“At this altitude, I can run flat out for a half-mile before my hands start shaking.” – Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity.

I’ve always loved this line from the movie, even though my personal experience of running ‘flat out’ never left me with shaking hands . . . legs, heart, lungs, etc all shaking, but not the hands (this may well be the key reason why I’ve never starred in any movies).

.   .   .

To sprint:           flat out for a short time

To jog:                a steady pace, easy to maintain

.   .   .

I don’t know how you’re going this week, but I’ve found myself operating in ‘sprint’ mode. There have been a lot of ‘big’ items to work on – Board meeting, end of year data review, strategic planning and a decent smattering of people related issues that required my full attention, energy, and time.

(And even as I write this I am a little embarrassed that any of it seems difficult, because in the back of my mind are our colleagues in The Hawke’s Bay . . . for blog readers outside NZ, a quick Google will show you why.)

Experience has taught me two things about sprinting – I’ll need to do it sometimes, and after I have, I need to recover.

Looking ahead into my calendar, I can see a solid fortnight of ‘sprint’ time in front of me and that’s only the known stuff, so some care is going to be needed if I want to avoid shaky hands.

I know right now that I need to look after the basics – food, water, exercise, sleep, family – which is a challenge because they are exactly the things that are easy to neglect with the pressure on. What helps me stay mindful of these needs are memories of the times when I haven’t been  . . . neglect them and the wobbling starts.

And after the sprint is over, I need to recover.

It’s actually urgent and important work this recovery period, as if not done, my ability to do my job is greatly lessoned, and my ability to be a functional and happy human likewise.

Recovery periods are more than the basic list detailed above, they’re not about survival, they’re about building up and filling the tank. And they absolutely can’t wait to the next Term break as that is too far away. Whatever your ‘tank filling’ actions are, there is really only one person standing in the way if they are not done. Doing this better is about taking ownership and giving permission. (Of course, creating a culture that encourages and supports you in these vital actions is the responsibility of our whole system, from the Minister of Education to your Board. It’s just that some of them don’t know this yet.)

Recovery is about sustainability – yours. And this is where ‘jogging’ is periodically necessary. By deliberately jogging after periods of high pressure, you are building up reserves for the inevitable times when the pace and pressure pick up. Jogging by design is not being lazy, it is an intentional action that makes you better at what you do and who you are over the longer term.

A practical example for me – last night I had a Board meeting and it finished late. I went home with my head full of stuff and the usual post meeting ‘to do’ list casually added to my workload. I didn’t really get to eat dinner and I certainly didn’t get to exercise or spend time with those I care about.

But this morning I have an off-site meeting at 8:30am and there lies possibility. So, I’m not calling into the Office first, and I’m not going to start on that new to do list before the meeting. Nope, what I’m going to do is go for a walk, make a leisurely coffee afterwards, and sit and chat with my kids as they head away to school. That’s what I call jogging.


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2 thoughts on “Sprinting or Jogging?

  1. Sandi Abel says:

    Great advice Dave – my is date night once a month – after being married 28 years – pleased to say that we can finally do this now the kids are off our hands – no empty – nest syndrome here – cheers Sandi

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