Time management and martial arts

Originally published on 04DEC2010 for Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

Practice in the martial arts instills many qualities in its participants. One of the things that can be “inadvertently” learned is good time management skills. For the two hours on the mats, in the gym, or at the dojo, there is generally little time to think about anything else other than the here-and-now.

Learning a new technique with a sword, grappling an opponent into a pin that turns them into a human pretzel, or launching some new kick, the students practicing every day around the Detroit area are worrying about nothing other than the task in front of them.

After the workout, these same students reflect on what they’ve learned, how much they know now that they didn’t two hours ago, or are reveling in some new detail they just got enlightened on, and are grateful for the last session.

Then they get home, or they get to work. From out of nowhere, tens if not hundreds of tasks, deadlines or the dreaded “action items” hit them. Clean the garage, fix the computer, contact the supplier, go to the bank, etc.

The singular goal and focus they worked with on the mats has evaporated into a haze of “a pleasant memory”. But, why was this two hour session on the mats so productive, and the rest of life so chaotic?

It isn’t. The problem lies in the fact that all the other tasks permeate what is trying to be accomplished, and the whole effort devolves into a very inefficient multitasking session, or an emotional malaise sits in at the prospect of the daunting task list becoming insurmountable.

The solution? Find a task or group of small tasks, and set two hours aside for it. It doesn’t matter if it can be completed in two hours or not, just set aside the time and concentrate on it. If worry or distraction about other tasks begins to permeate your mind shut it down, because this two hours is for this activity only.

It may take some work developing the two-hour focus, but it is achievable. Once the first few sessions go by, task lists start to shrink because things are getting done. Anxiety and worry start to ebb because there is a mental assurance being instilled that you are moving towards your goals, and a confidence in the fact that every task will get its chance to be addressed.

If needed, establish a time at work where you get the two-hour session without interruption. Establish a night in the week or a time on the weekend with your family where you can be left alone to get some things done.  Break larger tasks up into sub-tasks that can be accomplished in two-hour session.

Then, that sense of accomplishment achieved at the dojo becomes a part of other facets of your life.