Around ten years ago, a friend of mine bet me that he could run a mile faster than I could. We each had a month or two to train, and then we met at the high school track near my old house. He ran first, and did the mile in seven and a half minutes. That was actually faster than I'd run a mile before.
What would my strategy be? Well, the oval track was a fourth of a mile long. I figured that I'd run my usual pace for the first three laps, and then for that last lap, I would just murder myself on the pavement. May as will give it everything I've got, since there's nothing after the finish line.
When I hit he finish line, I had to grab the bleachers to avoid falling down. My legs were shaking, my head was pounding, and I was gasping for breath. I had won, running a 6:59, my fastest mile ever.
A few nights ago it was eleven pm, and my non-negotiable computer-off time of midnight was drawing close. I'd had an amazingly productive day, and the thought crossed my mind that I'd already gotten enough done during the day, and could afford to take a break for the last hour.
For some reason my mind was drawn to that mile race, and I thought about my strategy there. Didn't it apply here as well? What if I worked twice as hard for the last hour, knowing that any stress or fatigue I picked up would dissolve as I dropped into bed to read and then sleep.
I picked a chunk of work that would normally take me more than an hour to do, I buckled down, and I focused. Every few minutes I would look down at the clock, reminding myself that I had to push it. At the buzzer, 11:59, I did my final test of my code. I pushed it to sett.com and shut down the computer.
You know what? I felt great--- a lot better than I would have felt if I had decided to take it easy. My work brought into contrast the tangible differences between the two approaches. Working was better. The last hour of the day shouldn't be seen as a time to coast, but rather a time to give it everything you've got.
Photo is from Inari, Japan