We’ve all heard tales of the physical preparation Olympic athletes undergo during their training. Athletes, at that caliber, have to train more than five or six hours per day and even that does not guarantee a medal.
There’s another side to Olympic training, the mental side. This training is meant to give you a mindset of a winner. Coaches often structure routines with the purpose of effectively allowing the athletes to increase their focus gradually until the athlete understands and is in control of all their daily actions – nothing is wasted, everything is done with a reason.
Shannon Miller, an Olympic Gold Medalist in gymnastics, agrees that mental preparation is the key to success. According to Shannon, nobody can get into the Olympics on physical ability alone. “The physical aspect of the sport can only take you so far. The mental aspect has to kick in, especially when you’re talking about the best of the best,” she says. “In the Olympic games, everyone is talented. Everyone trains hard. Everyone does the work. What separates the gold medalists from the silver medalists is simply the mental game.”
Mental training has been applied in sports psychology for many years and is now seen as an essential part of top athlete training. Since there’s rarely any major physical difference between top athletes, the difference lies on the cognitive level.
Just like athletes, often there’s not much separating us from the Gold Medalist in Personal Productivity, we just need to step up our mental game!
1# The Power of Practice and Repetition
Over-thinking and over-analyzing are an athlete’s biggest enemies. That’s why they train repeatedly so their muscles will remember the movements and their body will react to the environment without activating the brain.
You see, our movements are based on neuron networks that “remember” previous similar actions. This “memory” allows us to repeat actions again and again without straining our brain, preventing fatigue and allowing us to keep our focus on several channels (just imagine how hard it is if we would need to remember all the muscles that would be required to perform a simple task such as smiling).
Now, the more you repeat a certain action, the better that neuron network becomes at performing it. Once you have your productivity method and solution in place, don’t think about being more productive. Commit to it, practice and repeat. Don’t over-analyze your methods and solutions.
2# Gathering Required Motivation
Your ability to focus on a goal is directly influenced by your motivation. Before you find what motivates you, you’ll need a better understanding how motivation works.
Motivation is a part of a reactionary system that has a purpose; it helps us fill a need and gives us a sense of futuristic gain as a result. Do you remember the carrot and the stick? Well apparently it can inspire only immediate action and not long term achievements. Real lasting motivation that can support an Olympic athlete on his quest for the gold can only come from an inner fulfillment sensation and not from external motivation.
Let’s try to simplify this. We are all trying to be more productive. In order to achieve this life lasting result, our motivation should not be “to finish my project by Monday morning”. Our inner drive, speaking for experience, should sound more like “be someone that can be counted on”, “have time to spend with my family without feeling guilty”, “reducing the stress in my life”, “being successful”, “being happier”. This is what drives me as I constantly practice the art of productivity. This is what keeps me focused and driven. Michael Phelps doesn’t want to swim a particular race and win; he wants to change the face of swimming.
3# Working in a vacuum
Olympic athletes tend to isolate themselves before big tournaments because any interference with their training regime has the potential to steal their focus. They enter a bubble-like state in which they try to avoid media, outside influences and lean on people who will improve their chances to win the medal.
A lot of great minds used this technique while on their ways to achieve the greatest inventions and accomplishments surrounding us today. Among those minds you can find people like Albert Einstein, Leonardo de Vinci, Mahatma Gandhi, Sir Isaac Newton and Larry page.
I am not suggesting we take vows of silence. But when we want to focus, whether for an hour or a day, we have to work in a vacuum. Just like Olympic athletes, we need to protect ourselves from distractions – don’t check email every minute, don’t take coffee and bathroom breaks, try to close the door to your office, and use the Do Not Disturb feature on your office phone. Again, everyone will have different lengths of time in their respective vacuum based on their job. But it’s hard to imagine being productive without some time in the proverbial vacuum.
Have fun watching the Olympic Games, we hope that we helped you appreciate the athletes’ achievements not only on a physical level. And while we are talking sports, be sure to exercise which has been proven to enhance productivity.