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The Problem with Long-Term Thinking in Action Mode

I was running through a beautiful marsh area near my house on another marathon training run. My mind was wandering like crazy as it tends to do when I run. Things were slowly connecting like they usually do when I let my mind wander. Running tends to do that for me. I let it go and it will find interesting things and put them together. Sometimes they’re useful, sometimes they’re totally random. The challenge is remembering them by the time I get home.A lot of my thinking these days is about my projects on PureOutside, my outdoors websites or some other outdoor activity. Today I was thinking a lot about my first marathon coming up in just over a week. The questions were flowing freely. Was I ready yet? What did my legs feel like? What were the water and first aid stations going to be like on the run? Do I need new shoes? (I just blew out the side of my current shoes. Do I get a new pair with a week left or possibly repair the current ones with some creative engineering?)I got stuck thinking about running. I was thinking about how I currently felt running and comparing that to how I thought running the marathon was going to feel. There was a big difference. Today my legs felt sluggish, I had just ate dinner and it was near the end of the day. Not ideal conditions for a great run. But I was out there. When it comes to a marathon, just getting out there only counts for so much.I don’t have a big problem with my training so far. It could have gone better but with a marathon in a week, I’m going to get what I get. There’s not much I can change now. I just need to stay healthy and uninjured and I’ll be able to finish my first marathon. But I didn’t really have an issue with how the training was going.What I kept getting stuck on was actually how I was thinking. I was in short-term action mode and yet I was worried about the big goal of the marathon.  I shouldn’t be thinking about the big long-term goal when I’m in action mode. I need to be thinking about the details, the short-term, the action. Thinking about the long-term goal when you’re in action mode causes 2 problems.Action mode is for doing small tasks. It’s for doing all the small bits you lined up in the long-term planning mode. You should think big, and long-term in planning mode. You should think detailed and short-term in action mode.  When they get mixed up and you start thinking big and long-term in action mode bad things happen. Thinking about a huge goal when you’re doing a small task is discouraging. All you see is the huge number of tasks left to do. Yes, you are currently completing one of those tasks but it doesn’t feel that great. It feels small and insignificant compared to the large number left to do. That’s not a good feeling.To avoid that discouragement focus on the current small task. Do that task as good as you can do it. Put all your effort into it and keep your sights only on that one task for the time being. Look at the beginning of the task and the end of the task and focus on those points instead of the end of the huge goal looming ahead of you. Keep your sights small when you’re in action mode, you’ll feel better and your work will be higher quality.The second problem with thinking long-term in action mode is that you’re not focused on what you should be focused on. Focusing on the big goal instead of the current task is focusing on the result and not the pieces of the equation. It’s like focusing on having a “Book” to your name instead of focusing on writing the best damn thing you can write. If all you can think about is the end result of a book you’re not going to write very well. The end result is a terrible book. If you instead spent the time you are in action mode highly focused on writing the best paragraphs and chapters you could possible write, the book that pops out at the end is going to be quite good.You don’t have any control over the output or result of the process. You only have control over the inputs. Make those inputs  incredible and, guess what, the output is going to be pretty amazing too. Use junk for your inputs and that’s what you’ll get out. There’s a saying in the programming space, “garbage in, garbage out,” about testing data. If you don’t put proper data into your software to test, your test results are going to be shoddy.The next time you’re in action mode and getting down on yourself because there’s so much left to do, pause and check out those thoughts. Are you thinking long-term or short? Long-term thoughts in planning mode. Short-term thoughts in action mode.Can you work think long-term in action mode? Does it work for you or does it sabotage your work?***Project UpdateThese are quick updates on my current projects. They tend to be goals from The List. These last couple weeks have been excitingFirst Marathon: I did my first Marathon a couple weeks ago! I’ll have an update on that in the next couple weeks.Sailing: I did my first large sailing race last weekend. It was just over 100 miles and took us about 26 hours to get through. I’ll be putting up a trip report on PureOutside soon.PureOutside Trail Guide: My first product on PureOutside is almost complete. I’ve filtered through the bewildering array of modules for the Drupal Content Management System (like WordPress but more powerful and complicated) and have things set up for the final leg. All that’s left now is a bit of smoothing out and I’ll be ready to put it up for sale.