The most common question Julie has been asked over the years is, “How did you balance training for the CrossFit Games while you were in medical school?”
Julie feels fortunate for the circumstances that allowed her to pursue competing in the CrossFit Games and medical training simultaneously, and finds this a difficult question to answer. However, what we will do here is share a general framework with you for how we structure and organize our lives.
We’ll talk first about the big picture - how we’ve come to understand the importance of connecting with our mission, vision, values, and goals and a process we use to review these regularly. Then, we’ll get down to the nitty gritty of some tools and technology we’ve found to be most useful in our day-to-day. Finally, we’ll talk about how we implement these tools on a weekly and daily basis.
Please do keep in mind that this is ONE process. It’s a process that works for us and that has evolved over the past 10+ years of knowing each other and that will continue to evolve in the future. We hope that our process provides you with some insight or ideas that you can use to refine a process of your own.
We started this process shortly after getting married in 2015. Julie had learned the hard way the importance of identifying with her “why” while competing in the CrossFit Games, and it became clear that we wanted to define our “why” as a family.
For us, this process looked like lots of dedicated time in reflection and discussion of the values that were most important to us, and identifying what we felt was our calling - our reason for being on this earth.
Then we spent some time envisioning what we wanted our day-to-day lives to look like 10 or 20 years in the future. We’ve come to understand the importance of visualization in sport, but also in life, and this is a tool we use often.
After creating a clear vision of our lives 10 or 20 years in the future, we start to break down goals. What needs to happen in order to make that vision a reality? We set 10, 5, 3, and 1-year goals in the following domains:
While we may leave the 10, 5, and 3 year goals more broad, we try to make the 1-year goals very detailed. For example, instead of just writing down a goal of “pass the board exam,” we break down every step that needs to happen in order to achieve that goal: register for the board exam, collect study materials, create a study plan, take a practice exam, etc.
Then, from these 1-year goals we identify those that we plan to accomplish in the next 90 days. We further refine these goals and set deadlines for each step within the next 90 days. We will then revisit these 90-day goals when we plan for each week to make sure we are staying focused and on track. Knowing that we have made a detailed plan with the end goal in mind gives us a lot of peace of mind. We know that if we stay focused on what we have planned for each day or each hour, we will be moving in the right direction.
Every 90 days, we sit down and review what we’ve accomplished during the previous quarter and adjust our 1-year goals as needed. We then create a new set of 90-day goals and the cycle repeats! We revisit our bigger mission, vision, values, and longer-term goals each year or when big life events occur.
We distinguish between two types of goals - task oriented goals and habits. Task oriented goals are those that can be accomplished, checked off the list, and you’ll never think about again, or at least for a very long time (eg. “pass the board exam”). Habits, on the other hand, are actions that must be repeated on a regular basis in order to help you achieve your long-term vision. Many of our habits fall into the health domain, and we’ve found it helpful to identify those habits which are “non-negotiables” and others which are “ideal.”
“Non-negotiables” are habits we’ve found through trial and error to be necessary for us to function well. When these things don’t happen, we start to not feel like ourselves, we are on-edge, and the rest of the time in our day is often not used effectively. Our current personal “non-negotiables” include: some semblance of a morning routine, 8 hours of sleep, 3x/week workouts, 1x/week date night, and every other week counseling. Of course, when we are in an “ideal” situation we like to work out 5 or 6 days per week, get 8.5 hours of sleep, or do a more extensive morning routine. We try to make the “ideal” habits happen whenever possible, but we know each week we need to get our “non-negotiables” in at a minimum.
Now that we’ve talked about our big-picture process, here are some of the tools and technology we’ve found over the years that allow us to maintain productivity and successfully implement our goals into our day-to-day lives:
Asana is a project management platform, but we like to think of it as the most amazing to-do list ever! It has been a real game-changer for us when it comes to keeping track of goals, random to-dos, birthdays, upcoming events, or even those big bills that are due once or twice per year.
An example of our weekly to-do boards in Asana
We make projects for each of our goal domains (eg. home, work, financial, health, etc) and file away every task needed to achieve our 90-day goals here. The software is great for reminding you what you need to do exactly when you need to be reminded of it. Once we file something away into our Asana, we feel confident that we will be reminded at the appropriate time and we don’t need to keep juggling it with all of the other thoughts bouncing around in our heads - what a relief!
We each have a project which we use as a board to plan our weekly tasks. There is a column for each day of the week so that we can distribute tasks that need to be done that week appropriately. It’s also a nice place to check at the beginning and end of each day, and it’s easy to move tasks to a different day if you didn’t get them done for one reason or another. We also have columns for incoming tasks where we can drop a quick note about something we want to add to our to-dos later using the Asana app on our phones on the go, and columns for things we want to read, listen to, or watch later.
Asana has a free version which includes all of the functionality discussed here, but they also have premium versions for larger teams or businesses who want to access more advanced functionality.
We’d be lost without our Google calendars! There are obviously many Calendar apps out there, but we’ve been using Google’s for well over a decade and have found it to work well for us. We use our calendars to organize when we’ll be allotting time to accomplish each of our Asana tasks for the week in the midst of work, sleep, and other events and obligations. We sync our calendars so we know when we can schedule things to do together if needed.
