As morning people who appreciate routine even while we try to embrace some spontaneity, we’re admittedly fascinated by the drive, dedication, and self-discipline embodied by Olympic athletes. Following a rigid diet that involves counting protein grams and being mindful of carbohydrates isn’t at the top of our things-that-thrill-us list, but it’s hard to argue with the positive impact that certain habits have on our productivity.
1. Get the Right Kind of Rest: Kassidy Cook
Routine: The day prior to competition, Cook takes a bath in a tub full of ice to ensure her legs are fully rested and ready to go when she arrives at the pool the next morning.
How You Can Apply: Rest is crucial. Just as Cook wants her legs to be fresh for the most important dives, you want your mind to be as rested as possible in order to reach optimum productivity. That means listening to your body, getting enough sleep each night, and unplugging from work on a consistent basis.
2. Focus on the Nutrients: Novak Djokovic
Routine: Djokovic has a very specific routine to start out his day, and it goes in this order: a large cup of room temperature water; two tablespoons of honey; and a nutrient-rich breakfast comprised of muesli or oatmeal, nuts, seeds, fruit, coconut oil, and a non-dairy milk or coconut water.
How You Can Apply: Djokivic’s ritual is designed to set his body up for ultimate success. And you can do this, too, by fueling with foods that are whole and healthy and staying hydrated throughout the day.
3. Aim for High-Quality Sleep: Michael Phelps
Routine: Phelps’ sleeping situation is, well, unique. Each night he dozes off in a special altitude chamber.
How You Can Apply: Make sure your room is as dark and cool as possible, keep electronics away from the bed—or out of the room all together—and try to fall asleep and wake up on the same schedule each day.
4. Visualize Goals: Carli Lloyd
Routine: There’s one thing Lloyd is focusing on a lot more these days: her mind. Prior to each match, she dedicates time toward visualizing exactly what she wants to happen in that game.
How You Can Apply: You may not be playing soccer in front of millions of fans, but there are still goals you may want to achieve, such as making a great impression in an interview, nailing that presentation you have to give to a client, or negotiating your salary with your boss. Whatever it is, envisioning yourself doing it beforehand could be a huge help.
5. Prioritize Sleep: Usain Bolt, Jamaica
Routine: What does it take to be the fastest human in the world? Usain Bolt would know. But while sprint training and eating lots of veggies is important, Bolt explains that his number one priority is sleep. Why? Because it’s in those precious hours that his body repairs itself and builds upon all the hard work he’s done throughout the day.
How You Can Apply: We tend to put work first—a lot. “Oh, I’ll just stay up a few more hours to finish this up,” or “I’ll set my alarm extra early tomorrow to start.” And though we may feel more productive in the moment, depriving ourselves of proper amounts of shuteye is hurting us in the long run. So, put sleep on your to-do list—at the top.
6. Keep a Record: Eliud Kipchoge
Routine: Keeping a training book to look back on all of his workouts and successes, Kipchoge has recorded each run, each piece of the training puzzle, so that when it’s time to compete, he can look back and “know he has done everything. It gives him the confidence to go and deliver.”
How You Can Apply: Keep track of your accomplishments, career goals—wins, misses, setbacks and achievements. Take note of everything from where you hope to be five years from now to what kind of feedback you got at your last performance review.
7. Possess Self-Confidence: Claressa Shields
Routine: Priding herself on being confident not cocky, Shields says this trait motivates her to work 10 times as hard as her opponents for a desire outcome. Before a big fight, she lets her family and friends know exactly where her focus is.
How You Can Apply: Avoid crossing the fine line between confidence and arrogance, and believe in yourself and the work you’re doing. Imposter syndrome has no room in your drive to succeed, and neither do family members who don’t understand your goals.
8. Don’t Be All Serious All the Time: Simone Biles
Routine: Biles often has a more relaxed manner, even before a match, where giggling comes naturally to her. Once, in Glasgow, during the 2015 World Championships, Biles advocated for some down time from the coaches for her and the team, and they got it.
How You Can Apply: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Remember that a life of all work and no play can wreak havoc on your productivity. Whether you take a break to walk around the park near your office or you spend 15 minutes browsing magazines at the local drug store, give your mind some rest from the hard thinking you’re asking it to do for the majority of the workday.
9. Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Katie Ledecky
Routine: Ledecky is, it seems, pretty much always happy. She doesn’t get anxious, and if worrisome thoughts start to creep in, she’s able to push them aside so she can concentrate and get the job done.
How You Can Apply: If you tend to get anxious about your to-do list or big meetings with clients, try adjusting your mindset. Hold anxiety at arm’s length, and take a page from Ledecky’s book: Think of something else, something that doesn’t cause you stress.
10. Never Skip Breakfast: Misty May-Treanor
Routine: One word that May-Treanor cares a lot about? Breakfast. Whether it’s an egg scramble with veggies or a morning meal with bacon starring in a side roll, she eats in the morning, no matter how busy her day is.
How You Can Apply: Make breakfast a priority. If you want to start your day on the right foot and you want to make healthy choices throughout the day (think increased energy and productivity levels), don’t pass on breakfast.
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