On continuous improvement

It is really hard starting something new. Just consider the first time you sat down at the computer to write a “Hello World!” program. Following the tutorial or whatever, you were able to copy/paste or type the code into some IDE or a REPL environment and run it. Then you decided to create “an application” and it was nothing like that Hello World example. Maybe you saw the video on How to create a blog in 15 minutes, and got hooked to this fancy new Ruby on Rails thing like I have. Regardless of the way you started, there is one constant in everything that you do.

If you do something consistently over a longer period of time, you will eventually get really good at it.

Consider blogging, or technical writing for example. Unless you were some kind of a teen writing prodigy, you can’t write that well. Especially if the school system you were a part of didn’t encourage creative writing. I struggled with essays and general writing throughout my school years. And I never thought that writing was a skill that everyone should have. After almost 6 years of on and off blogging, I believe writing to be a really necessary skill, and it really changes the way you express your self, and the way you convey ideas to other people.

Looking back at my posts from 2009, I can’t stop being sad for myself, because of the bad grammar, sentence construction, and even the notion of conveying ideas to people. But it got better over time. I used to struggle when writing 200-300 words in a blog post, and now a 500+ word blog post almost comes naturally.

Gradual improvement is a great thing, and if you hone your skill consistently, you will become an expert in what you do. I know I’m far away from being the next Seth Godin when it comes to writing, but I can try to improve with each post I write, and I can create a habit of writing every day.

You can do the same, choose a skill you want to improve, don’t set any goals or anything, just do it. If it’s writing, make a calendar entry each day and tell yourself to write e.g. 500 words that day. It can even be 100 words, creating a good habit is what matters most, not the amount of doing something.

Don’t set your goals too high, because you will never accomplish them, and you will loose the taste of all those small wins that come when you do get good at something, and realise that you have done something worthy.

There is a great app that I use, and it’s called Commit, and it is probably the best thing I could have done for me. This app, in addition to the Tiny Habits method by B.J. Fogg, was the cornerstone in most of my work.

It is hard to force yourself to sit down and write a 2000+ words blog post, but it is pretty easy to sit down and write 500 words. If you struggle with 500, start with 100. It won’t take you more than a couple of minutes accomplishing that goal, and if you really like what you are writing about, you can always continue. It’s the sitting down (or standing up at a desk) and starting that counts. Make that your daily habit.

You can always do more than the minimum, but set a realistic minimum that you can do each day. And your skills will improve. Of course, they will improve faster if you do it more, but don’t overdo it, because if you burn out, it will be really hard to start again.

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