Imagine....Its 730 on Monday night and I am just returning home to finish my day with a short brick workout. My mind is racing…what should I have for dinner that won’t bloat me for my race on Sunday? What time should I wake up to drive to school tomorrow considering it’s a two hour commute with an hour time change? Will I get to train tomorrow? Oh no, I haven’t finished my reading for laboratory prep! Do I stay up late to finish tonight then suffer through tomorrow exhausted? I have a few hard tasks to complete and send to my colleagues up at the Pentagon for work, plus a symposium to plan for in Dallas next month and I’m still missing some instructors! How will I find the time? Ahhhhh…
It’s tough fitting it all in – triathlon, work, and school. Just add kids and my schedule is complete! Something or some things must give. But if it’s something you really want, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Having a supportive family helps too!
First off, set clear goals and objectives to meet those goals. When setting them, do not automatically rule something out because you think it is unattainable. For example, I didn’t initially think earning my PhD would be possible while training for triathlon and working a full time job. I drew out a schedule of the courses and lab time I would need to devote to the doctoral program and determined how much time was left for everything else. I drafted a paper outlining the pros and cons of earning an advanced degree related to my job while working on a flexible schedule in hopes of obtaining support from my employer. I planned to reduce my triathlon schedule from Fulls and Halfs to Sprints and Olympics. Soon after, a few sponsorship opportunities arose requiring me to increase my triathlon competitions. Now I train with less duration, but greater intensity to leave time for school which actually opens opportunities to promote my sponsors, meet others in my career field that I can collaborate with on tasks, and train with when out of town for work.
Second, draw out a schedule on a large annual wall calendar to see how much time you have available to put into each goal. Build a little extra time into your plan to allow for unexpected delays. After about five drafts, I finally worked out a schedule where I could fit work, school, and triathlon in without losing too much sleep. I asked friends to look over the schedules for ideas. I was scared. I still worry and wonder, “Can I do all this?” I have become a master multi-tasker! For example, I often study and review documents for school and work while riding my indoor bike trainer. I also re-listen to molecular biology lectures on my long drives. I did have to sacrifice some of my hobbies and socializing, but I know it is only temporary. In the long run, the hard-work now will pay off.
Finally, test out your schedule before you commit. Gradually building into a tough schedule helps it feel less cumbersome. Do not procrastinate. With such a busy schedule, your to do list will pile up quick! Revisit your goals when you feel discouraged and set smaller objectives to feel accomplishment early and frequent. The accomplishments can reinvigorate your motivation. Know that your schedule will test your limits, and know that you can do it if you work hard. I like to set automated reminders in my calendar and auto-bill pay so all I have to do is check my charges. Set out clothes for the week ahead to help give you a few extra minutes sleep during the week since everything is already together. Every little bit helps!
Life is like a long distance triathlon. Most of us question what we are capable of until we try. If we never try because we are scared, we will never get anywhere. We rely on our friends and family for support. We eat lunch on the go so we can train during our lunch break. We work while we train. We multi-task, often sweating on our work. We could live out of our vehicles based on all the food and clothes we carry around. We accomplish more in one week then than most of the population does in a month… and we keep asking for more! We are role models when we think no one is watching, so make sure to stay positive.