“When I was training for contests, I’d sometimes be so psyched up mentally I thought I didn’t need a warm-up. I’d go directly into a heavy workout. Without fail, I’d pull muscles needlessly and set myself back two or three months.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Arnold: Education of a Bodybuilder”
Consistent good work will help you be great over time. (Better put here: How to Be Great? Just Be Good, Repeatably).
Part of that is doing the right amount of maintenance so that you can keep showing up every day.
- Before: Make sure to warm up
- During: Don’t go so hard one day that you can’t show up the next day
- After: Find ways to wind down and recover
It’s pretty straightforward for exercise and often people skip the before and after steps because they’re out of time or it’s just boring.
I started making a rule to count the warmup whenever I’m estimating how long a workout will take. This was after throwing my back out with a kettlebell. (Luckily it wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t bed-ridden or anything. But I was definitely scared to do kettlebell swings for a while after that. And probably am still a bit scared of them because I know I haven’t cleaned my form up enough.)
Here’s how it relates to creative work.
You should have some ways to warm up for your main work in some way.
- Before: Do a typing test — I heard this from Captain Sinbad, who I think mentions he got it from Ali Abdaal. A big part of their work as YouTubers is to write scripts for video. So this should work well for others writing at a computer. You do a typing test so that you can mindlessly get your body going. You embody the activity and eventually your brain will catch up to you. Is this scientific? No idea. But I can’t imagine it hurts to get your fingers moving if you’re about to start writing.
- After: Shutdown routine — Cal Newport suggests having a shutdown routine at the end of the day. This helps to create an official end to your workday. Having a concrete end prevents different pieces from lingering through the rest of your evening, when you should be using to recharge in different ways.
- After: Take a walk — In short, get away from screens for a while. I like to do gym workouts after work so that I can create some space away from the screen.
Choosing to stop to rest is okay but do what you can to avoid being forced to stop.