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Make More Finish Lines

Posted by Patrick McCrann Aug 27, 2010

Creative Commons License photo credit: basictheory

Have you ever watched a major event like a marathon or Ironman? Not the biased television coverage, but the real deal form the sidelines? It’s powerful to watch thousands of people from all walks of life on a similar journey to complete a physical challenge in one massive attempt to reach the finish.

Out on the course it can be quiet, sometimes quite lonely. I personally prefer to be out on the course. I think it’s inspiring and educational to watch people perform and execute when they aren’t aware of being watched. When they are still fresh and early in their day and have countless options. This is where the nature of their finish is created, far from any finish line.

Have you watched the same events from the finish line?

It’s a tale of two (different) races. Hundreds if not thousands of screaming fans. Signs, banners, lights and music. A steady stream of competitors becoming finishers, hustling down the finishing straight despite hours of suffering. People are transformed, replacing grimaces with smiles. Despite incredible fatigue most raise their arms while others muster a small victory dance or other celebration.

Regardless of the time on the clock, each of these people have successfully complete what they set out to do…and the fans, spectators, and loved ones are there to mark the occasion.

The finish line experience is one of the main reasons people keep coming back. They profess to love the toil of training, the ardor or early morning sessions, the daily rush of endorphins. But nothing is more rewarding than the sensory overload experience that is a race finish line. If you’ve ever completed such an event, you’ll most likely have those memories etched into your brain, into your being.

I think we need more finish lines. Not the massive celebratory ones from races (but that would be funny!), but ones where we can still throw our hands up to the sky and mark the end of a journey.

In a world full of things to do / read / learn / say / process, we are almost entirely focused on the act of doing instead of the state of being done. We are building a culture where action is rewarded, not completion. At some point the emphasis will shift from what we have accomplished to simply being rewarded for doing.

I can’t think of faster way to personal, professional, or social mediocrity.

Here’s how you can make your own finish lines happen:

  • Decide upon a final date to be done. Deadlines make things real.
  • Start with the end in mind. Know what “done” is so when you get there, you can celebrate.
  • Practice celebrating. Pick small achievable milestones. Add up the milestones and soon you’ll be at the finish line. Success is addictive; start training yourself early.
  • Work with others. Solo-preneurs are more likely (thank teams or groups) to just keep going. Even if you don’t have colleagues, share your work with others in your life so they can help you reflect on what you’ve done.
  • Consider scheduled finish lines. Some industries operate by quarter, others on an annual basis. Pick your own cycle and schedule time to step away from the WHAT and focus on the HOW.

Starting something is the hardest step, but it gets easier the better you become at finishing. Build success into how you manage your work / life / play and you’ll find that it’s not only more fun…it’s easier. I’m available for hi-fives and words of encouragement along your journey on Facebook. If you need someone to be at your finishline, just contact me.

Good luck!

~ Patrick

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underneath a star
Creative Commons License photo credit: jaeWALK

Greetings from my summertime weekend base of Cape Cod, MA. This is our hot weather escape, where we crash with my outlaws (the in-laws) for almost every weekend of the summer. It’s a great chance to unplug from the hustle of everyday and tune into the things that really matter: the kids, our family, the kids, relaxing, and above all else…the kids.

It’s also a great chance for me to reflect on the business side of things, as I typically am not working overdrive after a pretty solid week. This post is part of a series, a weekend Sunday Store Update Series, where I write about the small business side of ELD.

Book CoverMost of this summer has been dedicated to the upcoming launch of Train to Live, Live to Train: An Insider’s Guide to Building the Ultimate Fitness Lifestyle. The hard copy is done and is being converted into a nice PDF format. The audio case studies are done. I am working on the launch site and a few other videos to put into the higher-value packages. Many of you have pre-ordered the book (thank you!) and I promise I am working to get it to you as soon as possible…thanks for your support!

