How Staying Fit Gets You Ahead in Business

It is hardly a secret these days that your physical fitness and mental fitness are closely linked and to perform at your best you need to keep the two in sync. Today I will look at how I use physical training to keep my mind sharp and my ideas fresh!

Sleep and Exercise, Not Exactly What You Think

I am a firm believer in a few different mantras that relate to sleep and exercise, a couple in particular. The early bird gets the worm. The most famous, most cliche of all sayings about sleep, but yet in my experience it holds completely true.

When I am looking to optimise my performance I would take an extra two hours in the morning over two hours in the evening every time. If you are in the office before 7am then there is (in most regular areas of life) no one else around to distract you. Distractions kill productivity, remove them and your performance will skyrocket.

Secondly, You can substitute sleep for exercise. This I truly believe. Not in the long run, not every day, but a lot of the time you are able to swap one, two or even three of your precious sleeping hours for exercise and actually feel better afterwards. If you are used to getting to bed at eleven and waking up at seven, try one day to get up at five instead and get in a couple of hours of running or gym. By then end of it you’ve both ticked the first mantra as well as freed up the rest of your day for mental productivity.

Training as Self-Discipline

One of the biggest things you can gain from linking your physical and mental productivity is self-discipline. Taking on a strict (or even not that strict to be honest!) exercise regime can bring structure and order to your life, help you to eat better and lead to huge gains in your self-discipline which will positively impact on your work and business. The more you structure your work and time, the more specific you can be with your focus and the further ahead of your rivals you can get.

Moreover, taking on large physical challenges can help to develop extra self-discipline, something which becomes very apparent in your training. When training for marathons in the past the fear of the challenge I have accepted generates a mental clarity and self-discipline like almost nothing else. And when running these races, at mile 20, when everything hurts and the world is a terrible place, this is when you reap the rewards from your hard work and discipline.

Exercise and Mental Health Benefits

Getting physical has been shown in a whole range of scientific studies to be hugely beneficial for mental health. From depression to stress and anxiety to PTSD and ADHD, keeping physically active can have huge positive impacts on your life if you are going through any of these.

When I am feeling stressed out, overworked and I need some time and space I love to go running. Preferably early morning as I mentioned earlier, the act of focusing the mind on a simple, challenging and basic task is like meditation (I do strongly believe that running if done right is a form of mindfulness) which afterwards leads to a complete calm and focus both in the body and mentally.

Aside from helping on the negative side of the coin, keeping physically fit can help you on the upside also! Studies have found that people who exercise more tend to perform better on mental tasks (the same endorphins that are released whilst you are working out help you to concentrate and promote the growth of new brain cells), tend to have higher self esteem (thanks to those endorphins again!), sleep better, have more energy when awake and tend to be more emotionally and mentally resilient (due to pushing their boundaries more often – try running 20 miles and you’ll understand what i’m talking about!).

Work Hard and Reap the Rewards

Like anything in life, being ‘successful’ requires hard work. One area of life that is easier than many others to get in order is exercise. Start small, be consistent and remember to push your limits a bit. Get up early. Catch the worm. Swap some of your sleep for exercise (it’s possible because the next night you will sleep ‘better’ and therefore be more efficient even with your sleeping time!). Staying physically fit will keep you mentally fit and help to give you an edge in all walks of life. So get out there, get your trainers on and lets get moving!

WHY MONDAY IS THE BEST DAY TO WORK

I LOVE MONDAYS MORE THAN ANY OTHER DAY.

Mondays are my favourite day of the week. They are the day when I get the most done, I have the most energy and they day I miss the most once it is gone. I feel this way for one very simple reason.

Monday is a clean slate. 

When you wake up on a Monday morning the whole world is full of posibilites. Most of the major issues from the week before are taken care of before the weekend and therefore you are left with a beautiful blank canvas to work from. If you get into work early you can get a jump on the whole week and feel like you’ve made an enormous bunch of progress before anyone else has even got to their desks.

On top of these awesome reasons, making progress on a Monday is actually motivating too. When you look back in the evening and see how much progress you’ve made in the first 1/7th of the week it really spurs you on to push even harder and do more for the rest of the week. And that is something I always aim for, DOING MORE!

HOW CAN YOU TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR MONDAYS?

1  Monday begins on Sunday.

The first key thing to realise about loving Mondays is that it actually begins on Sunday. I remember when I used to work in banking a few years ago that I really hated Sundays because as the day went on it brought me closer to having to work again on Monday. But instead of facing that dread I decided to take control of it.

