On your marks, get set - and hit that work target

PHOTO: On your marks, get set - and hit that work target

Navigating through the modern workplace can feel like an endurance sport at times, given the endless meetings, complex reports to decipher and impossibly tight deadlines to meet.

Sports enthusiasts may claim to have an edge, being adept in translating the lessons and actions from the sports arena to the office, thanks to years of honing their stamina, drive and flexibility.

Mr Edgar Tham, a sport psychologist in private practice, said there is no research linking sports such as running, cycling or swimming with enhanced work performance, but he pointed out that the mental strategies used in endurance training can be applied to the office.

"There are a lot of similarities... they may include the need to set and achieve goals, persevere even when one is tired, handle setbacks or mistakes along the way, or even work with others to meet group or team objectives," he noted.

Mr Pooi Choon Poh, 39, is well aware of these similarities. Three years ago, the vice-president of institutional banking at DBS Bank signed up for the punishing 250km Sahara Desert ultra-marathon.

"Ironically, the trigger to sign up came at a point when I was quite busy at work. I was very apprehensive when I signed up but was keen to take on a new personal challenge to enrich my life," he said.

He said the run left his body in pain, and at one point during the race, he was unable to get up from a rest break to walk to the toilet. But he eventually finished the full distance in under 52 hours spread over six days, and described the race as "an empowering experience".

"(Running) is like work. You must have the drive to want to achieve your goal and succeed. Once you have that, you must make preparations to hit your target.

"Some support and encouragement help when you're at the lowest point in any sporting event, and that also applies to when you're doing something professionally, and it's important to have that same approach when you're working in a team."

Other endurance sports enthusiasts agreed. Mr Zeng Renchun, a relationship manager with Citi Singapore, took part in Busselton 2012, an ironman race in Western Australia that involves a 1.8km swim, a 180km bike ride and a 42km run.

"I suffered a knee ligament tear in 2010, which required me to undergo an operation to reconstruct my knee. I had to learn to walk all over again and it was a humbling experience," he said.

"Taking part in the ironman race was a challenge posed to myself to get back on my feet and continue leading an active lifestyle."

Having to juggle a career, a family and a six-day-a-week training schedule was difficult for him but he has learnt that having a plan, staying disciplined and managing his time well are all lessons he can carry over into his workplace.

While not everyone may be cut out to take part in endurance events, Mr Tham said there are some strategies used by athletes that anyone can apply to his work.

"Manage your stress by taking regular breaks and eating a well-balanced diet. (People can also) build self-confidence by reminding themselves about their strengths and past successes."


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