Ten Hours A Week SystemStrangely enough, this past week saw a massive uptick in the number of copies of my Competitive Triathlon in 10Hours A Week product. Even though it’s August, it appears quite a few of you are already beginning to think ahead to the winter and next season…good for you! The 10Hours System is a great way to build out a functional training cycle that instantly fits your life and keeps you focused on the other things (like kids!) that really matter. Remember that if you are buying the kindle edition you’ll want to email us to get the download too as the planning spreadsheets and free bonuses aren’t included from Amazon.

2008  CalendarI am considering a four-week long season planning session for September, the $100 Season Planning Group.

It would be a 28-day exercise where a small group of you work with me to walk through the 10Hours concepts and build out a full season for 2011. Each week will feature a conference call by me as well as a set of “tasks” to complete. You’ll be able to interact with the other members of the group and, by the end of month, you’ll each have a complete roadmap for 2011 with some really solid ideas on how to best manage your time for maximum fitness.

If you are interested in this concept, please post a comment below or leave a message on Facebook. If we have enough interested folks I’ll put up a registration slot later this month…I’ll try to keep the first class pretty small so I can be sure to meet all of your needs.

As always, thanks again for tuning in and have a great weekend!

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Wired man

Creative Commons License photo credit: Mike Licht,

As a Type-A personality with an exercise addiction, I not only have a ton of things going on in my world…I want to be good at all of them. Not just good, but the best that I can be. I know this is, for all intents and purposes, pretty much impossible, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

One of the most challenging elements of trying to excel in multiple spheres is being able to balance your commitments across the board.  From personal to professional, and social to athletic, there are tons of different things you could have going on at anyone time. Learning how to manage these multiple areas is critical if you are to be remotely close to your best.

Here’s a not-so-quick review of how I manage my universe; I’d appreciate your feedback and comments at the end on how you do it (or how you suggest I improve my approach). Thanks!

The Problem
Mainstream planning approaches follow the notion that specificity solves the action dilemma. As initially drafted by David Allen in his seminal work “Getting Things Done,” knowing the Next Action is what frees the individual from thinking and puts them into doing.

Please note: This is not a knock on the GTD system. I have actually used it in the past on my personal management journey, and it is a quantum leap ahead of most other ways of working.

From personal experience, however, I know that the more detail I have or create doesn’t necessarily lead me to the right answer…or to any kind of action at all. The majority of my work is creative: writing, recording, editing, etc., and I have found that lists of things to do around my creative tasks only constrain and distract me from the actual work I set out to do.

Instead, the focus on exploring details became a huge time suck in and of itself. I worked hard to make sure I had the 25 steps to publishing an article in place; I reviewed the list. I put it into my planner. I assigned tags to relevant steps so I could batch phone calling in step 8 with my other phone-related tasks. I toggled items on and off the list as I progressed.

There was only one problem: I wasn’t any closer to having a written article.

I had essentially built myself a beautiful list of new stuff that now required management in addition to needing to write an article worth of publishing. I had also discovered that having a list to manage, for the Type A personality, is as addictive as crack cocaine. Not good.

Focus on What Matters, Details Are Secondary
When it comes to Type-A folks looking to succeed in multiple areas, I think it’s far more appropriate to focus on the big picture stuff. These are the action items that, when accomplished, will enable you to remain successful in all of your focus areas. If you are truly Type A, you’ll be able to hit all of the micro-steps to be successful as you dive into the project / task.

Let’s revisit the article publishing example. Making a list or process around the creation of an article ultimately takes away from what needs to be created:

  • If you review it from a linear perspective (Step A happens before Step B, then Step C), you place an inordinate amount of importance upon the sequence of your work instead of the content of the work.
  • If you have a list it’s easier to check off the easier things to show progress (create an outline, draft a tagline, etc) instead of doing the hard creative work that actually _is_ progress.

Instead of diving into a series of “article creation steps,” I have found it’s far more productive for me to keep a list of things that interest me, gathered as a surf the web. When I need to write something, it’s as simple as going to that list and finding something that interests me / syncs with my other priorities (marketing, events, etc). I dive in and start writing.

In other words, without the seminal act of writing the article, or at least starting to write the article, none of the other tasks really matter.

