Fitting Fitness In

I have mentioned before in a previous post that I am a bit obsessed with physical fitness. During a particularly good session at the gym on Monday, it dawned on me how much of what I do in my job carries over into my fitness regimen. In our line of work, people often are discouraged from working out because of time constraints and other limitations. Here is how you can use the tools of our trade to deliver a better healthier, happier you.



1. Manage Expectations

On projects, we often have to manage the expectations of others, the old adage: “Under promise, over deliver.” prevails. On my current project, one of the leads likes to use the phrase “We live in the real world.” meaning that  no one is expecting some revolutionary idea or approach. Keeping these things in mind in your approach to fitness will change everything, for the better.

The fitness industry is an absolute machine, supplements in particular yield astronomical profit margins because of low production costs, huge demand, and ridiculous mark-ups. More than anything though, what makes the fitness industry so successful is the almost criminal level of misleading advertisement that is done and the expectations that it creates in people’s minds.

In terms of fitness, you have to manage your own expectations. Any product that gives you a time frame for results is immediately misleading. As different as our DNA is our reaction to changes in diet and exercise, it truly is unique to each person. When a product says “6 weeks to…” or “Lose X pounds in…” they are creating a delusion. In the same manner you manage expectations for a client you need to do so yourself.

2. Have a Programme

In most well-executed projects, an adequate planning phase sets the framework for smooth delivery. Once you give your a realistic expectations, it is time to design your programme. Do this in the same way you would plan a project. The mistake many people who are new to fitness or just returning make is the start with details and design a plan around that, we project managers know better than that.

Start by setting a goal (underpromise). The next step is to determine your milestones. If your goal is to lose 10kg, then a good set of milestones might be -5kg, then -7kg, then -9kg, and finally -10kg! Again, these milestones should be unique to you. No one knows your tendencies better than you do so if you respond better to shorter milestones, then by all means tailor them that way.

Once your milestones are set, it’s finally time to determine the tasks. This is where so many people set themselves up for failure because they skip to this step and then they can’t figure out why they don’t see results (managing expectations again). Results in the mirror often take a very long time. Think of when a client badgers you for a deliverable that you have worked tirelessly on, you know you have been working hard but they are only looking for the final product.

On occasion, you get the client that demands to see evidence you have been working on this and you end up walking them through a checklist to show your progress. By following the same, structure for your workout routine you can rest a little easier knowing that you are making steady progress towards the next milestone, even if is not obvious on the surface (i.e. in the mirror, or on the scale).

3. Know your role

Most projects are made up of a team, some are large and some are small but more often than not they involve more than one person. At this point, you probably think I am going to say find a workout partner but I am not. In fact, I work out alone. The gym is my time to meditate and often inspiration comes from that meditation time, just like the inspiration for this article.

What project teams teaches us about exercise is how different strengths and developmental needs affect the outcome of a project and how different approaches can still be utilised to reach a common goal. Maybe you look at the person on your project team who is always bringing a yoga mat and munching on granola and want to look like they do. You start trying to do the same things but you can’t figure out why you are seeing no results.

But consider how that person does their job, are you exactly the same? Do you try and work the exact same way that they do? More than likely the answer is no. Know your role, in the gym the same way you know it in the workplace. No one expects the fresh graduate to direct a major project so why would you expect you being new to the gym to be the fastest runner or the strongest lifter?

Just like the fresh graduate learning as they go, eventually we move up to bigger projects more advanced task. Fitness works the same way. Every time I am in the gym, I see more people doing Ab crunches than anything else. For most people, crunches are a waste of time because they specifically target one muscle group that is not even visible unless a person is at very lean body fat levels.

The project equivalent to do crunches would be asking a junior staffer to write a project proposal from scratch. They would spend countless hours on the task and you would need to go back and rework everything. If you are new, to fitness then you are the junior staffer, stick with basic movements and get the form right. As your expertise grows, you will move on to new and exciting things.

4. Work to Completion

When working on deliverables, completion is and quality of work is fundamentally more important than speed. Of course, things have to be done in a timely fashion but hastiness tends to diminish effectiveness. Once you have designed your tasks do them, and only them.

The barbell squat is often referred to as “the king of all exercises” because the one motion engages so many muscle groups at one time. Skipping squats to do crunches is akin to writing individual emails to everyone on a project instead of holding a townhall meeting. You might be getting the work done you want but you could have done it so much more quickly and effectively.

That said, in the gym you should work the bigger stuff to completion. Even the “king of all exercises” has diminishing returns and eventually more detailed work becomes necessary but skipping the bigger, more productive work early on just leads to tons of redundant work later. Just like our project work prioritizing based on effectiveness makes us so much more efficient and drives better results. Working your abs is just fine (if you are crazy and enjoy it) but not until after you have finished the more important task, the squats.

The topic of fitness is something I can (and often do) talk about too much. In the near future, look for a follow-up post to this on how I put this advice to practice. In the meantime please feel free to contribute or ask questions in the comment section.


About Jordan Kostelac
A native of Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A. living and working in Hong Kong. When he is not managing change and/or move projects, he can usually be found gardening on his rooftop, embarrassing himself at the gym, or butchering multiple Chinese dialects. Jordan is a graduate of The Ohio State University (BA,Communication Technology Management) as well as Franklin University (MBA). Before moving to Hong Kong, he worked for over 10 years in Logistics/Operations Management and Consulting roles for large multinational companies.

Join the conversation!