Image from https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/google-tips/getting-started-with-google-calendar/1/
You Need A Budget, otherwise known as YNAB, is a budgeting app. We have only been using it for a short time but we. are. in. love! In the past, we used another financial management software and Julie created a complicated Excel spreadsheet to keep track of our savings, making sure we’d have enough for those big intermittent expenses when they came along (travel, weddings, insurance bills, etc). Needless to say, it was painstaking and when we came across YNAB which automated Julie’s spreadsheet and then some, we were sold! What we love about YNAB is that it gives you a proactive look at your finances and helps you to give each dollar a job. It’s incredibly empowering to know where all of your money is going and allows you to seamlessly plan for big purchases or to cover large unexpected expenses when they come along. YNAB offers a 34-day free trial and then charges $11/month or $84/year.
Image from https://docs.youneedabudget.com/article/150-step-3-budget-your-money
The Pomodoro Technique is one that comes in handy for us when we are facing a long day of studying or computer work. Essentially, it involves setting a timer for 25 minutes of work, followed by a 3-5 minute break. After four rounds of this, you take a longer 15-25 minute break. We’ve found it to be very similar to TABATA or interval-style training - knowing that you have a break coming up allows you to stay focused and keep the intensity high during those work intervals. We’re always looking for ways to improve focus and make the time we spend working count, so that we can enjoy time to relax, too. This is one way that has worked for us and gotten us through many long days of studying! There are plenty of apps out there you can use to set up these intervals; one we’ve used called BeFocused Pro is shown below:
BeFocused Pro app for implementing the Pomodoro Technique
Before we got married, we got great advice from a doctor couple ahead of us in their journey. “Get a cleaning service - even if it doesn’t seem like you can afford it now, it will save your relationship and so many headaches in the long run.” We followed their advice and are so glad we did! Since that time, we’ve looked for ways to continue to outsource tasks that we don’t enjoy so that we can spend more time working towards or goals and doing things we love. Some examples include landscaping services, Instacart, Thrive Market, Vital Choice, or ButcherBox for grocery delivery, and meal delivery services such as Sunbasket.
Now that you know about our big-picture process and our tools, let’s talk implementation! Here’s how we put this all together on a yearly, quarterly, weekly, and daily basis:
As already outlined above, each year we carve out a day or two (best if it’s after a little vacation or getaway to allow for some space and reflection!) to revisit and update our mission, vision, values and long-term goals.
Every quarter, we review and reflect on the previous quarter and create a new set of 90-day goals based on the 1-year goals we are working toward. We then enter each of these goals into our Asana and assign them to either one of us with an anticipated due date.
Every Sunday, we spend about an hour reflecting on the previous week and then looking at our progress toward our 90-day goals. We review our Asana and the tasks that are scheduled for the upcoming week and then distribute them by day of the week on our weekly to-do boards. Then we turn to our Google calendars. Here, it’s important that we schedule in our “non-negotiable” habits first, because otherwise it’s easy to make excuses and prioritize other tasks that seem more urgent. We have recurring calendar events for each of our “non-negotiables” so that they are already on our calendar for the week. Then we start to schedule in time for the other tasks around work, sleep, or other events and obligations. We’ve learned through experience that it’s best to be conservative with your schedule and what you expect to accomplish each day. If you end up with extra time, great! You can start chipping away on the tasks for the next day or take some time to do something you enjoy.
We start each day with our “morning huddle” - a time for the two of us to check in and review the day ahead. We usually do this over the phone while driving to work. We’ll take a few minutes to check in with our mission and core values, express gratitude, review our previous day and look for ways to improve, and then review what each person is up to that day according to our Google calendars and daily Asana tasks. We always end by setting a time for us to reconvene after work for dinner and what time we plan to go to bed.
At the end of each workday, we each review our Asana tasks and re-assign any tasks we were unable to accomplish to a different day. We finish each day by reviewing our “3 Wins” and saying a prayer before bed. We used to fall into the trap of talking about all the things we didn’t get done or all the things we wanted to accomplish the next day while getting ready for bed, which was counterproductive. Now by switching this conversation to our “3 Wins,” we end the day focused on all the positive things that happened or that we accomplished that day to get us closer to our goals.
We would be remiss not to credit some of the people and books who’ve inspired our own process over the years. We love reading about self-improvement and productivity, and here are some of our favorites:
So, we’ve reviewed our process for defining our mission, vision, values and goals, shared with you some of our favorite tools and technology for enhancing productivity, and taken you through how we implement all of this on a yearly, quarterly, weekly, and daily basis. We hope that sharing our own process for organizing our lives has given you some ideas for refining your own. Remember, that every person and every family is different so what works for us might not be best for you. This is also an iterative and constantly evolving process for all of us. We’d love to hear some of your own tips and tricks below in the comments!
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Disclaimer: This podcast is for general information only, and does not provide medical advice. We recommend that you seek assistance from your personal physician for any health conditions or concerns.