Do the Work Wednesday #6: Marathon or Sprint?

by Lian on March 21, 2012

On the podcast over the last couple of weeks, I’ve given a shout-out to my friend Linda who was helping my friend Kate train for the Los Angeles Marathon that took place last Sunday. According to a great email from Linda, I’m happy to report that Kate not only finished the 26.2 miles, she actually placed 77th out of 455 women in her age group. I call that A Top 100 finish!  Way to go, Kate!

And Linda, you are a true Satellite Sister for keeping her company on all those training runs. We all need Satellite Sisters like you to keep us on track, literally and figuratively. If I had anymore  Satellite Sister bathrobes in my closet, I would send one along. But I don’t, so here’s as Atta Girl.

After reading about Kate’s success, it got me thinking of the two most basic strategies with which I approach tasks: the marathon or the sprint.

The Sprint: There are a million little projects that I can gear myself up for because I know the effort will be short and concentrated. I can go like crazy for a few weeks ( or days) , execute the plan and then be done. Like the cast party for Peter Pan that I just volunteered to organize ( Not host! Not again) .  Some pizza +  some paper goods + a few hours of exerted effort= Completed Cast Party.  Or Team Mom for a season. Or an all out effort to re-do my websites and social media presence. Or putting together a marketing plan for a potential sponsor. Short, concerted efforts that require my full attention, but I can see the finish line at the start.

The Marathon: Others, like writing a novel or starting a business or chairing a fundraiser ( which I’ve never done!) require months, even years of sustained effort. This is where pacing and mental fortitude come into play. And, accepting the timeline which can be daunting. In terms of my novel, I’m learning that the second book might not get written any faster than the first. Helen of Pasadena took me a year and it looks like Book #2 will take roughly the same amount of time. I have people everyday asking , ” When is the next book coming out?” Frankly, it gets a little depressing to say, “Maybe 2013?” But that’s the truth. I have to write every word. That’s juts how books get written.  And wishing it would go faster doesn’t make the work actually go faster.

The Sprint that becomes The Marathon: I’m fine with the marathons if I know they are going to be marathons.  But, we’ve all had projects that looked like sprints turn into long distances races. I’m thinking of any home remodelling we’cve ever done. Or caregiving for elderly parents that becomes a sustained effort when,  at first, it looked like a short-term situation.Yes, I’d like to lose that 20 pounds  gained in 2006 in six weeks, but it’s actually taken me the better part of the year to do it.  The truth is, if I had known it would take so long, I might never have started. So sometimes, ignorance is bliss.  But, I’m almost there so I know the effort was worth it.

What’s you approach to your Do The Work project? Is it a marathon or a sprint? Or was it a sprint that’s become a marathon?  And don’t forget the trap of running too many sprints while you’re still training for that marathon. Too many running metaphors? I’ll stop now because I’m winded.

Embracing my chaos , Lian

Related Posts:

Do the Work #5: Nose to the Grindstone

Do the Work #4: Sharing your Ideas 



Cyndi March 22, 2012 at 8:20 AM

I love reading everyone’s comments – it keeps me going!

I am trying to ENJOY the (work/study) process a little more and check in with myself to make sure that I am … the day I say no is the day I find another way to spend my time/energy. So far, the answer is yes and I will continue with my “marathon”. I need to mentally visualize the finish line, even if it’s still miles away.

Chpdliver – good luck with your kitchen renovation! That really is a marathon and very exciting.

Erin March 21, 2012 at 5:37 PM

I have to choose none of the above. I’m more of an extreme sports kind of woman. I do whatever I need to do to get a task done. If I have to use paper plates because I cannot bear to see another plate in the sink waiting for the dishwasher to be empty, I do it so that I can get some time to write at the end of the day.

