Open Thinkering


Getting back on the productivity wagon.

Productivity, as I’ve explained many times (and especially in my free e-book #uppingyourgame), is a virtuous spiral.

lucky spiral bamboo


At the beginning of the year I decided upon the following exercise regime: The Amphibian. This would lead to a fitter, happier Doug:

  • Monday: Swimming
  • Tuesday: Running
  • Wednesday: Swimming
  • Thursday: Running
  • Friday: Swimming
  • Saturday: Kettlebell
  • Sunday: Weights

I can count on the fingers of no hands the number of weeks I’ve managed to do this. Sometimes it’s because I’m away from home during the week. Other times it’s lack of discipline.

On the other hand, I have managed to do at least a moderate amount of exercise every week throughout the winter. Lunchtime swims along with a SAD lightbox and Vitamin D tablets has meant that I’ve had a much more positive (and less ill) winter than usual. Mega.

But I’ve fallen off the wagon in the last couple of weeks. I assumed that the hotel for the DML Conference in San Francisco had a swimming pool when, in fact, it didn’t. Jet lag and then preparations for TEDx Warwick have meant a couple of weeks with only two exercise sessions.

I’ve noticed in the past week or so that I’ve consumed more alcohol and eaten more sugar than usual. I’ve also been ill and off work for three days. I’ve been short and bad-tempered with people, and have procrastinated with tasks.

This isn’t the Doug I want to be.

3 steps to get back on the productivity wagon

Thankfully, with a bit of reflection it’s fairly straightforward to get back on track. Here’s how.

1. Make a commitment

I’m going to re-commit to The Amphibian exercise regime outlined above. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t actually reached that target yet.

The commitment is a line in the sand.

If you let someone else know what you’re doing (or make it public) it’s an even bigger commitment. Accountability reduces shirking.

2. Start exercising

Guess what? I really don’t want to do any exercise today. But I’ve made a commitment, and told both you and my wife that I’m going to do some. So that’s what I’m going to do.

It’s a beautiful day today, so even though it’s Saturday and I’m supposed to be doing my kettlebell, I’m going for a run. That’s a good idea given that I’m going to be in London for a couple of days this week.

3. Set SMART targets

SMART targets are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

I had intended to do a sprint triathlon this year. That would have been a SMART target on three fronts (running, swimming, cycling).

Realising that I need something to work towards, I’ve just registered for the Great North 10k in July. I ran it two years ago in 49:30 which wasn’t too bad but this time around I’m aiming for 47:00.

I’ve got 16 weeks to get myself into shape.


I’m at my happiest and most productive when I exercise regularly. In fact, every person I know who’s both happy and productive does so. I don’t know if it’s the endorphins, the small victories, the metabolism boost, or all three, but there’s an symbiotic link between productivity and exercise.

The commitment bit is the hardest. It’s easy to make vague promises to do more exercise, but much harder to commit to a regime. Once that mental block is out of the way, it’s just a case of getting on with it and having a target to aim at!

What’s holding you back?

Image CC BY-NC-SA rosipaw

10 thoughts on “Getting back on the productivity wagon.

  1. Just get out in the light – even for a walk for 20 minutes. If you are in London don’t take the tube – walk – it helps. But we are near the equinox now so it gets easier. Even if it is a wet dreary day – get outside for 20 minutes to walk. I haven’t had SAD in 2 years. The other thing I did was replace all curtains with blinds…

  2. Good Luck with it all. I always feel better when i am walking everyday. Unfortunately I hurt my foot so i’ve been out of it for a week. Know how you feel about winters too – which probably is why I will not go to the UK in the winter.

  3. That’s the kick up the bum that I need! Good luck with it & I’ll go & get my running shoes on. As you say it’s the commitment that is difficult. It is finding the time when everything else seems more important but obviously isn’t! Thanks Doug!

  4. Keep a calendar, too. I’ve been working out daily, drawing daily, and writing daily. Since I can see all of the days that I’ve been doing this, I’m much less inclined to screw it up and break my streak. Good ol’ Seinfeld. πŸ™‚

    Best of luck with the commitment, though. It’s a bold move to make it public, I’m sure you can pull it off.

    1. Absolutely. I’ve got a red line through Saturday and Sunday. Not going to break the chain!
      Also, check out Great for getting back in the writing groove. πŸ˜€

      1. Already using myself. That’s actually what started me down the path of not breaking the chain. I’ve slowly added new habits over time, now I have 4 chains.Β 

        Waiting until I’ve actually created a habit to add a new one helps – I don’t want to get overwhelmed with things that I “have” do to, I’d rather fit things into my daily routine over time. It’s nice.

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