Learning to Stretch

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No, this isn’t me, but I wish it was.

During the last couple months, I’ve been doing a lot of stretching. I’ve been literally stretching my tired muscles as I train to walk my second half marathon. I’ve been stretching mentally at work, too.

I’m a month into a 3-month project where I’m covering for a coworker who’s on maternity leave. It’s been a great experience so far – I’m not one to shy away from new challenges, and this has definitely been a challenge for me.

One of the great things about stretching is you learn how far you can really go. Walking a half marathon teaches you that you can walk farther and faster than you ever thought possible. In my project role, I’ve learned a few things too.

Rushing the job never works.

If you’re doing a 10-mile training walk, you need to allot enough time to complete the distance. I know I can’t cover 10 miles in an hour, so I don’t even try. Sure, you can (and should) push the pace a little, but I know my limits. If I don’t have 2 ½ hours free, I know I can’t do 10 miles.

The same thing goes for work. As with any new project or set of responsibilities, the sheer length of the to-do list tends to create a sense of urgency. It’s easy to fall into the trap of hurrying through a task to pare down the list.

I’ve always known that a rush job is never your best job, but this project has been a big refresher course in slowing down. It’s better to make sure everything is right than it is to race through everything as fast as you can. Luckily, I avoided major stumbles, but I was perilously close a couple times and it wasn’t fun.

Love what you do – or fake it till you make it.

Last year I walked my first half marathon. I had 2 goals: finish the race, and not come in last place. I’m proud to say I accomplished both goals! When I started training for this year’s race, I set some more aggressive goals that required some heavy-duty training. I’m not gonna lie – there were times that I really wanted to slow down or cut the distance short. But I kept going. And eventually, I found that I enjoyed pushing myself!

When it comes to PPC, I’m the luckiest person on earth because I get to do work that I love and get paid for it. It doesn’t feel like work. In this project, though, there’s a lot more client contact than I had before. While I love talking to clients, it can be challenging to be in meetings for 6-7 hours a day.

So, I took the same approach as I did with the marathon: faked it until I made it. It didn’t take long – maybe a week tops – to feel comfortable, but I’m sure if I’d copped a poor attitude, I’d still be struggling.

And really, it’s easy to talk to people. If you treat everyone as though they’re just the person you wanted to talk to, the conversation will be smooth and pleasant. If you take 5 seconds to confirm receipt of an email, you’ll ease worries. Simple things, to be sure, but they work.

The half marathon is a week from Sunday, and I know I’m ready. And I’ve hit my stride on my new project, too. It’s always good to stretch.

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