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.

Challenge as a habit

Originally published on 23JAN2011 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.

In the martial arts world, students are regularly pushed to their physical limits. By pushing hard, those limits expand, and the student grows. The same is true in any curriculum. By pushing one’s self hard, whether it be in math, chemistry, literature, or physical arts, the limitations of the student are pushed further and further into the background. Nike calls it “Just do it.”.  Even more compelling is their Swoosh logo represents the Greek goddess of victory. The Japanese call the same concept “malobashi”, which means essentially the same thing.

Most of peoples’ personal limits are self imposed. Statements like “I’m no good at math.”, or “I can’t run a mile” are used to self-limit what we can accomplish. In some not so extreme examples, people evaluate their pitfalls before they even start a task, so that they have the necessary excuses to explain their failures. The truth is, though, that challenges make people stronger. The difficult test, the involved action item at work, or the challenging issue to cope with will make us stronger at the outcome, because we have gained experience. For many of us, accomplishing an involved task successfully has us looking back at the beginning of the task and thinking “What was I afraid of?” or “Why didn’t I start that sooner?”. After the procrastination, the waffling, the worrying, we finish the task with decent results and move on more confidently.

The best lesson to take from this situation is that the worrying and procrastination were not necessary. The task was accomplished with a little hard work, and there was no real doubt of the outcome. Thus, all the pre-task angst was useless. The people we all know in life as the go-getters, the get-er-done folks, and the accomplished professionals have one thing in common; they have learned to not waste time with the worrying, and delve into the new challenge as a welcomed and rewarding experience. Sure there’s planning and thinking things through to do it right, but no time is wasted on what is truly useless worry.

The interesting thing that happens after only a couple iterations of this is that a person learns quickly that they can accomplish things, they have the resources to do so, and people will help them to succeed. Just like a runner stretching out his distance to make that extra mile each day, a person’s personal limitations get pushed back further and further.

Eventually, the reputation is earned as the go-getter, the get-er-done guy, and the success story. Coworkers and supervisors grow more confident not in your abilities necessarily, but in your determination to succeed. All because you set the worry and angst aside and worked with a little determination.

So, if you’ve been putting something off, like entering a martial arts program, starting to work out, the big interior home improvement project, going back and getting the degree, malobashi!