“We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently (…) Over the long run, the unglamorous habit of frequency fosters both productivity and creativity” ― Gretchen Rubin on Manage your day-to-day: Build your routine, find your focus & sharpen your creative mind.
I still have a bucketful of things I want to do, learn and accomplish. And these won’t be one of those posts where I say it is because I don’t have time. Because I do have time. Between work (8h per day), sleep (8h per day), eat, exercise and run other errands (4h per day), there are still 4h left every day.
At some point, I realized that time was not the problem; what held me back was when I actually sat to do something. Here are some examples of those situations:
I would look at all those things and think: “Wow! There’s a lot to do; there will not be time enough today, maybe tomorrow.”
A distraction always appeared; one slip and I was already on Facebook, Youtube, and the next thing you know I am watching a Friends episode for the 11th time.
Since I wanted to do that project for so long, the pressure to use the time in a good manner and produce something brilliant was enormous. And when I was not able to do that, I felt terrible
A vicious cycle
Because of those reasons, I ended up not starting my side project. I would get frustrated the next day because I couldn’t produce the day before, and ended up not starting again. So the vicious cycle begin and I would end up leaving more ideas on the shelf.
The role of Frequency
The solution to all those problems for me can be summed up in one word: frequency. The condition of occurring at frequent intervals. In other words, carve out time and do a little bit every day. Frequency is key. Every day a little bit, at the same time and the same amount of time. This concept may seem simple, but when applied it can be life changing.
The first time I heard about frequency and really paid attention to it was when reading the book “Manage your day-to-day: Build your routine, find your focus & sharpen your creative mind.”
There is a chapter written by Gretchen Rubin where she talks specifically about the benefits of maintaining a frequent schedule when working on projects. She states that:
- Frequency makes starting easier
- Frequency keeps ideas fresh
- Frequency keeps the pressure off
- Frequency sparks creativity
- Frequency nurtures frequency
- Frequency fosters productivity
- Frequency is a realistic approach
Ok, but how exactly do I start being frequent?
But how do you actually begin using the power of frequency? Here is what worked for me, hopefully, it will help you too.
Choose a period of time in your day that you are productive (30 min/1h).
Make sure to eliminate any distraction and do not schedule other commitments during this period.
Focus on producing, at least, a little bit during that time every day.
Don’t judge yourself too much, just do it because if it is not marvelous today, you can make it better tomorrow.
Keep an up-to-date calendar. Mark an “X” every day you work on your project. After a few days of the streak when it becomes a chain, you will feel unstoppable.
It’s good to note that frequency is not tied to something that needs to be done on a daily basis. What really matters here is consistency.
Frequency outside your side project
This principle of consistency can be applied to personal life and side projects, but it can also be applied when you are trying to run a business.
When you are starting a company, it may seem there is a whole world of things to do if you want your business to be successful. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and not start at all. But if you adopt the frequency approach, focus only on what you have to accomplish that next day and keep doing that over time, you can have a successful and, even more, adaptable company.
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” ― Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
At Startaê, every single Friday is dedicated to the development of the team and the business. Our clients are aware of that, and they understand that they will benefit from that. We learned that we need to have this commitment with frequency so we can apply this continuous improvement. This time is used to learn and share new skills, experiment new technologies, to work on internal projects such as the website, open source projects, blog posts, among others.
Over time, we have been building a toolkit of techniques that help us keep focused and frequent on all of our projects. This toolkit deserves a whole other blog post just for itself but nonetheless I will introduce those techniques here:
- OKR (What do we want to have achieved by the end of the next 3 months?)
- Sprints (What do we want to have achieved by the end of this week?)
- Standup Meetings (What do we want to have achieved by the end of this day?)
- Pomodoro Technique (What do we want to have achieved in the next 25 min?)
The role of Frequency is simple and powerful! With discipline and consistency, you will be able to achieve great things. Just focus on getting the next day done.