Of course, there’s a process here but it’s not one that I need to write down or check off:

  • There’s the collection of info / ideas as I surf.
  • There’s the picking of a topic based on relevant criteria.
  • When I write, I create a quick outline and then fill it in.
  • When I publish to the web, I do some content editing, fixing for SEO, adding images, etc.
  • Finally I make sure to distribute the final product through Twitter, Facebook and more.

You might consider this a list of activities, but for me it’s more of a weekly ritual that I go through. Putting it down on paper only serves to distract me, taking away from my final goal — a really good article.

When Details are Important: Confusion & Outsourcing
Details become important when there’s a lack of clarity or experience. Perhaps it’s a new task, one that you’re not sure how to complete. Or maybe it’s a very important task, say closing on a new home, that you want to get 100% right the first time.

Details are also important when you want to outsource any given task to someone else. I have a whole chapter on the concept of outsourcing in my forthcoming new book Train to Live, Live to Train: An Insiders Guide to Creating the Ultimate Fitness Lifestyle (pre-order here). Basically your goal is to take something you normally do, give it to someone else, and make sure it’s done as well as if you had done it.

Aside from the instructions below, when it comes to outsourcing remember that the best time to do it is when you are (A) familiar with task, (B) know the desired outcome, and (C) are going to be able to monitor the results.

Here’s a quick list of how I suggest you prepare a task to be outsourced.

  1. Complete the task yourself, ideally several times.
  2. Break it down into a detailed list of steps.
  3. Test your list as you complete your task again.
  4. Create a screencast of you completing your list (I use Jing).
  5. Outsource the work for that task by presenting the list and your movie.
  6. Check on first results with great detail.
  7. Follow up at regular intervals.

I frequently get asked about outsourcing and when to make it happen. It’s very simple for me:
At the end of the day, if you can break a task down into clear, succinct steps, odds are you don’t need to be the one doing it. Outsource it.

Properly outsourcing a task is a skill you will need to develop.  It takes times to get good at it, but in general if you can master this skill, it will in turn allow you to focus more on the big picture items you need to be successful at in order to maintain forward progress in your multiple spheres of influence.

The Creative Opportunity
While getting things done is fun, and on some level rewarding, your ultimate goal should be to create value. Value is calculated differently according to your industry, focus, and goals, but  I think a general definition would be: Value is created when you have made something new, unique, or useful.

Simply put, your time is better spent involved in things where there is a lack of clarity, for therein lies the opportunity to create value.

My Personal Planning Process
So, how actually should you plan? Ultimately that’s up to you, but I will share my basic process here. If it helps you out, great. If you have feedback, please put it in the comments below.

I recommend a very simple system which identifies your critical spheres of influence and allows you to track activities across the year. This is essentially a big picture view of all the projects you are managing. I typically work with a rolling three month window, as that’s about the average time from inception to completion for most of my projects.

Macro Level Planning

You can see I have modified an Excel spreadsheet to track each area by month. Under each month put the big picture items. For example, launching a new book is a big process. There are big chunks like proofreading, sending to production, and launching on the web. Each of these might fall under a separate month.

Using this sheet, I can see how those activities stack up with the other things I want to do in my other areas of influence. This has really saved me from over-committing (and consequently under performing) on many occasions.

The next level down, after the macro-level looks good, is to break each area down into weekly tasks. Again, on a weekly level as this is a good time frame for most tasks. Anything more granular really can get off track and derail the entire project. As I progress from week to week I can move tasks or cross them off as they are completed.

One sphere sheet

And that’s it. I review the macro level sheet once a month, and the weekly sheets at the start of every week. I don’t keep a traditional to do list, as this keeps me from having a million and one other small tasks to manage that affect my ability to create.

When you get into doing your work and wanting to manage your multiple spheres of influence, I encourage you to take a step back and look at all you are trying to accomplish.  Use this perspective as an advantage to getting more important and creative work done, the work that is going to help you succeed across the board.

Good luck!

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Patrick McCrann

Patrick McCrann

Member since: Jan 18, 2008

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