High-rep kettlebell snatches

Photo by Taco Fleur on Pexels.com

Lockdowns over the last year have made kettlebell training a central element in my daily routine. I write this on a seaside holiday in the southeast of England, to which I brought a 24kg kettlebell in the car (no joke). Working from home means I risk spending all day sitting down with little reason for any meaningful movement, so I have a couple of kettlebells in my conservatory for quick access between meetings. I know that each day, with just 10 minutes, I can get 10×10 swings with a 40kg kettlebell or if I am swamped and only have 5 minutes, I can do 10×10 single hand swings with 24kg.

I think every household should build a collection of kettlebells as a home gym or a ‘Courage corner’ as the Russian Military calls it, according to Pavel in The Russian Kettlebell Challenge. Kettlebells are cheap, will outlast you, require no additional equipment, and the techniques are easy to learn from Youtube. 

Progression on Kettlebell swings

  1. Two-handed swing
  2. One-handed swing
  3. Clean
  4. Snatch

High rep kettlebell snatches are hard; they test your mental resilience, conditioning, grip strength, and shoulder strength and mobility. High rep kettlebell snatches will highlight and fix problems and asymmetries in your swing technique. As a ballistic movement, it is a great way to build a powerful hip snap that will carry over into other activities like running, and it will burn fat at the same time.

Before trying high rep or heavy kettlebell snatches, it is good to build solid technique on the push press and the more accessible swings. Once you start to train the snatch, think of it as a one-handed swing that goes all the way up and swing from the top – pauses with the kettlebell overhead and let your bell drop into the swing movement. 

Start with a 16kg Kettlebell (if you have one) and spend time learning the groove of the movement before you move to a 24kg kettlebell. Until you have mastered the movement, treat it as a practice rather than a workout, take your time building up the reps and weight. Use heavy swings, cleans, and presses for your strength and conditioning work until you feel confident with the snatch.  

Milestones

The first big test is the StrongFirst snatch test that forms part of the entry-level certification. Dan Johns rep recommendations of 20/15/10/5 (per hand) starting with your weaker hand is a great way to approach the test. As Dan points out, by the end of the first set of 20, you can smile as you have completed the most challenging part.

  1. StrongFirst Certification Snatch Test: 100 snatches in 5 minutes with a 24kg kettlebell
  2. The US Secret Service 10-minute snatch test: 200 snatches in 10 minutes with a 24kg
  3. Tactical strength challenge: max snatches in 5 minutes with a 32kg kettlebell
  4. Girevoy national ranking: Snatch a 32Kg kettlebell 40 times with one arm, then 40 times with the other back to back 

Training

High rep snatching with a kettlebell can be tough on your hands, and once the skin on your palms rips, it will take time without training to heal. Only snatch 2-3 times per week to avoid over breaking the skin and supplement with other types of swing and presses that are easier on the grip.

I like to use a combination of Pavel’s rite of passage method, including the clean and presses from Enter the Kettlebell and the progression ladder from Jason Marchall’s TSC prep plan.

Monday: 5-10 snatches per side on the minute every minute for 7 minutes with competition weight based on the milestone you are working towards.

Wednesday & Thursday: 3 sets of 1-10 snatches with the weight above your Monday workout weight followed by 3 sets of 5-10 heavy swings with 3 minutes rest between each set. 

Start with five snatches on each arm, and each week add a snatch on each arm until you get to 10 reps on each side, then start the ladder again but with a heavier kettlebell or add a minute (e.g. 5/5 for 8 minutes with 28kg). For the snatches on the mid-week workouts, start with three sets of one rep on each side and add a rep per side for each subsequent workout. Progress to a heavier kettlebell once you reach 10 per side for three sets.

So, if you haven’t already, buy at least a decent 24kg kettlebell (cheaper bells can have uneven and rough handles) and work through the progression of the swings, training most days based on feel. From there, get a 32kg and then a 40kg kettlebell and build your ‘Courage corner’. 

