Edition 45 (June 2016)

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Mental Toughness Digest for Sport & Performance. 

168 Hours

By Gareth J. Mole (PSY0001372747)


With the exception of most Condor Performance clients I suspect this number – 168 hours – doesn’t mean much compared with other known blocks of time such as ‘24 hours’ or ‘7 days’. Yet it’s something we all have in common and acts as a great leveller in the pursuit of constant improvement. 168 hours is simply, and precisely, the number of hours in a week (24 multiplied by 7).

Let’s take a step back for a second and run through some of the ‘mental toughness’ basics that leads us to declaring ‘168 hours’ as arguably one of the most useful improvement platforms available not only in sport, but performance and life in general.

To start with, what you’re probably most interested in – improving your results – is only something you can influence. The amount of influence you have on these improvements will depend mostly on the type of sport / performance area you compete in and exactly what results you’re aiming for. For example, a runner / swimmer / racer has more influence over his or her finishing time than overall finishing position. So, as athletes and performers we can certainly strive to be ‘ranked in the top 5 by the end of the year’, but this goal in and of itself will not do much to actually bring it to fruition.

In order to maximise the chances of reaching our goals (be careful not to confuse ‘maximise the chances’ with ‘guarantee’) we’d want to shift as much of our attention towards controllable elements of performance as possible, such as effort.

If you’re trying to look at effort via a series of 24 hour blocks (also known as days) then you miss the advantages of planning things in the context of a week. It could be unrealistic and counterproductive to say you’ll spend 60 minutes a day stretching when there will be days in which not only do you want to do zero minutes of stretching but in fact the rest / recovery will actually be better for you. On the other extreme – a month – from an effort point of view is too big a time block with between 672 and 744 hours each calendar month. And there’s also the issue of some months containing more days than others (thanks for that ancient Roman guys)!

Between these extremes we have Goldilocks’ Warm Porridge – which is the 168 hours that make up a week – that represents an ideal amount of time to be able to analyse and start executing better effort. It also has other bonuses. Every week has seven days and therefore every week has, and always will have, 168 hours. Additionally, if you remove sleep from the equation (about 56 hours a week) then the remaining ‘awake’ time works out to be approximately 1 hour = 1 percent. In other words if you spend 10 hours of your ‘awake week’ watching ridiculous TV shows you can quickly declare you spend about 10% of your non-sleep time on this activity without the need for a calculator.

It goes without saying that recognising the above is simply the beginnings of how we help our sport and performance clients to become more successful, but before signing off I’ll leave you with a couple of ‘free tips’ to really wet your appetite regarding the impact of this mental method.

  1. Be mindful of blocks of time that contain more than one task. I’m sure you’re quite capable of multi-tasking but the question is do you really want to. Humans can’t focus really well on too many things at the one time. Experiment with giving the really important stuff their own dedicated place throughout your 168 hour plan (also know as your undivided attention).
  2. Be mindful not to overthink your down time. Having a list of 100 relaxing tasks to complete on your rest day will actually make it very hard to rest, relax and recuperate.
  3. Finally, be mindful of the quantity vs. quality trade off that takes place across all effort. As clarified through our Wanting It and Simplifying It mental methods, quantity wants to be the right amount and usually falls ‘somewhere in the middle’ (too much or too little of anything is to be avoided) while quality on the other hand wants to be as high as possible.

With that I wish you good luck and as I look down at my watch I see the hour that I gave myself to draft this edition of the Mental Toughness Digest is about to come to an end.

Author: Condor Performance

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