By taking 15 minutes on a Sunday afternoon or evening to plan out your key goals for the coming week you can be ready to attack from the moment you wake up on a Monday morning instead of being a bit confused about what it is you need to get done.

2  Get started early.

One of the best ways I have found to really love Mondays is to start my week before everyone else. If you can get into your work before any of your colleagues, team members or even friends it gives you two major advantages.

First, there is no one around to distract you with their tales from the weekend so you are able to get straight into your work and secondly, you can achieve a whole bunch of things before anyone else has even thought about starting which gives you an amazing feeling of satisfaction. It is that feeling that will keep loving Mondays in the future!

3  Key tasks before distractions.

This one is a crucial tip. Don’t use Monday mornings for e-mails, at least not straight away if you can avoid it. The real key to starting the week with a bang is getting some of your key tasks for the week out of the way early and having the feeling that you have made significant progress. EMAIL NEVER BRINGS PROGRESS.

Of course we can’t avoid answering all of these questions forever, but try to get something on your list done first before you start helping other people with theirs.

4  Use fitness to give you a kick start.

Finally, kick your endorphins into action with a Monday morning run or gym session to really give your week a boost. Some serious physical activity early in the week can help to kick you out of ‘weekend-mode’ and back into your hard-working self!

The best way to do this is make sure you have a workout that gets your heart rate into the ‘intensive’ range for 5-10 minutes at least as it will lead to your body releasing adrenaline and giving you the extra boost you need!

So there you have it. Why I love Mondays so much and how you can really start your week with a Bang. Looking forward to seeing you here early next Monday!

Any questions or comments? I want to know what you think! Let’s chat in the comments down below.

Progress Update.

It’s been a while and I think that means it is time for an update!

2016 was one of the greatest and most challenging years of my life, and in 2017 I hope to go ahead and achieve even more than I ever thought possible. From struggling to start up a small company I have travelled to running a functioning and genuinely fun shop which is helping artists and artisans from Barcelona to live off of the work they love doing.

La Nostra Ciutat – A shared dream of ‘Our City’

On the 27th June 2016 I opened a store called La Nostra Ciutat along with my girlfriend and business partner Guro. We aimed to give local artists and makers a space in the centre of Barcelona where they could sell their products alongside large global brands. We started with 45 designers. Since then, we have grown to represent over 150 different brands and have paid out hundreds of thousands of Euros to support local arts and design in Barcelona.

Us in the shop – Christmas 2016

It has been one of the busiest (hence the lack of a creative project during this time), toughest and most rewarding periods of my life helping me to meet hundreds of new amazing people, learn a fantastic new language (with a reasonable proficiency!) and push my limits further than ever.

2017 has started out in much the same way. Following the big post-christmas Rayes rush (in Catalunya we celebrate ‘christmas’ on the 6th January!) we entered our first ‘low season’ with the shop which gave us a bit of time to step back, take a rest and look at things with a fresh perspective. Now, having had a rest and re-grouped we are back to work. Right now we are negotiating the lease on a second shop in Barcelona and are getting ready to expand. Whilst there is still lots of work to do on our first store, when an opportunity arrises we are never ones to back down!

2017 is going to be the greatest year of my life. It may bring success, it may bring failure, but whatever happens it is going to be a year of intense learning, hard work and personal growth, just the way I like it.

Burnout

Now is burnout really a thing?

I never used to believe in such a concept before I started this latest business, but events over the past 6-7 months have changed my mind a little bit on the concept and here is why…

In May 2016 I began opening a shop in the central shopping area of Barcelona and at the end of June we opened our doors to the public. Now, this shop is large enough and busy enough that we need 2 people here at all times, 3 during the busier periods. Initially we were only 3 people working and as the store is open from ten in the morning till 9 at night every day that meant 11 hours a day, 7 days a week, every week (not including the mountain of admin work needed outside of this!). Now I am not against pulling hard work and putting in a shift, but after 2 or so months of putting in well in excess of 90h (someone has to do the admin, clean, fix what is broken…) things begin to get a bit different.

At this point I began to notice things. For one, I slept a lot more. In fact all of my spare time was basically taken up by eating or sleeping. Socialising became tricky because of this (sorry to all of my friends who are feeling neglected, it’s nothing personal!) as did virtually any other activity outside of work. Fun. Moreover, I noticed that my focus diminished significantly. Where as before I could easily crush out entire days without a single slip or spend several hours staring at a spreadsheet, now it had become a challenge to maintain that focus for even 45 minutes. The will was there, but the brain didn’t want to follow suit.

