Why It’s Important to Finish Strong

This post is the second installment of my learning from the most recent book in The Next Big Idea ClubWhen: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, by Daniel Pink.

Among the many How-To books, this is the first When-To book I’ve read, and loved it!

I never realized how much science was behind the concept of “perfect timing.” It turns out that the WHEN has much to do with the outcome.

There are so many interesting perspectives in this book, but one that resonated with me was about Endings.

Here are some fun facts:

  • Many races are won in the last seconds by the winner’s big kick at the end.
  • The majority of points scored in football happen in the final minutes of each half of the game.
  • The largest percentage of first-time marathoners per 500 runners are at ages 29 and 49. The end of a decade seems to trigger a reenergized pursuit of significance.

It’s the reason deadlines, for the most part, are so effective. We work extra hard to meet those deadlines.

Need more proof that endings matter?

When surveyed, people rate the quality of a life more highly, if it ended on an upswing. This is known as the “James Dean Effect”. A short life, perceived as exciting and ending on a high note is considered a better life than longer, happy lives, that ended on a downswing.

What about your opinion of a restaurant? If you received poor service during the meal so they offer a free dessert at the end of the meal, you feel more positive. How about when you left something at the table, and the waitperson ran after you to return it? You will leave with a more positive opinion.

As a way of leveraging the insights about the perfect-timing research, Daniel Pink offers a “Time-Hackers Handbook” at the end of each chapter. Here are a couple of his ideas and a few of my own.

From Daniel Pink:

  1. At the end of the workday, (or any day) – Take a few minutes to write down what you accomplished. Go beyond your to-do list by thinking about people you connected with, and how you built better relationships. Next, lay out your plan for tomorrow. Finally, send someone a thank-you or recognition email. It’s equally a form of elevation for that person and yourself!
  2. Vacation – If you want to get the most reminiscence bang for your buck, consider planning a highlight experience at the end of your vacation time. Same applies to other social outings and activities.

My additional thoughts:

  1. Pre-Vacation for those on your team – Be sure to send anyone on your team off on vacation on a positive note. Ensure there is a designated person to cover for them and is on point. Tell them to relax, enjoy the time away and make them feel supported so they can truly “check out” and return recharged and refreshed.
  2. Wrapping up a Meeting – Make time on the agenda to provide a summary of actions/next steps/decisions made, applaud accomplishments by those present, relative to the meeting topics, and thank participants for their contribution and engagement in the discussion.
  3. Before your head hits the pillow – Consider your blessings and be grateful for the lessons of the day – both good and bad.

Endings can cloud our perception of reality by putting too much credence in the final moments and losing sight of the total picture.

However, endings provide an opportunity to be reflective, drive us to reach a goal, trim out the non-essentials from our life, and help us elevate our thinking through poignancy. I love Pinks’ description: Poignancy offers “a rush of unexpected insight – the possibility that by discarding what we wanted, we’ve gotten what we need.”

How can you leverage the opportunities of the “endings” in your life?

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect by email at mduesterhoft@people-results.com.

Martha Duesterhoft