“Easy days easy, hard days hard.”
That saying from my old track coach kept going through my mind while I was running painfully slow on a day where I felt like I could fly! In endurance sports we romanticize an athlete’s ability to crawl into the pain cave and muscle through superhuman feats. I wanted to feel the burn of a difficult day and to imagine myself running with the elites, but I had a plan and I needed to stick to it. I would reap the rewards of following my plan long after this random run on a forgettable morning in the late fall.
I always draw parallels between distance running and my work. Training plans for a race can be compared to managing a large project or implementing new business processes. That said, I don’t want to discuss making a plan, because we have heard ad nauseam that failing to plan is planning to fail. The secret is not making the plan, but making the plan work for you.
Easy days easy, hard days hard. It is a given that some days will be more difficult than others. In distance running a hard day is often offset with a recovery day before and after. Recovery days are just as vital in work as they are in running. So how do we recover during the week in the office? I like to think of follow up items as great work recovery. These are tasks like responding to non-urgent emails or prepping for a client meeting the next day. Easy days can help us be mentally and physically prepared for the hard days that will inevitably follow.
Don’t cheat the hard days. One of my favorite quotes from U.S. Olympian Ryan Hall is “The grind is beautiful.” Just like we should have easy days there will be times when work is hard, when we have to put our heads down and grind. Steve Prefontaine once said “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” I had a leader a long time ago that would ask at the end of the day if I sacrificed the gift. It was a simple little reminder to never cheat the hard tasks for the day. Putting full effort into hard days left me with a sense of accomplishment because I had given my best.
Make it Routine. A weekly routine in running can help you plan out your easy and hard days and plan around your runs. In work settings a routine can be just as vital. You can set aside a day where certain tasks all need to be completed. For example, you could set aside every Thursday for FMO’s to be completed. Every Friday morning you come into the office and know that you are starting with a fresh slate. Your company will become automatic with the discipline developed following a routine.
Involve Others. In my office we have an awesome running club. New members will join the run club and set goals they want to reach. We have seen multiple co-workers break personal records through the running club. Involving others in our work goals can be just as rewarding. When we involve others we make ourselves accountable to our goals, but we also have a reason to celebrate with the people around us.
Make Adjustments. Just because we have a routine does not mean that we are inflexible. Often in running things don’t go as planned. No matter how well you developed a training plan, or how hard you worked sometimes your legs just don’t cooperate. In one of my last races I could easily run the winning time from the previous year. My shoes came untied, my legs felt heavy, and I just couldn’t run like I wanted. I panicked for the first mile and it got more difficult to run. After a couple miles I had to settle into a comfortable pace and just run for fun. I did not win like I thought I would, but I earned a personal victory knowing that I can overcome unforeseen difficulties.
These are just a couple things that have helped me improve not only on the trail, but also in the office. So whether you are lacing up to qualify for Boston or buttoning up to hit the office, make sure that you are making your plan work for you.
If you have any tips or secrets for running or improving our business operations let me know in the comments!