New daily exercise recommendations for healthy

The current recommended levels of physical activity to reduce the risk of early death by up to 30% is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or a combination of the two per week. Just under a third of people globally do not achieve this minimum standard and it is higher in richer countries. But a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has found that these recommendations for activity levels are not enough to avoid chronic illnesses for those that spend most of their day sitting down. 

The study looked at the effects of various daily amounts of different intensities of exercise, lack of exercise, and sleep on early death using six previous studies covering over 130,000 adults in the UK, US, and Sweeden. The paper suggests that most of us in the UK and other wealthy countries spend up to twelve hours a day sitting and so require higher levels of movement to counteract the negative effects of a sedentary life than those that sid for just six to seven hours used to model the original recommendations. They suggest a minimum of three minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise or twelve minutes of light physical activity for every hour spent seated each day. 

For a person who sits twelve hours per day, the recommendations would mean 36 minutes of vigorous or 144 minutes of light activity each day. If we just followed this for five days per week that is 180 minutes of vigorous exercise, 2.4 times the amount previously suggested for the same level of risk reduction. If you are in bed for eight hours and working for eight to nine hours and then sitting in front of the TV in the evening it is likely that twelve hours seated is realistic and possibly low for some people. 

In addition to increased weekly exercise time to offset all the sitting, the paper also suggests using a variety of movements each week to accumulate the required vigorous or light activity. This means that if a person had previously completed three to four runs per week to get in the minimum recommended activity, then adding some strength training, a swim session, and a bike ride could bring better health benefits than more running when using the new benchmarks. For the health benefits, the important thing is to get your heart rate up each day and use a variety of movements across the week, so be creative and use what you have. 

Above the suggestion that people should create a daily exercise habit, The study also suggested that moving regularly between exercise and getting good amounts of daily also presented benefits. The UK National Health Service has some good suggestions for exercise and the Canadian government has already adopted a daily approach to movement

On this blog, there are recommendations of training goals for running starting at the beginner level, suggestions for strength and conditioning using kettlebells, and recommendations for four-minute movement breaks that can be used throughout the day.

Learning as a habit

I have signed up for an MBA. After a three year break, I am ready to get back to formal study. An executive MBA seemed to be the logical option at 37 and for the current stage in my career. Since graduating, I have enjoyed unstructured learning, reading around my interests and focusing my intellectual energy on work. I have made significant progress on my journey to expertise, and I am building something at work to create disruptive change. To take my output to the next level, I need to learn more.

A part-time Masters degree is a big commitment, and making the most of the opportunity can take up to fifteen hours per week. Formal courses are designing to help students find this time with the accountability of regular deadlines, the curated path through content, and a community of peers for support. However, Fifteen hours is a significant addition on top of working forty to fifty-hour per week, training for at least 10, and spending an hour publishing 500 words per day. Finding those fifteen hours is going to require a conscious effort to make learning a daily habit. 

I read an article today from John Coleman on the Harvard Business Review website that suggested five ways in which you can cultivate a learning habit

  1. Have a clear outcome
  2. Set goals to achieve your outcome
  3. Build a community around your learning
  4. Develop your ability to focus
  5. Use technology to support your learning

I have a clear outcome of improving my performance at work by completing an MBA and applying what I learn to my career. I have a realistic goal of committing fifteen hours per week or around two hours per day to study, writing, and apply what I learn to work. The time commitment is made more accessible while I am not commuting to and from work, and I have built up a habit of writing each day. 

The MBA as a format is unique because it is built around community learning, making my role contributing to the pre-made community rather than having to create my own. The skill to focus for two hours per day over eighteen months will be the biggest challenge, but it is something that I have been working on for a while with daily blogging and in elements of my work. Finally, working in EdTech, the use of technology to support my learning should be easy.

I will dedicate a future post to each of these habits but is a formal course something you are interested in doing? Are you able to cultivate your learning habit using Coleman’s five suggestions? 

Contact me on Twitter if you want to discuss building a learning habit or starting a new course of formal study.

