Real-World Personal Planning

Across the summer, Endurance Corner had a series of articles about creating the life structure of an elite amateur athlete. Sue laid out very specific ideas for creating the space necessary to get stuff done. Even if you’re not focused on maximizing your athletic performance, the articles have ideas that will help you create the space necessary to undertake a major life project.

When we read articles on time management, our minds will list reasons why we can’t.  That’s OK. When I consult on time management, I make the point that you don’t want to (try to) implement everything.  

Take one idea and implement it now.

Make that first idea a habit then take another and implement it now.

People that fail to get stuff done are trying to get too much done.


A common error is to think that money is holding us back.  The thinking goes…

…if I only had enough money then I could sub-contract my shopping, meal prep, cleaning, driving, child care… and I wouldn’t have to work. I’d be on permanent vacation and I’d be happy.

Given my previous career in finance, I know many people that choose to live a life that’s “fully sub-contracted.” Most of them are bored.

The best lesson of the last recession (2008/2009) was re-learning to enjoy daily living. Faced with a massive reduction in personal income, I brought my life completely “in-house.” My life is more stable now and I’ve lost the illusion that a utopia of happiness lay ahead – if I could just rid myself of daily life.

Because there is tremedous social, and media, support to follow a path of luxury (ever reduced responsibility, ever increasing wealth) – I pay attention to individuals that choose to stay engaged, regardless of their capacity to subcontract.

What can we learn from these highly productive people?

My friend’s profile:

  • Married with kids
  • Sits on 10-12 boards
  • Manages his own business, which he founded and continues to lead
  • Oversees 50+ managers in his capacity as a fund trustee 

It’s tempting for me to write “despite all this, he is still a great athlete.” My buddy would tell you “because he’s so busy, he has the skills to be a decent athlete.”

What can we learn from a man that doesn’t want to subcontract his life, wants to be extremely productive and retains the freedom to achieve personal goals?

The best time to talk with an endurance athlete is during moderate exercise. I took advantage of an opportunity to conduct a running-interview (my version of a walking meditation). Key tips:

On an rolling annual basis: place the big things first – block out full days for important items and get away from your daily routine to apply total focus.

On a daily basis: focus on a limited # of things – know what you want to get done each day and check the alignment of how you spend your time.

Rotate your focus: triathlon focused years (self) alternate with family focused years (others).

Learn how to say no a lot – he passes on ~20 attractive opportunites per day (!)

Be willing to make unpopular decisions that are in the best interests of the people you represent – achieve this by having alignment with inner circle (spouse/family/work/self).

Be an exemplar – first up in the morning, first out the door, most productive.  Being an exemplar creates considerable personal freedom.  Freedom flows through being fit for leadership.

None of the above require money and I find these traits present in most my peers that are highly satisfied with their lives.

Be Great.