Tag: Exercise

3 things I do to work more productively throughout the day

I used to be a teacher. And before that I was a student in formal education. Yep, we all know what that means: someone else dictated my working day. This made the transition to managing my own time difficult. I was never taught what to do to maintain my productivity or how to listen to my body and preserve energy levels.

Since June 2012 I’ve worked for the Mozilla Foundation, a global non-profit with a distributed army of contributors. Although volunteering alongside my previous job prepared me a little bit for what was to come, the onboarding was pretty brutal.

In the time since I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to share. Everyone’s different, but hopefully these three things are more widely applicable.

1. Work in bursts

Members of my team live on the west coast of Canada and the US. This means an eight-hour time difference to the UK. This, in turn, means scheduling issues unless both parties are flexible.

I’ve found doing a couple of hours in the morning, a few hours in the afternoon, and then another couple of hours in the evening is good for both scheduling and keeping up some semblance of work/life balance.

2. Optimise coffee consumption

“Drink a cup of coffee, and the ideas come marching in.” (Balzac)

I read a long article recently (I seem to have mislaid the link) that had a great insight. The author noted that we tend to drink to go from unproductive to reach some kind of baseline level of productivity. And that’s important for people like lorry drivers or other people who have to ensure they don’t dip below a dangerously low level of attention.

Productivity comes in waves. Therefore, what’s more important for those that work with their brains rather than their bodies is how high the peaks are, not how deep the troughs are. I thought it was a great insight.

Instead of drinking coffee with my breakfast, I now drink it around 10am and then again at 1pm. This is right before the times that are (for me) the most productive of the day. There’s also caffeine naps as well, of course.

3. Exercise

I can’t stress this enough. You may have heard it many, many times. It might seem counter-intuitive. But the more frequently you exhaust yourself doing some kind of exercise, the more physical and mental resilience you’ll have.

Over the last few years I’ve been reasonably good at maintaining a regular exercise regime. But I’m far from perfect. Because of a busy schedule last week, for instance, I didn’t do much at all. And surprise, surprise, this week I’m lethargic, want to stay in bed longer, and can’t focus for as long.

Running is the best thing you can do. Use your old trainers. Go where no-one can see you. Just get out there and start lapping those people still on the couch!


While there’s other things that I’ve found keep my productivity levels high on a day-to-day basis, these are the three most important to me at the moment.

I’d be fascinated to know the things YOU do! Please do add a comment below or discuss on Hacker News. 🙂

PS Bonus points if you can tell me where I took the photograph accompanying this post!

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


Tom Barrett and I have set up a collaborative Spotify playlist for ‘music to run to’. It’s called #runningtunes and is accessible here:

Please do contribute, no matter what music you’re into and feel free to use the image above on your own blog post/sidebar!

I’ve been using the playlist with Spotify Premium on my iPhone and putting it on random for my last few runs. Great stuff! 🙂

Weeknote #13

This week I have been mostly…

In the office

I had a rare week where I spent each day in the office. But then it’s August – not exactly busy time on the education and/or conference front…

Helping with #edjournal

I was pleased to be able to connect James Michie and Nick Dennis, who each independently came up with the idea for a learning-focused educational journal. They’ve run with the idea and #edjournal: where’s the learning? looks like it’s soon going to be a reality. I’m delighted! 😀

Setting up a touchscreen kitchen PC

This has been too long in coming, but finally we’ve got a solution for family organization and cohesion. I’ve sold some stuff on eBay and have bought an MSI Wind Top AE1900 touchscreen PC. It fits rather wonderfully in the kitchen. We’re using it for calendars (Cozi.com), news (newsmap.jp), music (Spotify) and  TV/radio (BBC iPlayer). It’s on been in there three days but now I can’t imagine life without it!

Watching the Wrestler

My Dad and I attempted to go and see The A-Team movie on Wednesday. Not a good time to go as Orange Wednesdays meant we couldn’t even get near the box office! We came back to my house and watched The Wrestler in our cinema room. What a powerful and well-written/directed/produced film! Moving.

Being lax on the exercise front

I only ran twice this week and did my weights once. Must. Do. Better. It really does affect my productivity! 😮

Music I’m running to at the moment,

CC BY-NC-SA el patajo

As those who have joined me in the #uppingyourgame project will know, I believe it’s important to get a ‘virtuous circle’ of productivity started. One of the best ways of doing this is by doing more exercise and, more specifically, running.

But running without music is like Laurel without Hardy, or Batman without Robin. And it’s important to get the music you run to right, as it makes running that much more motivational and enjoyable.

Recently I’ve been listening to one of two albums whilst running:

Morning run

My good friend and collaborator Nick Dennis pointed me in the direction of De La Soul’s Are You In? Nike+ mix on iTunes (£7.99) a few weeks ago. It’s great. The reason it’s perfect for running in the morning is that it starts off nice and gently with mention of getting up and ‘reaping what you sow’. Then, after some quality beats, around the 17-minute mark, steps it up a gear with exhortations to “Pick up the pace”. Awesome. 😀

Evening run

Being a big fan of mashups, I visit Mashuptown and The Hype Machine regularly. A couple of months ago I stumbled across The White Panda, a couple of guys mashing up hip-hop and rap with all kinds of stuff. The mashup album entitled Versus that they’ve released for free features NSFW language but is fantastic. I’m a massive fan of Passion Pit vs. T.I. What You Know About Little Secrets? Did I mention it’s free? 😉

Do you have runningmusic that you find motivational? Share it in the comments below!

Getting GPS working for Nokia Sports Tracker on the N95

Run 17.06.07 (click to enlarge)

3.74 miles, 27.03 mins (I’m out of shape!)

The past few times I’ve used it I’ve had a bit of an ordeal getting the GPS signal to work with the excellent (and free) Nokia Sports Tracker application on my N95. Now, though, I think I’ve got it sussed. Read more →

My first GPS-tracked run

GPS run

I went for my first GPS-tracked run today. What does that mean? It means that the built in Global Positioning System on my Nokia N95 smartphone collected data as I did one of my usual circuits. I have to say I’m impressed: miles better than the data collected via the Nike+ system…

Read more →

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Running - longest route (click to enlarge)

…is the name of a great Daft Punk track, but also my aim in getting fit for this 10km (6.4 mile) ‘dash’ that I’ve signed up for in June. Today I went for a run and, to my surprise, went further than I had anticipated going. According to Google Earth, I went 5.01 miles! Now to many people, I’m sure, that’s nothing, but for me on a Sunday afternoon at my current level of fitness, that’s pretty good.

Just imagine how far I’ll be able to go when I finally get the Nike+ system up-and-running… Read more →

Geekifying my run

Talaton run

I’ve been for a run this morning, twice round the circuit illustrated above – which is around 3.3 miles altogether. I’m kind of in training for a 10km (6.2 mile) ‘dash’ in Leeds in June. Read more →

Run Doug run

I went a run this morning – my first since Ben was born. I usually listen to the MP3s stored on a ‘running’ playlist on my mobile phone in shuffle mode, but seeing as it’s the first one I’ve been on since I got my new phone, I was looking for another option. I ended up listening to a podcast from Podrunner, a free 1-hour mix of music at a set BPM (beats per minute).

Read more →