The Importance of Crossing Daily Finish Lines

I am mostly offline, attending a business conference. I have asked several bloggers to post in my absence. This is a guest post by Tom Basson, the spiritual growth pastor at Grace Family Church in Durban, South Africa. You can connect with him on his blog or follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

One of the most memorable moments of my life was crossing the finish line of the Comrades Ultra-Marathon.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Willowpix

After eighty-nine kilometers (fifty-six miles), and a grueling eleven hours and thirty-four minutes on the road, hand-in-hand with my mom, I crossed the finish line. We gave each other a hug and each shed a tear. It was a powerful moment I will never forget.

And it got me thinking about finishing lines—about how we don’t need them just at the end of a long hard race, but at the end of long hard day, too.

Something you never see an athlete doing is going back over the line to run some more. Of course not; the race is over!

Yet, so often in my own life, even though the “race” of a workday is over, I continue to “run”—to check email, answer calls, stress about problems at the office—when really I should be resting, relaxing, and giving my presence to my family.

That’s why this year I have started to intentionally create “finishing lines” at the end of everyday.

This is a space where I draw an imaginary line in the sand and choose to put the day behind me, shifting my attitude, heart, and thoughts towards the next part of my day—whether that’s exercise, recreation, or family time. Here’s how I do it:

As the final activity before leaving work in the evening, I set aside twenty minutes to take stock of what’s happened today and decide the most important tasks to accomplish tomorrow.

I do this by asking myself a series of questions:

  • How did the day go? What success did I experience? What challenges?
  • What did I learn today? About myself? About others? What do I plan to do differently, or the same, tomorrow?
  • Who did I interact with? Anyone I need to update? Thank? Apologize? Ask a question? Share feedback?

Taking this time to reflect allows me to clarify my thoughts, collect myself, refuel and renew my mind, and make conscious “course corrections” that ultimately save time and energy. And it’s made all the difference.

Since I have started this practice, I am far less grumpy when I arrive home. I feel more in control, and am more clear about what I still have to accomplish.

Most importantly, it enables me to “switch off” from work when I’m at home and engage fully with the people I love most.

Crossing your finish line, whether at the end of a race or at the end of the day, is something that not only leaves you feeling satisfied and fulfilled, but motivates you to finish well.

Question: What do you do to cross your finish line everyday? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://messymiddle.com/ Amy

    I’d love to hear some suggestions for singles in minstry :)! Love it that spouses and kids can call to you to ” be” with them — but I find being single AND in ministry AND working out of my home can be a bit of a triple whamy. Am open to all suggestions!

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  • Carrie Collins

    This is one of the hardest things to do but I’ve seen that nothing earth-shattering has happened as a result of this: turning off the cell phone once I walk in the door at the end of the work day.  My friends and family know this about me, and know to call my home phone if they need to get in touch with me in the evening, or even on the weekend.  Or they can reach me through my husband on his cell, as he always has it on since he is a business owner.  Two other things: making sure I end the day on a positive note and have something work-related to look forward to the next day, and listening to praise/inspirational music on the way home.

  • http://tomraines.wordpress.com/ Tom

    Late to the game but enjoyed this and copied your list to see if I can set a daily finish line. Thank you!

  • http://www.chaplainmike.com/ Mike Hansen

    I haven’t read all the comments yet so you might address this, but I have a question. If you have an answer to any of the questions, say, to the question, “Anyone I need to update?” “Yes.” – do you take the time to do that task, write it down for tomorrow, or just reflect? I can see 20 minutes turning into more time or are the tasks built into your time?

    I have often prayed on the way home too, that God would be in my house already, with all the conversations we have. And especially that I would be very aware of the FIRST TWO MINUTES of my arrival at home, because that can set the tone for the rest of the evening altogether. 

    I am a hospital chaplain. I did pastor churches before and truthfully one of the reasons I chose hospital work was the very reason of leaving a building to go home, while still staying true to God’s call on my life.

    Thanks.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Sleep. :-D

  • Judy Dobles

    Every day can only be lived once.  A brief reflection at the end of each day helps you make the next one better.  Focusing on how to personally improve allows you to make a bigger difference in the lives of those around you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/craig.woodman Craig Woodman

    My iPhone with Siri is a great tool for the end of the day, and my drive home.  I dictate a day’s journal, detailing things such as when I arrive and leave work, as well as any interesting events of the day.  Things that stand out concerning employees or customers are good to record, as well as anything else that you think that you may need to know someday.  I even give a brief overview of the day’s weather.  I dictate and Siri transcribes (although you can use Dragon to do the same thing if you do not have an iPhone 4S or new iPad.)  I save these journal entries into Evernote, with their own tag. I set up a special microphone right on my sun visor, so it picks up my voice quite well.

    One of the most powerful things that I do is to review these entries at the end of the week.  I can often catch open loops that way, and I can touch up some of the transcription errors that Siri may make.  It is pretty accurate, and you know from context what the entry says.  I also look at entries from 4 weeks ago, 3 months ago, and 6 months ago (when I get to that point, and have enough journals.)  The perspective is incredible!

    One other benefit with Evernote – you can search as well.  This is particularly handy when you want to look up any interactions or reference with a customer or employee – you just search their name.

    This alone has done wonders for my productivity and sense of balance.

  • http://twitter.com/joewickman Joe Wickman

    Fantastic post. Punching a clock gives you the finality of, “Work is done for today.” For those of us who don’t , the temptation to idle and churn for the rest of the day is great. We somehow feel like we’re being responsible, even productive, but we’re not. This may the #1 request my family would make of me, to truly be present when I am at home.

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