Have a plan to get lean, to get fast

Getting to a healthy race weight is a crucial part of performing well in endurance events. You need to have a target weight, a plan to get there, and then weigh yourself each day, adjusting the programme when required based on your weekly average weight. A simple strategy is to eat better and move more, but what if you need more guidance?

Researchers at the University of Oxford have created a list of 53 weight loss actions as part of their PREVAIL programme to help people make daily action plans. The weight loss actions are divided into seven categories:

  1. Eat in a structured way
  2. Avoiding or swapping specific foods
  3. Changing what you drink
  4. Creating a healthier diet
  5. Meal-time tactics
  6. Burn more calories
  7. Be more active as part of your daily life

The Oxford researchers carried out a study measuring the effectiveness of self-regulation on weight loss, allow individuals to weigh themselves daily in the morning and then create an action plan from the list for the day based on the result. At the end of the week, they evaluated the effectiveness of the actions chosen and their effect on weight change. Over an eight week study, participants, all starting with a BMI of over 30, lost an average of 4.18kg, 3.2kg less than the control group.

How to create a self-regulation intervention plan for weight loss

  1. Find your A: Weight yourself first thing in the morning
  2. Find your B: Set a target weight
  3. Weigh yourself first thing each morning
  4. Choose one or more actions from the list for the day
  5. Perform the planned action(s)
  6. Reflect on the effectiveness of the actions weekly
  7. Repeat until you reach your target weight

Aim for no more than 0.5kg per week, increase your protein intake, and do regular resistance training to avoid muscle loss. If you are continuing to train hard while losing weight, make sure you have a clear plan for fueling pre, during, and post workouts to ensure you have the energy to perform the planned activity and feed your body with what it needs to recover. This fueling plan should be differentiated for the various intensities and durations of your workout; fuel long and intense workouts but perhaps do some of the shorter, less intense workouts fasted.     

My plan

My current average weekly weight 83.7kg, according to my Withings Body+ scale weekly email. I have a target race weight this season of 78kg based on the Stillman height/weight ratio table and my current body fat percentage. I have signed up for the Maderia Skyrun, so I aim to hit my race weight for the 8th of October. This goal gives me just under 24 weeks to lose 5.7kg or 0.24kg per week. 

Each day this week, I will weigh myself immediately after waking up and pick at least one action from the PREVAIL study to focus on that day. My Witherings email summarising my weekly weight is sent on Mondays, so I will use that day to evaluate my progress. I prefer the positive actions where you add things rather than remove them. I will focus on these actions first, including burning more calories, drinking at least a litre of water a day or a pint of water before each meal, and using fruit and veg or a protein shake as snacks.

Posture and a flat stomach

We all want to look healthy and make a good impression, but with a year of staying at home hunched over laptops and slumped down on sofas with only a little walking, our bodies have lost some of their stature. In England, lockdown is beginning to be lifted as the days become warmer and the successful vaccine programme takes its effects on infections. Now is the time to start undoing some of the negative impacts of remote working and returning our natural posture. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger has two suggested daily activities that will significantly impact how we look, and probably how we feel as a result; stomach vacumes to build the muscles that hold in our stomachs and wall stands to straighten out our bodies and stand tall.

Posture

Arnold suggests we spend five minutes daily standing with our back to a wall. Your feet should be a couple of inches away from the wall, you should stand tall imagining a cord being pulled up from the crown of your head, and you should have three points of contact with the wall; bum, shoulders, and head. I like to put my B&W PX7’s on and enjoy a 5-minute track while my muscles stretch back into position.

Flat stomach 

Most of us have weak stomach muscles from lots of sitting around and from under-exercising them. Try three sets of 15 seconds stomach vacumes. To perform a stomach vacuum, pull in your belly button as far back towards your spin as possible and hold it there for 15 seconds. You may find bending over slightly and resting your hands on a table helps you get into the position and hold the vacuum for longer.

Arnold also recommends 200 crunches first thing in the morning.

