Sustainable progress

I’ve been a bit, um, swamped this week. It’s the usual problem of attempting to take a week off, in this case before the 4th. I wind up needing to do 2 weeks’ worth of work at once, including writing about 8 different articles. Good times.

So I’ve put myself on a strict schedule. Every article has been given a day. I give myself the morning to write 2 articles. I give myself the afternoon to edit two book chapters (not final edits by any means — but this round of them).

The good news is that I generally underestimate how long it takes to write a reasonable draft. Editing can take however much time you give it. Nothing is done, it’s just abandoned, but even so, if I finish my 2 articles and 2 chapters for the day, I stop. I resist all urges to just get started on another piece and maybe take that off my plate for the next day. Won’t I be thanking myself in the morning?

Not really. The compact with myself that compels me to get up and crank out two article drafts is that I will feel fresh enough to do so. I write my 1600 (2 x 800) words. I edit my 16,000 (2 x 8000) words. And then my brain is mush. If one side of me breaks its half of the bargain, the other might break its — and I won’t be able to write an article when I need to. I envision the creative part of my brain acting like a sullen child. Why should I be creative on command? You pushed me too hard yesterday. You broke your promise. Nanny-nanny-boo-boo.

Sustainable progress is real progress. Fits and starts often isn’t.

In other news: Here’s my interview with Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism. Please ignore the grammatical error that somehow wound up in the opening few paragraphs. Ugh. The piece was also picked up by Lifehacker.

I also wrote about why we keep reading ‘have it all’ stories.

Stormclad sent me a calculation they did showing that people spend 7.7 years of their lives doing household chores. There are a few issues with this one. The care of household children and other family members is included in here, so we’re really talking non-market labor, rather than household chores. From that perspective, a mere 7.7 years in a lifetime isn’t so bad. Actually, I find it interesting that laundry + lawn care adds up to more time than people spend caring for children. I guess that’s because laundry and lawn care are lifelong activities, whereas children require intensive care for very few years, and most people don’t have that many kids.

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6 Responses to Sustainable progress


  1. I feel your pain! I usually work ahead when I’m going to take a week off and it makes the week before vacation a little on the hectic side (as much as sitting at a computer typing can be hectic?)

    • That may be part of why I’m not crazy about vacations! And then after the vacation I need another vacation to recover from the vacation.

      • Laura says:

        @nicoleandmaggie – yep. Fortunately, I have a special dispensation to work during this one — but I’m aiming to use that time to concentrate on book stuff, not daily article writing…

  2. This is a great post, and something I still struggle with. It’s better (for me, at least) to be consistent with things I’m working on (blog posts, quilts, even chores) and do a little bit every day and then STOP than to try and keep getting more and more ahead when I finish something more quickly than expected.

  3. Tana says:

    Thank you for posting this. I know it is true, but I struggle to figure out what my limits are. I should just be able to do everything, right? It is so important to draw the line, though. I really struggle with that, and then I burn out and just disappear for a day or two.

  4. ARC says:

    This is kind of like the relationship I have with exercise, too. If I have to motivate myself to get going with a promise that I can stop after 20 minutes, and 20 minutes comes and I’m still not into it, then I stop. I’d rather have a couple of days in a row of 20 minutes than one day of 40 because I forced myself to do it then a week to recover from the hatred of it ;)

    There are days I continue because I *want* to and it’s fun. I’m hoping for more of those.