Get focused, stay motivated, and be as productive as an Olympian

Sep 8, 2016 7:30:00 AM

The Rio Olympics may have just finished, but the spirit of the Olympics is still top of mind for many of us. As athletes begin their four years of training awaiting the 2020 summer games and as winter athletes train compete for games two years away, you may wonder, what drives Olympians to achieve? How are Olympic athletes able to compete at such a high level with all of their many obligations? A few things are important to create Olympic-style success according to folks writing about and working with Olympians and professional athletes: time management, confidence, and enjoyment of what you do.

According to Kevin Kruse, author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, time management is certainly one part of Olympic-style success. He notes in Forbes that “Olympic athletes stressed the importance of scheduling everything on the calendar and having clear priorities.” Three important takeaways from Kevin’s interviews include perspectives from these three former Olympians:

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule
Shannon Miller, one of the most successful US Olympic gymnasts who competed in the 1992 and 1996 games noted

To this day, I keep a schedule that is almost minute by minute…Grabbing a power nap to facilitate recovery instead of wasting an hour online. Focus on those things that bring you further to your goal each and every day. Every moment counts!”

Prioritize Your Time
Vince Poscente, a speed skier for Canada, competed in the 1992 Olympics. Today he is CEO of Big Goals Fast Institute and a writer.

The biggest time waster, especially in a competitive landscape, is to try to do it all. Start every day listing off your five MITs (Most Important Things) and get those done first.

Don't Forget to Rest and Recover
Chris Carmichael, a member of the 1984 US Olympic cycling team reminds us to rest.  

Rest is perhaps the most overlooked and undervalued aspect of time management. In training we have to teach athletes to focus on prioritizing quality over quantity, and to achieve higher training quality an athlete has to be properly rested and recovered between hard efforts. Rest, therefore, becomes part of training rather than the absence of training. 

Another important element to Olympic-style success is confidence. Jonathan Fader, a sport psychologist who works with elite athletes, notes in an article in Quartz,

One of the biggest predictors of success in athletics, and life in general, is confidence—the expectation that you will succeed.” Fader also notes “Comparing yourself is only good if it helps you motivate.”

Sometimes that means not competing against those around you, but working to be your own best self. Difficult situations Fader says should not be threats, but rather challenges.

To boost your confidence you could also look to “objective optimism”: looking for negative statements about oneself that aren’t based on evidence, and replacing them with realistic positive statements. In other words, don’t think, “She’s better than me” but work with something quantifiable, such as “This conference I helped organize turned out really well!”

Enjoy what you’re doing!
Olympians have passion about what they do—we saw it right from the start as Olympians carried their flags during the Opening Ceremony.  “People who do Olympic sports really, really love them: if you talk to athletes, they are obsessed,” says Dvora Meyers, author of The End of the Perfect 10.

But if you don’t love what you do, try taking a new perspective. “Act the way you’d like to feel,” says Fader, “and the feeling will follow.” It’s a “fake it till you make it” kind of approach, except “if you’re doing it, you are making it,” he says.

At the end of the day it’s about how you think and how you organize your life that will give you Olympic-style success in whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. These are great ideas to carry with you as you work hard and get things done!

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Erika Rydberg

Written by Erika Rydberg

Erika Rydberg is a library, technology, education, and communications professional. She works at cove part-time. She enjoys running, learning piano, and singing as loud as possible.