Dead hang

I find that dead hanging from a bar for 30 seconds works great to undo my poor sitting posture too. I do my first 30 seconds after exercise in the morning, the second when I break for lunch, and the third as I finish up working at the end of the day. You can learn more about the benefits of the dead-hang from my post on shoulder health. 

These three exercises performed daily will have a noticeable difference in the way you look and feel in just a couple of weeks. You will stand straighter, have a flatter belly, and healthier shoulders. 

This weeks training

An example of a current week of training:

MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
Bike30/15 – 3 sets of 11 reps @125% FTP60 mins between 62.5 and 75% FTP90 mins + 6 second maximal sprints30/15 – 3sets of 12 reps @125% FTP60 mins between 62.5 and 75% FTP 90 mins + 6 second maximal sprints Off
S&CMP 5x(2,3,5)
Snatch 3×7
Swings 3×7
Squat 8-6-4
Deadlift 120kg
Swings 10×7
C&P 5×1
Snatch 3×7
Swings 3×7
C&P 5×1
Snatch 3×7
Swings 3×7
Squat 8-6-4
Deadlift 120kg
Swings 10×8
Loaded carries
C&P 5x(1,2,3,4,5) Off
Core50 sit-ups
60-sec  plank
50 sit-ups
70-sec plank
50 sit-ups
80-sec plank
50 sit-ups
90-sec plank
50 sit-ups
100-sec plank
50 sit-ups
110-sec  plank
Off
Run20-25 minsHill sprints 3x 8 sec 20-25 mins
10 min warm-up
Surges 8x 20 secs w/ 40 sec jog
5 min cooldown
OffDrills
Hill sprints 3x 8 sec
20-30 mins
20-25 minsOff
StretchDead hang
Squats
Couch stretch
Indian knot
All – 3×30 secs
Dead hang
Squats
Couch stretch
Indian knot
All – 3×30 secs
Dead hang
Squats
Couch stretch
Indian knot
All – 3×30 secs
Dead hang
Squats
Couch stretch
Indian knot
All – 3×30 secs
Dead hang
Squats
Couch stretch
Indian knot
All – 3×30 secs
Dead hang
Squats
Couch stretch
Indian knot
All – 3×30 secs
Off
Training plan for week commencing 22nd March

My main goal is to get to a four w/kg FTP on the bike and total around seven hours of riding on Zwift each week. As my main priority, the riding is done in the morning to make sure I don’t ever miss it. The schedule follows a polarised programme with two HIIT sessions per week. The 30/15 intervals involve repeats of 30 seconds at 125% FTP, followed by 15 seconds at 50% of that number.

The strength and conditioning workouts support my riding goal and is mainly maintenance. Swings are with a 40kg kettlebell (The Bulldog), the presses are with a 24kg kettlebell and a 32kg for the 5×1 clean and presses. The strength sessions are short and fit into a break at lunch on most days.

I am using the running to get some additional aerobic training, get out of the house, and prepare for the second half of the year when I transition to focus on getting to the next level of the distance runners progression 40 minutes 10km. I run in the evening after work.

My current morning routine

6:00 Wake up

6:05 50 sit-ups

6:10 Protein shake

6:15 Plank

6:20 Yogurt + berries

7:00 Bike

8:30 Shower

8:40 Stretch

8:50 Work

How many hours do you actually work?

The typical working day in most of the west is 8 hours or 40 hours per week. Working 8 hours per day can be traced back to sixteenth century Spain where the day was split into two four hour blocks with a break in the middle for when the day was at its hottest. The UK currently has a 48-hour working week limit, with a voluntary opt-out, set out in the Working Time Regulations of 1998 and later the EC Working Time Directive of 2003. But is the factory model of hours the most effective for knowledge workers?

“Eight hours’ labour, Eight hours’ recreation, Eight hours’ rest”

Robert Owen

In academia in the UK, contracted hours are more like 7.4 or 37 hours per week. Studies suggest that 7.6 hours per day or 38 hours per week is the optimum working hours for a knowledge worker and that productivity falls sharply over 50 hours per week. Taking a full day off each week and six weeks of holiday per year also positively impacts your productivity. 