After a couple of months we got more employees on board and this enabled me to start taking some time off. At first it was just a few hours one afternoon a week (during which I would basically go home and sleep before coming back to work) and after a while I ended up getting a whole day (yeh, like the whole day!) free. Generally I used this time to get out of the city, travel to the countryside and do some peaceful activities (or go to the beach), anything that would help rest both body and mind. And it worked.

By the time I returned to work the following day I was back to my energised best, smashing entire days and loving the spreadsheets once more! And so, this pattern has continued for the past 4 or so months (although admittedly i’m back on 7 days a week over christmas). But now, even with my time off, I find myself coming back tired. Focus is hard, sleep is essential and exercise is difficult (even though I truly believe this to be an essential part of good mental performance – in fact I wholeheartedly advocate trading some extra sleeping time for 1-2 hours of exercise whenever you can – more on that later).

To clarify, I love my job. I love the company I have created, the people I work with and the direction in which everything is travelling. This is merely a comment on the psychological effects of working long hours, consistently without what people would call adequate rest. Is it burnout? I don’t know. Can I carry on working like this? Yeh, of course, but I can see visible signs that my productivity has decreased markedly.

Overall I really see the purpose and effect of downtime outside of just having fun. Free time is not a waste for a driven person. It is essential to recharge and come back refuelled, ready to tackle the challenges that lay ahead. If you think i’m just being a pathetic then I challenge you… try it for 6 months and then watch your productivity scores plummet!

Too Educated?

We all know the story. Genius kid drops out of Ivy League University to start tech company that goes on to be the biggest thing in the world. But do we every really think about the implication of the first part, the dropping out of school and what we can really understand from that?

Most people when analysing the stories of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and all of the other ‘great’ drop-outs seem to suggest that the school’s ‘rigid’ set-up and structure were too restricting for these young entrepreneurs, but is this really the truth?

From my personal experience school was never difficult. I attended a reputable high-school and went on to one of the UKs top universities achieving very high grades the whole way through. But as I was mid-way through university a thought struck me. Every time I took an exam I would cram for a couple of days before, pass with ease and then instantly forget virtually everything I had just learned. This was no learning experience, it was a game. A game with specific rules which if you followed them you were bound to win. And so I did. And guess what? I won. It was easy. I could do all of my work in one tenth of the time of most other students and yet I would still come out with the highest grades. But the reality dawned on me that I wasn’t truly learning or progressing, so I went looking for other projects, which is when I truly became engrossed in entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship presented a different challenge. A blank slate. No rules. A different game every time. Something with no guide book, no structure, an open field. It challenged me. It scared me. Everything was so open and there was no one to blame but myself if things didn’t go well. I couldn’t turn around and say the teacher didn’t help me enough or that the company doesn’t have the resources. It was up to me.

Starting companies is not school. School is not starting companies. Modern school is designed for workers. Tick the boxes, pass the tests and forego the serious task of learning about the world and growing into an independent human. Exams are not the devil, they are necessary to display progress, however making the school experience entirely about passing these exams is a fatal error which has lead to the type of ‘game’ with rules that I referred to earlier.

So finally, can one be too educated? In the sense that if you stick in school, play the game, get good grades and trust that you are being given the best education possible then yes, I believe you can be. Because you are not being truly educated. Only by breaking out of the ‘education system’ in a broader sense can you open your eyes to what a true education is. We never stop learning, education doesn’t just finish at school, and neither does it require formal classes or workshops. It is something that we do every day, and to become truly educated learning from the world around you is something you must embrace and actively pursue. School could be the answer. But for right now, I would suggest for an entrepreneur, it is not.

Getting Going.

So the concept of this site is for to be able to share quickly and easily the small insights from my life that I find interesting. I am starting out with no formatting, logos or anything else, just a simple platform. Hopefully I can use this to find and publish short posts about things that can make a difference in the lives of others as well as my own.

For now, lets keep it simple. It’s a Sunday, in December, and as I have been doing for the past 6 months, i’m working. Without hard work you go nowhere. And ‘hard work’ doesn’t mean something that is necessarily complex or requires a lot of thought but rather a clearly defined task leading to progress towards a goal. Put in the hours when the others don’t and you will move towards your goal quicker than anyone else. And hence i’m here. Sunday, my favourite day to work.