I’ve been restarting myself a lot lately.

First came the pruning last summer. Then the grind of winter, and a decision to start again in mid-January. Then a declaration of my personal new year on March 1 after a horrendous February. And finally a realization last week that I’d been living scared.

My writings here are a clear reflection of how my life is going.

Essentially, I’d work furiously for a while (usually two weeks to a month) and then burn out for an equal period of time. I decided that wasn’t healthy and spent the last six weeks figuring out an alternative. In seeking another option, I reviewed my annual plan, my book notes, my time logs, and my binder of inspirational articles.

The answer was in front of me all along.

Here’s an excerpt of Jim Collins’ latest book, Great by Choice, from an article in Fortune magazine:

Imagine you’re standing with your feet in the Pacific Ocean in San Diego, looking inland. You’re about to embark on a 3,000 mile walk, from San Diego to the tip of Maine.

On the first day you march 20 miles, making it out of town. On the second day you march 20 miles. And again on the third day you march 20 miles, heading into the heat of the desert. It’s hot, more than 100 degrees, and you want to rest in the cool of your tent. But you don’t. You get up and you march 20 miles.

You keep the pace, 20 miles a day.

Then the weather cools, and you’re in comfortable conditions with the wind at your back, modulating your effort. You stick with your 20 miles.

Then you reach the Colorado high mountains and get hit by snow, wind, and temperatures below zero – and all you want to do is stay in your tent. But you get up. You get dressed. You march 20 miles.

You keep up the effort – 20 miles, 20 miles, 20 miles – then you cross into the plains, and it’s a glorious springtime, and you can go 40 or 50 miles in a day. But you don’t. You sustain your pace, marching 20 miles.

And eventually, you get to Maine.

Now, imagine another person who starts out with you on the same day in San Diego. He gets all excited by the journey and logs 40 miles the first day.

Exhausted from his first gigantic day, he wakes up to 100 degree temperatures. He decides to hang out until the weather cools, thinking “I’ll make it up when conditions improve.” He maintains this pattern – big days with good conditions, whining and waiting in his tent on bad days – as he moves across the western United States.

Just before the Colorado high mountains, he gets a spate of great weather and he goes all out, logging 40 to 50 mile days to make up lost ground. But then he hits a huge winter storm when utterly exhausted. It nearly kills him and he hunkers down in his tent, waiting for spring.

When spring finally comes, he emerges, weakened, and stumbles off toward Maine. By the time he enters Kansas City, you, with your relentless 20-mile march, have already reached the tip of Maine. You win, by a large margin.

Sound familiar? I’ve been marching like guy number two. This blog actually contains the proof of it.

Collins goes on to explain, “The 20-Mile March is more than a philosophy. It’s about having concrete, clear, intelligent, and rigorously pursued performance mechanisms that keep you on track. The 20-Mile March creates two types of self-imposed discomfort: (1) the discomfort of unwavering commitment to high performance in difficult conditions, and (2) the discomfort of holding back in good conditions.”

That got me. I get it.

I’ve been making both mistakes, slacking off when the conditions aren’t perfect and going all out when I faced a deadline or felt inspired.

In response, I designed my own Daily March. Then I expanded that into a Weekly Review Form. And finally, I created a personal Dashboard that reminds me each day to stay on track.

I’m still learning exactly how much work equals 20 miles. For example, I’ve determined that I can handle about 10 non-maintenance type projects every week, across all of the organizations I’m involved with. I’ve also learned that I can handle three major focus areas at a time. If I exceed either of those, overwhelm kicks in and little gets accomplished.

I’ve been using this system consistently for two weeks, and I’ve accomplished more than I usually did in entire months. Plus, I’m healthy and have time for my family.

I’ve decided that my next project will be about sharing this philosophy and tools with others that believe the key to success is disciplined, consistent, focused effort.

Let’s march forward together.