Some things just take time

In life, some things just take time. No matter how much effort you put into making these things go faster, they have a speed limit, and the speed limit is quite low. For example:

You do have a considerable amount of control over the speed of these types of things. If you don't intentionally practice a skill, you won't

But I've noticed is that you can get more "bang for your buck" if you spread out your effort on these things over a time period. Compare these situations:

  1. Spending a month learning to code for 40 hours a week.
  2. Spending a year coding every day for half an hour.

In both situations, you'd be spending the same amount of time on intentional practice, but you'll probably be way ahead if you spread your time out.

The list of examples go on. When I've had low, "depression-like" periods (definitely not clinical depression,) it takes weeks of treating my mind right to get out of them. One day of waking up and showering doesn't fix it.

This reality is something I've struggled with a lot, because my personality makes me bad at context switching and consistency. I want to everything in sprints. I enjoy doing one thing at a time for a brief, intense period and then moving onto the next thing.

But if you're trying to do something and it can only happen slowly, you have to stick with it. The intensity of your sprints are not the critical factor. Here are some things I've learned when trying to do things that happen slowly:

1. Do it more often

When trying to do so something often, you're basically just trying to build a habit. Paradoxically, it's easier to build a habit when you do things more often than less often. Daily habits are the easier to build than weekly habits, because performing them stays top-of-mind and you build cues faster.

Here's a super applicable example: exercising. Most people don't exercise every day, because (for average people) rest days maximize resuts.

And while rest days do increase outcomes, I found that they also really disrupted my ability to build a habit. You can't build a daily ritual every other day. When I switched to lower intensity, daily exercises, my adherence went way up.

If you're struggling with an activity, do it more often, not less often.

(By the way, Atomic Habits is an OK resource on habits. I don't recommend reading the book because there's a lot of fluff though, just read a summary.)

2. Optimize for your worst days

One thing that kills habits is setting unrealistic goals and failing to meet them.

Recently, I want to spend more time writing. So I made a commitment to publish a full-length blog post every day. But, like most people, life got in the way, and I missed this a bunch of times. Then I felt guilty about missing it, which led me to work on other stuff instead.

The mistake I made here was committing to too much. What I should have done was commit to something I knew I could get done every day, no matter what.

Instead of committing to publish a full-length blog post every day, I decided to focus on writing a couple of paragraphs each day.

No one says I have to stop when I reach a couple of paragraphs. On most days, I write much more than that, because writing has inertia once you start. But on my worst day, I can spend 15 minutes and just write a couple of paragraphs. And 15 minutes a day matters a lot over a year.

3. Build momentum

Once you have a habit going, it's much harder to stop. There are many ways to build momentum, but easiest way to do this is to get a calendar and check off each day that you achieved your commitment. When you get a streak going, you'll want to maintain it, which generates motivation for you even on your worst days.

I think Github could seriously improve the number of people who code every day if they put your contributions graph on your home page. Instead, they hide it in your profile, where other people can see it, but you rarely check!

Like I mentioned above, I'm trying to build the skill of writing. I made a super simple calendar to track my writing, which you can see here.