Steady Progress

Steady as She Goes

Simple but profound: steady progress trumps massive effort. You know the fable. Here’s an example.

Last summer, I tried to write by metaphorically running marathons. I’d hurl myself into a massive, all day, grueling event and produce maybe 10 pages, an enormous amount. This took two days to psyche myself up, two days dreading it and not getting much done. After all, I’m going to cover the entire distance later. Then it took two days to recover, both from actual exhaustion and a big dose of lazy. I worked so hard on the marathon, I deserved a break. Daily productivity average: two pages. Daily enjoyment of life: really low.

This summer, I applied to writing what I learned about self-motivation from playing guitar. So I write some each day. It’s okay to knock off early sometimes, and it’s okay if I later decide to trash most of what I wrote that day. There’s a goal in mind, but not much spazzing over quantity or quality. I can get a little ahead today and take it easy tomorrow, but not the other way around. There’s discipline in doing it every day, and no fudging: I mark the calendar with a check for a good, productive day, or put an “X” for a bad day. Mostly once I get started, it’s not so bad. I take breaks and do chores, run errands, exercise, play guitar, etc. Daily average: three or four pages. Daily enjoyment: really high.

Not bragging, and certainly not perfect. I’ve had a few bad days, days where I just was lazy, or felt bad and didn’t bother, or gave into the doubting voice. But the vast majority, 97%, have been good days where I made progress and enjoyed the day, too. Work smarter, not harder.

The key, though, is to stop wasting energy with dread or guilty. With less dread, there’s not much procrastinating. With less guilt, there’s less resentment of the task. Stop wasting energy worrying about failing. Some days quality or quantity is low, but that’s okay. First, everyone is human. Second, we can try again tomorrow. Huh. For some reason, this win-win scenario of good productivity and fun was really hard to get into my head. I should’ve remembered my Aesop. The slow and steady tortoise really does win the race

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