I’m working out regularly, but sometimes I get distracted by the seemingly insurmountable tasks that taunt me as I approach the treadmill. Yesterday, I ran a mile, then decided to tackle the bookshelves behind me. My husband left on deployment before dealing with his several thousand book collection, which is overflowing from the shelves, barely unpacked from our last move. FINALLY, after 16 months, I tackled the project. After an hour of that, I got back on the treadmill and did another half mile. Then I searched for my son’s lost DS. SO, it’s sort of like a triathlon, The work must be done but I can not claim to do it in a sprint, marathon or a combination of the two.

Debbie in Bethesda March 21, 2012 at 3:41 PM

I think I am a “rotator.”. Beginning in January, I first focus on finances (getting my tax return done so I can get my refund early and pay the deposit for my daughter’s summer camp & pay down debt). If money is still available, I switch to the house in the Spring & catch up on those home repairs. In the summer, I focus on diet & exercise. I like to swim and can only do it during the summer. In the Fall, the focus is on the kid…making sure all the summer work is fine, buying supplies, etc. It would be great if I could do it all at once, but I have only enough energy to focus on one at a time!

Kristin March 21, 2012 at 12:03 PM

Karen, can’t wait to hear more about your work…

I am a slow, slogging marathoner at the moment in this private practice development. Today has been a long sprint of endless calls to and contacts with insurance companies, referrals for a client who can’t afford to see me without insurance, and cleaning of the bathrooms since I am off from the job that pays the rent right now.

Look forward to the marathon journey, but today, I am TIRED :)

Karen March 21, 2012 at 11:56 AM

My marathon was becoming to much of many sprints in a row, thank you Lian for pointing this out – as it explains my exhaustion! :-)

My goal, as stated before, is to open a non-profit social services based business supporting lower income women and women who have a record who want to make a change for the positive. I want to run the marathon now but all the little sprints wear me out these sprints include 3 teens and a 20 something, plus a husband at home, Girl Scouts, oh yea and that pesky job that pays the bills to support the dream marathon.

I have a reminder once a week to take a moment to checkout your input and “do the work” even if it is a mental preparation to keep my marathon in the front of my brain. Thank you for being such a realist and truly positive female role-model in a world of negative female behaviors!

chpdlivr March 21, 2012 at 9:02 AM

At this stage of my life, I wasn’t sure I could relate to Do the Work Wednesday until you mentioned home improvement projects. For us it’s been a piece by piece kitchen redo. We’ve done everything but the new countertops……and as I’m ready to commit to them, I wonder if the rest of the kitchen is already out of date (yep, we did this in years, not months!). With the final step also comes the thought of picking out “the right” colors along with a sink and cooktop! Then it’s living with the construction mess for who knows how long!! In this case I’m glad we’re not “do-it-yourselfers”! I’m also pretty sure this is going to be a marathon! Off to the appliance store!

ma schmidt March 21, 2012 at 8:33 AM

Very timely question — I’m working on 20 pounds and, feeling like I’m too tired (and bored!) to continue (after 10!) I downloaded a bunch of inspirational podcasts to listen to today (given i had devoured the Chaos Chronicles and Satellite Sisters’ new casts yesterday!)…my big re-inspirational take away: marathon. This is a new lifestyle, not a long wait to endure before I fit back in a size 8. This is my lifestyle,…I am a person who eats healthy and stays fit. Chanting this at lunch today I passed on the “fritos nibble” and “cookie grab!” — Thanks for the check-in!

Lian March 21, 2012 at 8:27 AM

Shary– That is an occupational hazard, because you’re home and you see the dust bunnies!

Regroup and keep moving forward. Even a page a day is good.

Last year, I did some marathon cleaning and ended up with a rotator cuff injury! How sad it that?


Shary March 21, 2012 at 8:17 AM

I have to divide marathons into sprints so I’m trying to think of my novel as scenes and chapters or I’ll be completely overwhelmed. I must confess, though, that I haven’t even managed that lately. I’ve been distracted by a string of visitors and my recent sprints have all involved frantic cleaning sessions to turn over my guest rooms before then next group arrives. I love having company, but when it comes to my writing, I haven’t been doing the work. :(

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