What Exercise Habits Reveal About Productivity
I was a varsity athlete through high school and into my first year of college. Because of this, I’m no stranger to the gym or exercise. Indeed, since leaving formal athletic programs, I would be hard-pressed to find a span of two weeks or more, excluding times of sickness or travel, in which I didn’t exercise. Some periods, however, have been more active than others. When I look back through my old gym charts, I note that some months I’m in the gym three times a week, working hard, and making progress. Other times, I limp in maybe once a week, before letting the other days slide. What explains the difference?
After some examination, I concluded that the explanation was as unexpected as it was simple: my snacking habits. During periods in which I am careful to bring in large snacks to eat mid-morning, an hour or so before my normal workout time, I get it done. During periods in which I let coffee fuel me through the morning, I am crippled by an overwhelming urge to procrastinate. “Maybe later,” I tell myself. But rarely follow through.
The Hunger Danger
This lesson, of course, extends beyond exercise. Hunger builds the urge to procrastinate to near unconquerable levels. If you’re hungry, it’s hard to convince yourself to study. And even if you start, it’s hard to convince yourself to study well. It also makes it hard to make a schedule, follow a plan, or stay consistent with your habits and systems. I would go so far as to claim: being hungry during the day is as damaging to your productivity as being drunk or sick. It must be taken seriously! Here a few tips to help you realize this importance:
- Schedule snacks as top priority events
Don’t leave these to chance. Put aside the time on your calendar. Know where you are going to go and what your are going to get. Focus on healthy. And make sure you get enough.
- Have energy boosters handy
A granola bar or bowl of instant oatmeal should be on hand and ready to go should the slightest tinge of hunger arrive. Bring something to class, in case half way though the lecture you begin to feel your attention crash. Avoid trash food. No pop-tarts. No candy bars. You’re not 11 anymore.
- Never allow yourself to feel hungry (or full)
You know you are eating enough if you never reach a state of true hunger. This might take some getting used to. Most young people are used to waiting until their appetite really growls, and then satiating it with a huge meal. Do the opposite. Make your meals smaller, and snack more. You’ll never feel hungry, you’ll never feel stuffed, and your energy will burn much longer.