Out of the starting grid

I was recently reminiscing about my first day of Year 12. Sadly, it’s a lot longer ago than I care to admit.


I remember coming home after my first day at school and having a very clear and structured timetable for what I was going to do that night.


After a rushed dinner, there were books to read, notes to write, things to underline, fluorescent sticky notes to adhere, formulas to memorise, on and on and on.


That first night I had set myself about 28 hours of homework.


I was motivated to succeed. I wanted it badly. I had spent my entire summer break thinking about what I needed to do. I had a plan and I was ready for action.


About an hour into my first night study marathon I had a very uncomfortable feeling. I realised that apart from being a logical impossibility, 28 hours of study a night was going to be very difficult to do.


I might be able to pull it off once or twice. But within a very short space of time, I would grind myself into the ground and burn myself out.


So, I decided to grudgingly scrap that first plan and just ease into the year. I concluded that I would just start studying and reading and note-taking and each night get as far ahead as I could.


(Incidentally, I remember that all my note-taking was by hand. We had a laptop back then that probably weighed about as much as a modern desktop, if not more. And you needed the DOS skills of Bill Gates to just turn the thing on!)


Anyway, I set myself far more realistic targets and recognised that Year 12 was going to be more of a marathon than a sprint. I needed to work hard. I needed to have goals that stretched me. But I also needed to pace myself.


I am adopting a very similar perspective at the start of 2013. I want it to be a big year. Was I satisfied with my 2012? Not really. Have I set far bigger goals for this year? Absolutely.


What I also know is that 2013 is 12 months long. I need to get down to work but I equally don’t want to get to March and already feel worn down.


I also don’t want to get to the end of January and start ripping into myself for not already putting in 700-hour weeks and solving long-term challenges in a matter of days or weeks.


So, to the extent that I give anyone any advice, I would suggest that you ease into 2013 full of energy and enthusiasm but also recognise that you can’t afford to burn out in three months’ time either.


In the words of my favourite grand prix driver from the 1980s, Alain Prost, the goal is to win as slowly as possible. Let everyone else crash and burn and slide off the track and come through first when it counts – on the finish line.


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