Lockdown life has made me reflect on how cycling has influenced my work mindset. Especially when it comes to that ubiquitous buzzword of “resilience” and strengthening my work mindset when things are challenging.
Since I started cycling more regularly at charity cycles a few years ago and joined my local cycling club (Bray Wheelers), cycling has taught me a few things that have helped strengthen my work mindset and I hope you find these useful too.
1. Pedal, pedal, pedal
Sometimes the only way to get through a long distance cycle is to focus on the very next pedal stroke. And that same logic can be applied to business too, as endurance cycling and business performance coach Alan Heary pointed out in an inspiring talk at the Marketing Institute of Ireland‘s DMX event a while back. So bringing that into a work context, that could be dividing up a big project into smaller chunks that you do when you can while you’re working remotely (and simultaneously homeschooling your kids / tag teaming work commitments with your partner). It could be focussing on just the very next step on a big, overwhelming project like HBR author Dorie Clark reminded us recently taking a leaf from David Allen’s “getting things done” school of thought. Or it could be following up with clients and potential clients one step at a time with a focussed CRM tool like OnePageCRM that I use every day. This very act of pedalling with a regular cadence, and of doing something consistently at work even if it’s only a small step each time, will get you closer to the finish line every time you do it.
2. Push hard to the top of the hill
When you’re under pressure with a deadline or against seemingly insurmountable odds, treating the challenge a bit like cycling up a steep hill climb can be useful. It’s hard to keep the momentum going all the way to the top of a hill like the infamous Shay Elliott climb in Wicklow, but it really is worth pushing yourself because you can recover afterwards on the downhill stretch.
The same goes for pushing yourself at work and your work mindset. You can go that little bit harder knowing you’ll get a welcome reprieve after a deadline has been hit or after a big business pitch. You can wind down and rest for a while (maybe even just a short while) afterwards guilt-free, knowing that you pushed yourself hard beforehand and deserve a bit of a break.
3. Stop for coffee to strengthen your work mindset
When you’re under pressure at work or doing a long distance cycle, it’s important to take a break to recharge. Taking that well-earned breather means you can face the next leg of the journey with more focus and energy. Sure that might be just with a hit of caffeine via a strong cup of coffee. And maybe even a scone with some delicious jam at Kingfisher’s Kitchen cafe in Enniskerry. But even better is the chance on a group spin to recharge socially too. Mimicking that social aspect at work is much harder these days when we’re remote working and don’t bump into our colleagues at the coffee machine anymore. But we can still take time (even just a couple of minutes) to Zoom/Webex/WhatsApp and message people on social media when we’re on a break to make it that little bit more sociable.
So whether you’re a keen cyclist or not, and whether you’re a fan of fetching MAMIL cycling shorts in Ireland or not, I hope these tips from the world of cycling can help give you a little bit more resilience to deal with these challenging times. Even when we’re not actually on the bike and getting the feel good health benefits of big group spins.
Update: A few of you have been in touch already with your own tips – here are the highlights…
From my friend Dermot: “My two cents worth is the parallel between team work at work and drafting in cycling; sometimes you’re pulling the team along, sometimes they’re inspiring you, you don’t have to do it all by yourself.”
From Alan Heary (mentioned above too): “Whether you have just completed the toughest bike ride or a hard day in work look back over it and ask these important questions. What went well? what didn’t go so well? what did you learn? and what will change the next time to make it better?“
And from Colin Lewis on LinkedIn: “When things are going well, many people think they’re actually in control of events. When things go sour, it can lead us to believe that we have lost some fundamental ability. Reality is, of course, we can’t control events—but we do control my response to the events. Covid has taught us that work was the basis on how we constructed our lives. Instead of having a fixed routine, we realise that we had no routine outside of work that was anyway useful. One of the more positive aspects of the current set-up is that it has shown us an alternate way – and that perhaps the former way of approaching things was not as good as we thought.”
I hope you find these tips useful. Do you’ve any other tips about work mindset from the world of cycling that you’d add to this list too? Leave a comment below or message me on Twitter at @diarmaidmacm to let me know.