Productivity (Get Some!) – Part I

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Over the weekend, during one of the busiest days in Cressey Performance history, one of our new interns, Jordan, looked over at me like a deer in headlights and said something along the lines of, “Tony, how the heck do you do it? How is it that you’re able to coach 7-8 hours per day and STILL find the time to do all of the other things like write articles, keep up with your blog, etc?”

Similarly, last night, after all the clients had left, I was sitting in my office when Jordan asked, “so, what are you doing tonight?”

“Writing programs,” I said.

“Really?” he blurted, in a somewhat dumbfounded tone.

I know he knows better and understands the demands of being in this industry (you’re on when everyone else is off), but I can’t help but feel that the vast majority of athletes and clients that walk into the facility (not to mention all the people who read our stuff) on a daily basis just think we just show up and hang out all day, as if all Eric, myself, Pete, Chris, and George do is turn the lights on, play some loud music, throw some weights around, offer a few spots here and there, and then just go home to watch the Hoffinator on America’s Got Talent.

While there’s some truth to that, as to be expected, there’s a bit more that happens behind the scenes.  Actually, a lot more, but I don’t want to get too off track here.

Sure, I can think of worse ways to spend my days.  Not to rub it in or anything, but I wore sweatpants to work yesterday. What’s more, I also had the opportunity to train roughly 40 professional athletes and work with a wide variety of clientele that put a smile on my face everyday.

I’m not going to lie, though – I was freakin tired!  And when I reflected on what Jordan asked a few days ago (how do you do it?), at the time, I gave him the elevator pitch and mentioned how it just comes down to learning how to prioritize things and setting a schedule for yourself. It was nothing revolutionary by any means, but it got a few head nods, made sense, and he appreciated the skull-session.

In the days since, however, I couldn’t help but dig a little deeper. This industry, unlike many, offers a wide array of opportunity in that you can make what you want of it.  On one end of the spectrum you can just do your own thing, work at a commercial gym, and do well for yourself (or not…….most PTs burn out within two years).

On the flip side, you can enter entrepreneurship,open your own facililty, and do well for yourself (or not……it’s been said that seven out of ten small businesses fail within three years).

Throwing more into the ring, you also have this thing called the Internet, which, you know, a lot of people use. Outside of CP, I also run my own personal business through my writing (articles, blog) and online services, and within the past year or two have come to realize that a fair percentage of my income stems from my name being, for lack of a better term, a brand. Kind of like Apple, except not even close.

Anyways, when you think about it, I have two fronts I’m dealing with: Cressey Performance and doing my part to help run a successful (and growing) small business; and Tony Gentilcore (trying my best not to suck).

While I’d be lying if I said I felt I was the most productive person in the world, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give myself at least some credit.

To that end, here are some candid thoughts on how to become more productive.

1. Surround Yourself with Productive People

Seems like a Captain Obvious statement if there ever was one, right?

If you want to get better at playing video games, hang out with gamers.  If you want to get better at knitting, hang with people who knit.  If you want to be good at being a geek, hang out with people who attend Star Wars Conventions.  Oh snap.  Oh snap.  No he didn’t?!?!??!

Hey……..What tha!?!?!??!!  Goddammit, who stole the password to my Facebook account?????

Likewise, if you want to become more productive, it helps to surround yourself with people who have the same work ethic, or at least in the same ballpark… yourself.  As luck would have it, I work with the Robocop of productivity, Eric Cressey.

For those who don’t know Eric as well as I do, he’s an absolute machine, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone as “on” as himself.

Not many people know this, but Eric and I met over the internet.  Totally not kidding.

Now, it wasn’t like we were both paying subscribers to or something equally as creepy.  No, instead, back in the day Eric and I knew each other from various strength and conditioning websites ( for example) and over the course of a year or two built a mutual respect for one another.

In the summer of 2004, I met Eric for the first time in person in NYC, where a bunch of other people from another fitness website we both frequented decided to organize a small get together.  That same weekend – coincidentally enough – I also met Pete Dupuis at Fenway Park in Boston, MA.  Little did I know at the time that he’d eventually become my business partner.  Weird, how things work out.

Anyways, in the summer of 2005, Eric graduated from UCONN and had accepted a job at a commercial gym in Ridgefield, CT.  Knowing full well that I was dying a slow death in Syracuse working in corporate fitness, and yearning for a way to turn the page in my life, Eric called me up and mentioned that the place that just hired him was looking for another trainer.

Taking a huge leap of faith, I went out and interviewed, nailed it, and moved out to CT soon thereafter.

Long story short, I lived with Eric for two years (in both CT, and later on when we both moved to Boston) and saw firsthand what kind of work ethic he had.  While I was out in the living room watching Lord of the Rings (again), he was in his room writing freaking books (The Ultimate Off-Season Manual and Maximum Strength).

Of course, I was doing my own thing, working as a personal trainer and starting to dabble in some writing myself (t-nation, and some of you may remember my Boston Herald Step-Up! blog), but needless to say, Eric was (and still is) unparalleled as far as productivity is concerned.

Then, you know, we both got girlfriends, and got our own places, and eventually started Cressey Performance.