A study of UK office workers found that people were only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes each day on average. Workers spend the rest of the day on distractions, including checking social media (44 minutes), reading news websites (65 minutes), and discussing out of work activities with colleagues (40 minutes). Over half of those surveyed said that these distractions made the working day more bearable and aided in their productivity.  

Track your work for a week or two and find out how many hours your ‘at work’ and how many of those are on the things you think are essential. Once you have that information, decide how you want to spend your time; if you are only doing three hours per day of productive work, can you increase that to four and spend the rest of the day being more deliberate with your time? What could you do with those 44 minutes if you delete Instagram from your phone?

How to maximise your productivity at work

  • Average around 38 hours of work per week
  • Do not work over 50 hours a week regularly
  • Take at least one day per week entirely off
  • Take six weeks of holiday per year
  • Spend a week or two logging your work to identify the wasted time and eliminate that to free up your time for whatever you want to do with it. 

You should write a book

If you have original ideas that have value or are an expert in a field, you should write a book no matter how niche. There will be at least one person out of the almost eight billion people in the world that needs your ideas or could benefit from your advice to develop the skills that you have earned. If you are not yet an expert or feel you have something to share, but you don’t feel you are ready, the act of writing a book might be the thing you need. Start by writing a book proposal and commit to the process of two to four hours a day for the next two years, working on your ideas, skills, and expertise. 

Why write a book?

Seth Gobin, in a February 2007 blog post, suggests that everyone should write a book. He describes how he wrote his ebook ‘Unleashing the Ideavirus‘ to give away free to spread the idea (about how free ideas spread faster than expensive ones). The book was downloaded over two million times, and a Google search for the term brought up over two hundred thousand results at the time of his post. Godin writes that on top of the opportunity to share your ideas across the globe, writing helps to organise and clarify the ideas making them better. 

Smart people with good ideas worth sharing can get a lot out of this exercise.

Seth Godin

Andress Erikson, in his book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, wrote that experts form better mental representations about their specialist subject through deliberate practice. Mental representations “in essence… are preexisting patterns of information – facts, images, rules, relationships, and so on – that are held in long-term memory and that can be used to respond quickly and effectively in certain types of situations.” The deliberate practice of writing a book will allow you to solidify your understanding of your specialist area and build mental representations.

In Daniel Priestley’s book ‘Key Person of Influence‘, he writes that being an author in your area of expertise provides validation and trust in your skills and allows people an opportunity to learn more and share your ideas. Having a published book is also a great way to attract like-minded people.

Very few people create a significant volume of published content. If you have articles, blogs, reports, case studies and a book, you are much more likely to be perceived as a Key Person of Influence in your industry.

Daniel Priestley

Writing and publishing a book can cost nothing, and there are no barriers beyond effort and time. Your book can be launched using your website and social media platform and via amazon self-publishing. You can treat your book as a channel of your portfolio business, as the output of deliberate practice while developing expertise, or as an opportunity to share your ideas with people who will find value in them. Now I have convinced you that you need to write a book, we need to look at what to write. 

What to write

Non-fiction books are traditionally between 50000 to 80,000 words; it takes around 500 words to fill an A4 page, so that is just 100-150 pages. To fill those 100 pages, you need to start with two things;

  1. A big idea
  2. A target audience

Your book needs to solve a problem and should be written as a transition from confusion to clarity. Start with the audience and how you can help them. The total addressable market, the number of people who make up your target audience, should be quite targeted if you intend to self-publish, and you will need to address a specific problem. If you are unsure, think of a younger version of yourself or a beginner in your field. Next, think about the one big idea that you would like to share with them to solve a problem they will experience, and you could help them solve it. 

A great example of a big idea and a specific target audience is Cal Newport and his big idea around deep work. Cal has written five books since becoming an academic; So Good, They Can’t Ignore YouDeep WorkDigital MinimalismThe Time-Block Planner, and A World Without Email. Cal’s big idea is that to create the life you want; you need to develop your ‘…ability to focus without distraction on cognitively demanding tasks.’ Cal’s target audience is millennial knowledge workers that are easily distracted by social media.  

