Time Management

Time management is a crucial skill for amateur and age-group athletes. Your ability to manage your time dictates how you fit in training, life and work.

Introduction

“At some point I’ll do that, but I never have enough time."

We’ve all heard that old line about everyone having 168 hours in a week. Nobody has any more time than anybody else, but some people just seem to have so much more time to get things done than the rest of us. How do they do it?

Here are a few things you could try...

Get up earlier in the morning and dedicate the extra time to getting things done.

I’ve done this for the last 6 years and the difference it has made to my time management is nothing short of amazing. Those extra 2 hours in the morning have become the time in which I prepare for my day and get the most done. 

I really miss them when I don’t have them. In fact, the difference in my mood, patience with my kids etc are is noticeable when I don’t have the opportunity to start my day this way.

Making this work however, requires a bit of planning and the development of an easy, predictable routine that primes your mind to know that this is time to get stuff done.

My mum always used to get up and do the ironing early in the morning when we were kids. I doubt she really liked ironing, but it was something that needed doing and by doing it first thing, she had more time for other things later in the day.

The extra time you gain later in the day could well be the time you’re looking for to fit in that third swim for the week.

Commute to work by bicycle.

If you live between 5 and 15 miles from work, this is an easy way to get more steady miles in. You have to travel to work anyway, why not make the trip part of your training?

This is, perhaps, the ultimate time management "hack" for cyclists.

I say between 5 and 15 miles, because much more than that will mean you’re doing mega mileage each week, will probably not want to ride at the weekend and will find that you will not have time for anything else (kinda the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here).

Many years ago I lived in Reading and worked in London, 40 miles away. Fed up with being crammed into a very expensive train with standing room only and catching my fellow passengers’ colds, I decided to ride in and out. 400 miles of commuting a week certainly made me fit, but I had little time for anything else and completely lost the desire to go out on the club run on weekends.

The good news is that when you get home at the end of the day, you won’t have to fight your tired mind to get yourself to go out and do the training you wanted to do. You also don’t need to negotiate the time with your other half (it’s often easy to sell the commuting, just on the fuel savings aspect).

Even better, no matter how mentally tired you are at the end of the day, you have no choice but to do that ride: IT’S HOW YOU GET HOME!

Over shorter distances, this is a good way to get your running mileage in too.

Again, you will need some element of planning, especially if you don’t want to carry a large rucksack or fit panniers to your bike - clothing etc needs to find its way to work somehow. You also need to consider practical matters like shower facilities at/near work, bike parking and what you’ll do when it rains.

Do it when you notice it, don’t leave it until later.

My dad is a master of time management. He used to wash up the dishes immediately after dinner when I was a kid. I asked him once why he did so and he told me that as it was a job that had to be done, he’d rather just get it over and done with. As with any teenager, his words went in one ear and out the other, or so I thought.

Nowadays I find that I do the same type of thing. I pack the dishwasher immediately after we eat, I put the recycling in its box as soon as I notice it, stuff goes in the bin immediately. I no longer leave these until “later”, because they will become those things that I need to do “at some point”. They’re little things, but they add up over time.

I’ve made it an internal rule that I never say, “I should do that sometime”. Instead, if I see it and it really needs to be done, I do it then and there. This way I feel no guilt about going out on my bike instead of doing other things that need doing, because there are few things that need doing.

Break the things you know you really should do into small chunks and spread them throughout your day.

If you were to read my morning routine, you’d notice a morning mobility flow, hip flexor stretches and T-spine mobility. These are just three of the small (less than 5 minute) chunks of mobility work I have interspersed throughout my average day. 

For years I have believed that mobility work was important for athletes, but did nothing about it myself, because I “didn’t have time” to do a mobility routine every day. Now I seldom miss them.

The secret is to recognise that there are many small opportunities in all our days when we could do little bits of whatever we know we should do (like mobility in my case). What we have to do is to recognise when they occur and insert a small piece of our target item into them.

Learn to say “NO"!

In our modern world, everything seems to clamour for our attention all the time. We’re connected to everyone and everything through our portable devices of choice. Heaven forbid we should choose not to answer an email within 30 seconds of receiving it!

Sometimes (a lot of the time), we simply need to say “NO”.

A lot has been written on this subject and I shan’t repeat it here, although it may well be the subject of a separate post.

Summary

Like so many things in life, it isn’t always easy to find time to do the things we need/want to do, but the solutions are both simple and possible.

We need to decide that we want to develop time management strategies so that we have the time to do them. Then we must make a focused, determined and sustained effort to do so.

Do you have any tips for managing time better? Go ahead, add them in the comments below, I’d love to hear them.

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Will Newton


In over twenty years of coaching, Will has coached everyone from absolute beginners to world champions. His interest in getting the best results for athletes who compete for the love of the sport, rather than as professionals, drives him to find the most effective ways to get results.

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