It’s been a while since I’ve put myself up for any kinds of challenges so I decided recently that I was way overdue for one. The problem was, I wasn’t sure what kind of challenge I should take.
On top of that, things have been kind of crazy lately and my normal writing schedule has been completely obliterated. As a result I have a huge backlog of articles I’ve been wanting to write and publish, but haven’t been able to actually sit down and take care of all of them. Additionally having recently wrecked one of my ankles in a bad landing while practicing vaults, I’ve been struggling to get my old mobility back now that it’s finished healing.
As a result I’ve decided to make this latest challenge all about productivity.
Specifically long term productivity.
Tortoise or Hare?
In general when it comes to productivity styles there tend to be two categories of people – tortoises and hares.
Like the fable I’m borrowing the titles from, tortoises take things slow and gradually. They focus on consistency of work over quantity of work. They’re less concerned with getting a lot done right now than they are with getting a little done at a time that will eventually accumulate into a large volume of work. Tortoises tend to not have a lot to show for their work at the outset, but wind up with a lot in the end.
Tortoises are marathoners.
Hares work the opposite way. Rather than focus on taking things slow and gradually they like to work fast and frenetically. They focus on insane bursts of super-productivity followed by stretches of repose – quantity of work done in a specific period of time is more important than working consistently. After a productive period a Hare will often have a large volume of work to show for their effort but will then take a long break where they don’t get much if anything done.
Hares are sprinters.
Now, I don’t honestly think there is any inherent advantage of one approach over the other. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.
Personally I have always been a hare. My habits when it comes to productivity are to go a long stretch where I just don’t get anything done. I feel out of it. Uninspired and entirely devoid of motivation. Then, out of nowhere, in a manic burst productive fervor I will destroy a week’s worth of tasks all at once. I’m the kind of person who goes two weeks without doing any work and then in one coffee fueled frenzy writes ten thousand words. I’m the kind of person who will stay up until 4 a.m. because I’m so fired up I can’t sleep until I finish whatever I’m working on.
I wrote my 34,000 word graduate thesis in 5 days. We’d had roughly six months to work on it, and I basically did nothing until that last week, at which point I went into a sleep deprived, hyper-caffeinated, cloistered work mode and got the whole thing done. I’ll have you know I got an A on it too.
In writing this, describing the peaks and valleys of my surges of productivity, it occurs to me it sounds a little like I have some kind of psychological problem. I guess that’s something to worry about another time.
So what’s the point of this tortoise and hare business?
Like I said I don’t think there’s anything inherently better or worse about either modality. Unlike the original fable in real life there are times when it’s more beneficial to be a tortoise and times when the advantage is the hare’s.
That being said, I have noticed that a pretty large number of successful people tend to be tortoises rather than hares. I also realized that, there being advantages and disadvantages to each, the best possible state to be in would be one where you could switch from one method to the other as the situation dictates.
That’s how this latest challenge was born.
As I said, I am a dyed in the wool hare. (Died in the fur? Whatever)
I think it would be extremely beneficial to me to train myself to embrace tortoise-hood in order to learn how to change from one way to another whensoever the situation I’m in predicates an advantage of one over the other. So I’m going to work to become a tortoise.
The Challenge Goals
The bread and butter of tortoise style productivity is an extremely long stretch of consistent productivity over the manic bursts I’m accustomed to.
That being the goal, rather than set a hard number of things to accomplish which would tempt me to work ahead in bursts and then take some time off I’m going to make my goal to perform certain actions every single day. I’ve done 30 day challenges similar to this in the past, but 30 days has never been long enough to actually force any kind of change in my behavior or habits.
So I’m turning it up to 11.
Rather than 30 days my challenge is to go for 330 days without missing a single day of productivity. Specifically, in order to target a handful of areas I particularly want to work on, my challenge will be to:
Write One Article Per Day for 330 Days
Mobilize My Ankle for 4 Minutes Per Day for 330 Days
Learn 15 New Words Per Day for 330 Days
I’ll write a post about how I intend to tackle this challenge tomorrow when I begin it, but those are the goals I’m shooting for. Ideally by the end of it I’ll have spent enough time in a consistent productive mode that I’ll finally be habituated to it and will be able to switch back and forth from one method to another.
What do you think? Can I do it or am I just setting myself up for failure? Have you ever tried doing something consistently for close to a year? How did it go? Any productivity tortoises out there want to share some tips? Let us know in the comments!
Photo Credit: Luca Gennari