Geoffrey Moore’s Value proposition framework from his book Crossing the Chasm will let you know if you are ready to start writing or if you need to explore your ideas further.

Moore’s Value Proposition Framework

For (target reader)Who (statement of need or opportunity)

The  (working book title) is a book

That  (key benefit, reason to buy)

Unlike  (primary competitive alternative)

My book  (statement of primary differentiation)

You should treat writing your book as a software app or new business idea and use your value proposition as a business plan idea. Talk to people, specifically your target read and test out the ‘statement of need or opportunity to see if it accurately represents a problem you could fix and check that the ‘key benefit’ will be a solution. Finally, have a look at similar books on the market and make sure that you have something unique to say. Tech start-ups are advised to get feedback from at least fifty people before committing to a business model, so use this as a guide and be systematic in collecting feedback on your big idea to help write your book proposal.

Start with a book proposal

Traditionally, a book proposal is a document written for publishes to convince them to publish your book. The publishing industry is at least as old as the Gutenberg printing press (1440), and the process of writing has been developed over the last six hundred years, so it is worth paying attention to. Even if you intend to self-publish, the book proposal is an ideal place to start to help you structure your ideas. 

The book proposal summarises the book’s big idea, lays out the chapters with a summary for each, and proposes a marketing plan to create awareness of the book with your target audience. You will want to use your value proposition and the notes from your interviews to brainstorm critical questions, concepts, and facts that you want to use and start to arrange this into a structured narrative.  

MasterClass suggested a book proposal should include:

  1. Title page
  2. Overview
  3. Author bio
  4. Chapter outline and table of contents
  5. Sample chapter
  6. Competitive titles analysis
  7. Target audience
  8. Marketing plan
  9. Additional information

Now Do the Work.

Time to dust off the running shoes

After a two month break and on the first sunny weekend of the year, it is time to dust off the running shoes. My current project 4w/kg programme runs until the 1st of May, and I want to be ready to move to a running focus once this goal is achieved. Preparing to run will involve gradually prepare my body for an attack on the next step in the distance runners progression; a 40 minute 10k.

The first job is to lose some body fat and get down to a body weight that is more suited to running fast. Losing weight while maintaining power is key to achieving the four watts per kilogramme needed for project 4w/kg, so this is already on the schedule. Running is a series of single-leg jumps, and the lighter you are, the less force is needed to perform each jump. The less useless weight, the less effort to go the same speed, and so the same effort will take you faster. Carrying a bit of extra weight (3-4kg) over the winter has been healthy, and I have enjoyed eating everything in sight, but with the winter coming to an end, it is time to get a bit leaner. Weight loss happens in the kitchen, and I know all I need to do to get down to my target of 80kg is to clean up my diet and stop eating all the treats.

The greatest need for all athletes is strength. More and more strength.

Percy Cerutty

While I am losing body fat, I also want to build a runners body. I am already doing a heavyweight session twice per week as part of my bike programme. Still, the frequency of my gymnastics and core work, stretching, and general physical preparation could be increased. Percy Cerutty’s 100 sit-ups first thing in the morning and a range of strength and conditioning four-minute movement breaks focused on the hips, core, and hamstrings will support the weight loss to prepare the body to run fast. Kelly Starret, in his book Ready to Run, provides twelve standards that will help build the runners body:

  1. Neutral feet
  2. Flat shoes
  3. A supple thoracic spine
  4. An efficient squatting technique
  5. Hip flexion
  6. Hip Extention
  7. Ankle range of motion
  8. Warm-up and cool down
  9. Compression
  10. No hotspots
  11. Hydration
  12. Jumping and landing

Most importantly, runners run, so I need to slowly get back into regular running. 5k Masters record holder, coach, and author of Fast 5k, Pete Magil, suggests that all runners should start with a run-walk programme to avoid injury and build strength in the key muscles. Brad Hudson’s short and intense hill sprints can also improve running form and condition alongside the run walks. Finally, G. Walter George’s 100-up exercise can be done once per day to develop stride length in place of going out for a run. 

