Productivity lessons learned at the Dojo

Maura Nevel Thomas — №14 with Augusto Pinaud

For many years, I was honored and privileged to be a student at the Shoshin Ryu School of martial arts. The school’s unique approach lends itself to a number of productivity lessons that can be applied by today’s workforce.

“Eliminating Chosa”

While attending a national conference I heard a few Sensei speak on important martial art principles. One shared his thoughts on “eliminating chosa,” the act of refining your movements to remove wasted effort. This reminds me that efficiency is useful regardless of the application. In martial arts, conserving your energy by eliminating chosa can provide you with the extra burst you need to win a fight or escape an attacker.

Throughout your day, how many times do you switch tasks, right in the middle, because something else called your attention? The phone rang while you were in the middle of writing a request via email. Or a co-worker popped into your cube wanting to know if you have just a few minutes to debrief from this morning’s meeting. Or, your iChat or smartphone is buzzing or beeping at you?

Switching between tasks greatly increases the time it takes to complete any task and also decreases the quality of your output, just like wasted movement in martial arts. Perhaps in your work day the consequences aren’t as dire, but you still expend more effort and achieve fewer results in the same amount of time.

Control or be controlled

Another Sensei reminded us that if you understand the way that your joints and limbs move, where they are strong and where they are weak, you can control them and use that control to gain the advantage in a match or a self-defense situation. I believe his words were, “control or be controlled.” This is not only true in martial arts, it is paramount when you are working to control your attention.

Everyday there are a myriad of things either competing for our attention or trying to distract our attention. Ask yourself, what is your greatest advantage you can use today? Am I here to control my schedule and results, or will I let someone or something else direct me? If we don’t exert control, then we put ourselves at risk to spend all of our time blowing in the wind of reaction. Just like in martial arts, if you can only react and defend, you can never take control of the situation.

Personal growth

In addition to a feeling of accomplishment and control, becoming more productive and focused can give you more time to dedicate to other activities. It could be spent with family or friends. Or, it could be repurposed back into your schedule, helping you learn and develop. The martial arts activities that take place in the dojo aren’t just for sport or self-defense. They are also about personal growth and discipline - an exercise for the mind and spirit as well as for the body.

When you can eliminate chose and exert more control, you can regain the time to devote to your goals and other significant results.

Maura nevel thomas

Maura Nevel Thomas

Maura Thomas is the Chief Trainer and founder of, and author of the new book Personal Productivity Secrets: Do what you never thought possible with your time and attention… and regain control of your life.

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