What is achievable in the space of 10 weeks?
I'll cut straight to it - I've decided to enter a 100km (62.5miles) trail run at the start of May. This in itself is not particularly extreme. There are many, many people who can (and do) run this sort of distance with relative ease. I however, am not currently one of those people. In fact, in the last 3 years, I've rarely run further than 15km in one session. The last time I did any running with a purpose I had an Olympic Torch and a six-month beard to keep me company. By way of a somewhat feeble excuse, I can only offer that I have spent a lot of my last few years either cycling, trekking, or cart-pulling (or resting inbetween said exertions!)
All considered though, I now have quite a challenge ahead of me to get ready for this race. The idea of trying to run 100 kilometres in a single day (or rather, in 10-15 hours) is rather a terrifying one. But, as a strong believer that fear should never be given license to take hold of us, I have decided to cast aside doubts and commit to it.
“Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors...disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
I am currently trying to write a book, and also keep up to date with all of the other admin and desk-bound work required to be a self-employed writer and speaker. It's still a very foreign world to me, and if I'm honest, I have a hard time being productive when I'm at my desk. My mind wanders, jumps from taks to task, and inevitably ends up back in some wild place on an expedition, free from all the emails and paperwork.
One of the biggest differences I notice on an expedition is that I have clearly defined goals - each day I wake up knowing my purpose, and the path to achieving that is much simpler than mapping out a day in my 'office.' So I've tried to apply some of those experiences from the adventure world to the one which I currently inhabit. I've also been reading a book called 'Your Brain at Work' by David Rock, which does a great job of condensing a lot of neuroscience to explain why it requires training and effort to achieve a high level of productivity. That it's hard work is the bad news...the good news is that a little hard work never did anyone any harm (and it is very feasible!)
So below are five tips for productivity. I write this as much for myself as anyone - I have by no means mastered them. But, I'm getting better. And the quicker I achieve these, the faster my work will be done, and the sooner I can head back off into the wilderness without a desk in sight...
"When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship's whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, I don't improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself."
- John Steinbeck