The plan

  • Monday: run/walk am, light rite of passage workout
  • Tuesday: bike am, weight session with 8-10 second hill sprints pm
  • Wednesday: bike am, run/walk and medium rite of passage workout pm
  • Thursday bike am, 
  • Friday: run/walk am, weights session with run drills and 8-10 second hill sprints pm
  • Saturday: bike am, heavy rite of passage workout and optional run/walk pm
  • Sunday: bike am

Daily core, stretch, and strength routine as 4-minute movement breaks

  • 100 Sit-ups first thing in the morning
  • Planks directly before I start work
  • 75-150 kettlebell swings
  • 100-ups
  • Light Deadlifts: five sets of 10 reps @40kg

The plan might look a lot written down, but the only two heavy workouts are the Tuesday and Sunday bike sessions. The other activities are lighter and should not affect the next sessions. In the current training phase, the strength sessions are there to maintain strength rather than build it.

A 30 day time block scheduling challenge

Working from home has been good for my productivity. I am fitter and healthier than ever before, my work output has increased significantly, and I have been able to publish a daily blog. Work has moved on from the project-based approach used to manage to move a whole university online, and so the way I work needs to evolve too.

Removing the commute has given me an hour and a half of extra time each day, and working from home has given me more freedom around my working hours to focus on output rather than time in the office. I have used this time to train twice per day for the last year consistently; some cardio at 7 am each morning, some strength training or recovery work in the afternoon for 45 minutes to an hour between 16:00 and 18:00, and four-minute movement breaks where they fit throughout the day. The output so far has been a 1:35 half marathon, a 308w FTP on the bike, a 120kg Squat, a 100kg bench press, and a 142.5kg Deadlift, while weighing around 82kg and at 6ft tall.

I have written over 100 daily blog posts so far by finding around an hour each evening after dinner, between 19:00 and 20:00, to do some research, write, and publish it. I loosely aim to write somewhere in the region of 500 words to keep within the time and force myself to be concise. We consume so much content these days between articles on our phones, youtube videos, and reading for work, that I write about whatever I think about or consuming that day. I have found many of the posts useful for work; I have reused some of the content for work when the topic has been raised, sometimes weeks later.

My morning and evening routines outside of work are highly structured, but my working hours have to be more reactive. Universities have moved all, or most, of their teaching online, and so those of us in online learning has never been busier. This week I stopped my teams daily stand-ups. Our work is moving from project-based to a new normal, the daily meetings had become more social events than supporting productivity, so it is time to reassess how I use my working hours to have more of an impact. I want to be more deliberate with my time during work in a similar way to my strength and conditioning training and writing practice.

Time blocking

The first step of any productivity system is to spend five minutes writing a task list at the start of the day. Most people stop at this stage and then start with the first item or might prioritise the list and start with the most important. This approach presents two issues; the first is that tasks tend to expand to fill the time available, known as Parkinson’s law. The second is that we are not good at estimating the time something will take to block out space in our calendar. To solve these issues, we need to track how long tasks take consistently, and then we need to use this knowledge to block out that a suitable amount of time to complete the task efficiently.

Schedule every minute of your working day

For the next thirty days, I will follow a time blocking routine to be more deliberate in the use of my time and focus on the work that is going to impact students’ experience in the new academic year.

The practice:

  1. Write down what you want to do at the start of the day.
  2. Estimate how long each of these items will take.
  3. Schedule these blocks of time in 30-minute chunks around your existing commitments.
  4. Follow your schedule; at any point you deviate from it, update the plan for the rest of the day by moving the unfinished blocks as required.
  5. Make a note of how long each task took next to your estimate and assess why you were wrong – use this knowledge to help you schedule similar tasks in the future.

Let me know on Twitter if you want to try time blocking your workday too. A remember, the aim is to take control of your day and learn to plan your time better, not to be fixed to a schedule.