It’s no secret that hard work is needed to achieve your goals, but to make the most of your efforts you should also be working smart, and this is where time management comes in.
Scarcely a job description goes by that does not require “good time management”. So much so that the phrase risks losing a true meaning. When we think of time management, we think of getting things done on time and being able to fit more in to our day, whether you’re in school, at university or working (or a combination of all of the above!)
To an athlete, time management is about managing every detail of their lives, not to achieve more things, but to achieve great things. For this reason, successful athletes need to have time management sussed.
Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors.
Ironically, the elite athletes that we know best, and look up to, largely have the luxury of a single focus. This isn’t the case for our aspiring development athletes who will be juggling pre-school training with after school training, homework, studying along with all the distractions that go along with teenage life. And it’s during this time that their time management skills will be honed.
Research shows that student athletes often perform above their peers, with higher grade point averages (1) and higher graduation rates than their non-sporting peers (2). Real life examples of sporting and academic success are well documented. From 5 time Olympian and PhD graduate Katherine Grainger to Laura Muir, currently studying to become a Vet at the University of Glasgow while taking the Athletics world by storm. So it is worth making the effort to combine sport with your other endeavours.
Photo credit: King's College London
It speaks volumes that Forbes, the global business and lifestyle magazine, included a list of Olympian’s time management experiences (3). An interesting theme emerges on the importance of using time to maximise mental and physical energy, rather than the sheer number of things you can tick of a to-do list in a day i.e. scheduling time to rest and recover. Taking time to rest is something we can all benefit from, as there is nothing worse for productivity than being tired and burnt-out.
Time management attributes identified by the Olympians questioned included being able to prioritise, schedule time to avoid wasting it, being efficient and using the knowledge of those around you to learn from their successes and mistakes, saving yourself potentially years of experiential learning.
So why is it that using our time effectively is so key to success?
Yes some people might get lucky and muddle their way to the top but this isn’t a common occurrence (hence the luck element). And this is where time management comes in. So here are a few ways you can put in to practice some of the Olympians’ advice in your own life.
PRIORITISE - Sometimes you can’t do it all at once so don’t be afraid to take a step back and evaluate what needs to be put first for a while. This could be as small as prioritising a specific skill or as big as delaying exams for a tournament. If prioritisation is going to affect others, involving them in the process can help them support you making the necessary changes.
SCHEDULING – Planning your time to avoid wasting it is possibly what we associate most with traditional time management. We can waste endless amounts of time what is best described as “faffing”. The definition of which is “spending time in ineffectual activity”.
As an athlete you wouldn’t expect to go in to session without a plan, let alone a training block, so why not apply this to your life outside training?
Here are a few simple ideas you may or may not have tried before to manage your time:
Time Investment – Putting aside a couple of hours may seem-counter intuitive when we’re trying to save time but by organising how you’re going to spend your time in the next week, you can be far more efficient in the long run. Food prep is a great example of this. For our nutritionist Alex, Sunday is food prep day. By batch cooking a week’s meals and getting the Tupperware on the go, he doesn’t need to think about what to eat until the next week, rather than it being a daily chore. Check out @athletefocusednutrition on Instagram to see how the pro does it.
Timetabling – Feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start? This is prime procrastination and faffing territory. At times like this, for example exam season, to do lists linked to when you’ll complete each tasks can help you feel in control of your time. Take a look at our Director of Psychology Stephen Leckey’s guide on how to write an effective To Do List
LEARN FROM OTHERS -
“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself” – Sam Leveson`
Save yourself some time and learn from both the successes and mistakes of others. We all know that person who seems to have endless amounts of time, fits more in than anyone else and comes out on top. Ask questions, be curious and soak it all up.
Making the most of our time is key to succeeding but perhaps we should re-think of what we define as good time management by putting more emphasis on how to be efficient and maximise the quality of our time rather than increasing quantity of things we do.
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(1) Free, D., 2014. Nail it or fail it – how student athletes juggle sport and study. Online,. Available at: http://theconversation.com/nail-it-or-fail-it-how-student-athletes-juggle-sport-and-study-29654
(2) Watt, S.K. and Moore, J.L, 2001. Student Services for Athletes. New directions for student services, no93 Spring 2001. Online. Available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2015/11/30/time-management-athletes/#7f1403223dd8
(3) Kruse, K., 2015. Time Management Secrets of 13 Olympic Athletes. Forbes. Online. Available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2015/11/30/time-management-athletes/#7f1403223dd8