymnastics ripping my newer ideas apart). I found it was relieving in a way for daily anxiety, but also because it gave me the opportunity to brainstorm how I could approach each one. I highly recommend people try it, and be really really honest with yourself. It might be mind-blowing for you.
5. Having Pre-Sleep Routine
As noted in #1 of the Worst section, my lack of sleep was brutal. After reading of what some other successful people do, I started a pre-sleep routine that not only held me accountable for a certain time to crash, but also helped me wind down and made it so I was exhausted by the time I was in bed. It consisted of
- Turning off all technology 30 minutes before I wanted to be asleep
- Preparing food/work bags/etc for the next day to save time in the morning
- Playing 5-10 minutes of guitar a few times per week
- Reading 15 minutes of a non-work book
Worked like a charm. When I stick to it, I’m out like a light and feel way more rested the day after. I think not having blue light and getting into a shut down habit conditioned my brain to have the “oh right time to sleep soon” approach.
5a. Waking Up Way Earlier Than You Probably Want To
This goes directly with the point above. Thanks to Jocko Willink, many other people I respect, and me realizing the days weren’t long enough, I bit the bullet and started waking up a lot earlier. Going to bed early with the routine above was step one. Then, I started with 6:00 am and every few days crept 15 minutes earlier, and earlier until I found the time that worked for me. There are days I get a few hours of work and a quick workout in, only to look at the clock to see 9:00am and be pumped. I will be 100% honest, it absolutely without a doubt sucks some mornings (thank you cold Boston winters). There is no way around it. But, I feel if you 1) keep your curiosity / project list interesting , 2) outline the things you are willing to sacrifice sleep for 3) respect the time to bed point above to not think 5 hours will do, and 3) get a morning routine that picks you up, you can do it.
6. Board Games.
This may sound weird, but I grew up in family that absolutely dominated board games, card games, cribbage, backgammon, and more. I didn’t realize it until this year, but I think it kept us sane. A few afternoons with my Dad or friends playing board games / cards felt like a huge reset for my stress levels. The week following those days often we’re insanely productive, some mornings I would go 5 hours straight on a project. As with above, I think part of the benefit is because they do not involve technology-based and are real human interaction. Second, many board games require a lot of strategic thinking. In an odd way I think it helped a ton to make my brain work in a different way than it was used to. They are super fun and engaging, but I think they also have huge trickle over to critical thinking skills in work to help be innovative.
7. Surrounding Myself with Great Colleagues Set The Bar High –
I won’t go back on my first job, but in many aspects it was brutal to work there. It’s my fault for not lining up better mentors originally (although it forced me to learn on my own), but I can’t say enough about the value in surrounding yourself with a team that makes you set a high bar for yourself. I will give them much respect, Lenny and Mike 100% lead by example in the clinical, business, and personal development field. The other Champion staff I work with also help push the envelope of both their own career as well as the next steps of the company. The positive work environment that is created by everyone wanting to get better is pretty incredible.
I know that was a little off the regular path for normal content, but I hope everyone took something positive away from it! Best of luck in 2017 and enjoy the festivities.
Dave Tilley DPT, SCS