They say it’s the people you surround yourself with that dictate your success. Even today, I have no flippin idea how he’s able to keep up with everything. But to his credit, he’s been an integral influence on my career and work ethic, and I’d be an a-hole if I didn’t in someway credit him with helping me learn a thing or two along the way.

2. The $25,000 Piece of Advice

I actually wrote a blog post on this concept earlier this year after listening to Todd Durkin speak at the Perform Better Summit in Providence, RI.  Want to know the key to productivity:

Step 1:  Pick FIVE things you need to do today, and write them down.

Step 2:  Do them.

It’s that simple. If you want to be more productive with your time, and hence, more successful, you need to put your big boy (or girl) shoes on and hold yourself more accountable.

Write it down. Make a list. You need to start somewhere, right?

Speaking personally, my lists vary.  They can entail things as detailed as start the introduction to my next article, or something as mundane as clean the cat’s litter box.

Either way, there’s just something about crossing things off a list that’s invigorating and keeps me on point.

Furthering my point, and using last night as an example, I came home from work and the last thing I wanted to do was write programs. Practicing what I preach, I made my list of five names – actually seven, I had to update two existing programs to add in more conditioning work – and crossed them off as I went.

In the end, it freed up my morning to write this blog post.  See how things work out?  It’s like I’m a productivity ninja!

And that’s it for today.  Tomorrow I’ll delve into some more tips.  SPOILER ALERT:  turn off the television!!!!

Until then, feel free to offer your own tips below.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Jonathan Clow

    GREAT post Tony. It's something I struggle with daily. Starting a new practice after selling and moving from my previous 2-practice business, 3 kids, trying to keep up with all of the great info you guys and the guys at FMS, NKT, etc etc keep producing- it's a little disorienting sometimes so the tips are a nice reminder. I always laugh when I get the comments about the bankers hours I used to have at my old office (didn't start until noon 2 days a week). No one was ever around at 2am when I was back in the office writing reports, rehab programs etc etc. after getting the kids to bed and hanging out with the wife for a bit. Might I add that simply following guys like yourself via blogs and Facebook etc is similar to surrounding yourself with productive people as I find it very motivating when I read everything you guys are up to. Is been great.

    December 20, 2011 at 9:39 am | Reply to this comment

  • Neil

    Tony, I really enjoyed this post and am looking forward to part II! I feel one of the main key to productivity involves channeling your energy to take that first step, whether it is writing a draft to an article, sorting through laundry, etc. Understanding that you have been productive (in the slightest sense) seems to provide the motivation and energy necessary for continued progression. Keep up the good work!

    December 20, 2011 at 9:56 am | Reply to this comment

  • Anonymous

    Good post, but I've learned that with myself and most people who I talk productivity with, having a list of 5 things to-do is even too much. Typically 3 works great, and for most even if they had a "list" of just one thing they needed to accomplish that day and did it, they would be more successful than 90% of the people out there. DC

    December 20, 2011 at 10:21 am | Reply to this comment

  • Lol

    Hope you dont hurt your arm patting your own back that much

    December 20, 2011 at 10:21 am | Reply to this comment

  • kristen avvento

    love your blog tony!! keeps me motivated and puts a smile on my face. thanks for doing what you do.

    December 20, 2011 at 10:30 am | Reply to this comment

  • Rob King

    Hey Tony, I must have been at Perform Better same time, or similar. I also wrote it down :) Step 1: Pick FIVE things you need to do today, and write them down. Step 2: Do them. I have a word document on my mac and I do this every single day. Funny works big time. Great read and keep up the great work. Rob

    December 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Anonymous

    Great post Tony. Here I am training 27-32 sessions a week and struggling just to put up 1 blog a week and often wondering how in the heck some of you guys do it all. One of my favorite ways to stay productive is to update the whiteboard that I have in my office. I have a to do list for the year, the month, the week and the day, and I update each accordingly. It's sits right in front of me so I'm constantly reminded of what I need to do. And it feels so gratifying when I can cross something off, and even more gratifying when company comes over and sees what I've accomplished. Looking forward to the next one :) Sirena

    December 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Anonymous

      Whiteboards are amazing!!! We have a ginormous white board at CP that lists all the programs we need to write on a daily/weekly basis. It's awesome when I can walk in on any particular day and wipe off 5-6 names........only to see 5-6 more put back on in a matter of a few minutes. Ahhhhhh.

      December 21, 2011 at 8:12 am | Reply to this comment

  • Cort the Sport

    Written lists are the only way I can stay on top of family, work, training, and life. The nice thing is I can always find something on the list to do to fill whatever time I do or don't have. So if I have 15 minutes at work, I'm not wasting it, I'm filling it with something that I can do in 15 minutes. It's those little things that add up to a whole lotta productivity. Still, major kudos to you for summoning the energy to do more work after a full day that I'm sure is mentally, physically, and socially full-tilt!!

    December 20, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Juliet

    I read this and thought "hey, a list of 5 things to do today doesn't seem like a bad idea." So I wrote a list. And did everything. I went to bed feeling quite accomplished! THANKS

    December 21, 2011 at 7:20 am | Reply to this comment

  • Adam

    How about NOT doing crap you don't need to do.....for instance: RE-writing my to do list multiple times/day..... Duuumb. Thanks man, Good stuff

    December 21, 2011 at 10:34 am | Reply to this comment

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