Gill MA, Part Two

My latest trip from VT to MA, 173.6 miles, got me thinking of something else besides pit stops. I was running late, and noting my progress via odometer and various landmarks and highway markers. As my mood went up and down I realized (re-realized?) the power of manageable goals in every form of activity. Amassing 173+ miles, the entire task, is of course the Big Enchilada—but a horrifying and de-motivating thought at 4 a.m., which is often my departure time. The sort of thing that spurs me on is scoring the readily achievable 13-mile nugget from home to Dorset VT. (Hooray, I've made a noticeable start!!) Likewise, bagging the 12 miles from the aforementioned Gill MA to Erving MA is downright exhilarating (it means 50% done on the most traffic-y part of the road).

As I thought on this, I realized/re-realized a bunch of things:

***Milestones are all-important, no matter how trivial or repetitive the task.

***"Milestoning" is a real art for reasons psychological, as much as or more than for reasons of "substance."

***Truly trivial milestones are often meaningless even if they are "accomplishments" of a sort and milestones of a sort—scoring the five miles from the Dorset turn to the Stratton turn is no big deal amidst my journey to Logan.

***"Milestone power" is variable. E.g., at the beginning or near the end of a task the apparently trivial can be grand. "Well, I've done something"—that's what I feel at 4 a.m. when I make it to the immediate end of the farm road that starts at our house, thus putting behind me the first 0.7 miles, in numbing reality a scant 0.4% of the whole. (Milestone power is also variable in other dimensions. E.g., in the workday context, smallish milestones that are critical spurs to the team's doing the job—may look pretty darned puny to the boss; hence, widespread publication thereof may not be a great idea.)

***There is a definite sweetspot, "the perfect milestone." That 13 miles to Dorset, or 12 miles to Erving, is a winner—substantial enough to matter, merit a pumped fist at 4 a.m., and constitute "progress of note."

***There is a pretty fine line between "trivial" on the one end and "daunting" on the other. (A 30-mile stretch, if thought of that way, is downright discouraging: "Dear God, these 27 miles of Route 2 are frigging endless.")

VT winter approaches, and at times I'll be forced to do my powerwalking on my treadmill. I hate hate hate exercising indoors! But to the point of this post, I spent a pretty penny on a new treadmill a while back. Why? Mostly because the distance accumulator indicator has three decimal places instead of two. I crave constant measurable progress while on the damn machine, and nothing, but nothing, is "trivial." I feel like the wind is at my back as the odometer moves from 1.723 miles to 1.724. Forever, per the old machine, was struggling from 1.72 to 1.73. Ah, milestone Power!

You are welcome to dismiss the triviality of my examples here—but I do urge you to pay the closest attention to the Art of Milestoneing. It's actually of the utmost importance if, like me, you believe in the Ultimate and Abiding Power of what I call "XX," or "Double X"—the relentless pursuit of Excellence in Execution.

Tom Peters posted this on November 3, 2008, in Strategies.
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