Kyle Bures is a blogger and academic advisor. In this article, Kyle discusses different gym stereotypes and the career lessons that they can teach you.
I’ve been a member at the gym I currently attend for a couple of years now. The frequency I attend correlates roughly with the seasons, and since it’s January in Kansas, there’s been a recent upswing in my own activity. Over this period of time, I’ve developed a strong idea of some tendencies in the other members -- and even myself.
Many gym members have very predictable patterns, while others are quite varied in their approaches each day. It wasn’t until just recently that I actually realized that I’ve been a part of it for most of my life, even though I considered my routine more dynamic. My own gym pattern tends to be identical, whether right now or a couple of years ago when I first started out.
Gym identities are an interesting way to consider how people approach other areas of their lives, such as their career. You can learn a lot about how people perform their work duties if you simply take the time to look at their weightlifting and running habits. Whether predictable and routine or varied and dynamic, it can be helpful to look at this parallel part of life as inspiration for work.
Below are some common gym identities, their parallels to work identities, and some tips on how you can take them to your career.
Focus: Social butterfly
The social butterfly tends to spend as much or more time connecting with other members or workout partners than they commit toward their exercise. If the exercise goal is still met prior to leaving, that is one thing, but if not, it may spell trouble. Especially if this same behavior translates to your office.
Use your workload as a guide. If you find that you constantly feel behind on your work, just as you feel you might not be making any gains weightlifting or putting on a few too many pounds, it might be time to scale back the frequency or duration of your coffee breaks and chats. Conversely, if you are feeling stagnant, and pace has slowed, a brisk walk to another office or a conversation with a colleague may spark a brainstorm.
Focus: Media hound
The media hound is constantly connected during the entire workout. Whether checking Facebook or email in-between reps, changing their playlist around, or watching TV, they seem to be plugged into just about anything but the workout. This is often a reality in the professional world as well, with professionals spending much of their time looking at social media, reading newsletters, and getting distracted by everything but work.
Make an effort to unplug from your biggest distractors on the job. Instead of swiping through your Twitter feed in the morning, get straight to finishing a task from yesterday. Mute your notifications when you’re in a working groove to avoid distractions. Unless your tablet or smartphone is a necessity at a meeting, keep it out of sight. Otherwise, you are sending a message you aren’t thoroughly invested in the work you have at hand. Media hounds in the gym are a similar breed: they show up every day, but they just aren’t achieving as much as their peers.
The no-nonsense member is usually completely disconnected, minimally social, and deliberately carries out a structured plan with little or no rest in between. Though this can be highly productive, both in the gym and at work, it can also be equally destructive. Working out (and working) in a systematic manner without rest and without feedback lead to silly mistakes, wrong priorities, and even health hazards.
Step back and assess if you feel this accurately describes your work self. This approach could be detrimental to your physical health, which can lower your productivity and result in a lot of embarrassing errors. Get the rest you need, check in with your boss, and you’ll stay on track.
Routine: One-track mind
Many gym members come in with a one-track mind. For instance, 30 minutes on the treadmill might be a common goal. Once this is accomplished, they may move on to another exercise, or possibly even be finished. These members rarely vary much from the status quo. Though it can be beneficial focus on only one thing, settle into a routine, and find comfort in it, it can also contribute to burnout, both in exercise and in your career.
Find a way to challenge yourself with something new. Just as targeting your weaknesses at the gym can improve your overall health, taking a class or learning a new skill can bring balance to your workplace and better prepare yourself for your next career move. Don’t assume the only way to accomplish this is to “add weight” in the way of extra hours. If your company provides education as a perk, talk to your manager about using work hours for professional development.
The alternator is constantly cycling back and forth between exercises during their entire session. One minute they’ll be on the treadmill, and the next you’ll see them doing bicep curls. Though this can certainly have some benefit at the gym, if this is also your approach at the office, don’t be quite so quick to multitask.
Beware of a common fallacy that multitasking is always beneficial and time efficient. If your attention has to be shifted back and forth between two competing tasks, two projects, or managing two teams, you are more prone to leave items unaddressed or omit important details. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on one critical task and another menial task. Switching from one to the other regularly creates a discontinuity in your work that can lead to confusion and mistakes.
The one-upper is constantly adding weight, either to out-perform themselves or their neighbors. Much like the no-nonsense approach, one-upping can be healthy and beneficial in the gym (in the right context), but it can also leave you wide open for big injuries. The same also holds true of your career.
Is your extra work done in an effort to show someone else up or draw attention to yourself, or is it producing results and contributing to healthy competition? If you’re adding workload for the right reasons and seeing positive outcomes, you’re doing it right. If you’re doing so for showmanship, you’re only adding unnecessary stress and are leading yourself to a quick burnout.
Whether you are headed to the gym, or the office, suspend your urge to mindlessly jump right into your usual routine. Assess your workout or work style first. Your approach might be contributing to your current satisfaction, and an indication of the direction you are headed. If you’re happy with how things are going, keep at it. If you aren’t, consider shaking up your routine and varying your approach.
Image courtesy of Ms. Phoenix.