Updates, Excuses & The Dark Side of Incrementals


I’ve been guilt-ridden about missing my post deadlines here over the last month. All effort has been focused on the outline for the next revision of my book, which is taking longer than I thought, probably because I keep obsessing and reworking and I’m pretty sure I’ve outlined myself in a complete circle. But the story is a little tighter, and, God willing, it will get better still over the next few months.

I’ve written about invaluable increments before, about the importance of patience and consistency over time, but I have to constantly remind myself that I can’t fix everything in this draft at once. I can’t even see all the problems, let alone fix them. Right now, I can handle one or two things at a time, MAX. It’s true.


But I’ve learned the hard way, if I don’t stay focused, I sink and drown in details that may or may not end up even being relevant on the next pass. I have to focus on small goals to make steady progress, and to keep from twirling out into rush hour just to have an excuse not to work on the thing for a while.

Deep breaths. Take the long view. Be a student of this process. Be a patient student.

Excuses. Excuses?

I struggle with missing goals. A miss is ALWAYS a failure to me, no matter how lofty the goal, no matter how good the reason.

Isn’t there an old saying to that effect? An excuse is an excuse is an excuse, even if it’s a really good one.

Like my posts. I failed to meet my deadlines. But I was focusing on other higher priorities and I didn’t want to just put out filler crap, so I put out nothing. Is that the best choice? Miss my self-imposed deadline or put out filler crap? (Some may say all my posts are filler crap. I say, that is subjective.)

I fear the answer may be that I really should be able to manage all my life/responsibilities, outline re-work, AND STILL put out a decent quality post without missing my deadlines. I should be able to do this if I’m professional, efficient, and focused enough, shouldn’t I?

The fear is that what if I’m just not working hard/well enough to meet my goals. Is there more I could be doing? Should be? I work hard and steady (though slower than I’d like), and count this as a major success. I wonder, though, am I slow because I’m inexperienced? Plagued by crippling perfectionism? Or because I’m truly seizing opportunities to learn and make my work stronger?

Or, is my biggest, most consistent failure setting reasonable goals? Are my expectations too scattered and lofty for my current situation and skill level? Are they goals for the writer I want to be someday, not the writer I am now? If I’m on the aggressive side, is that really a bad thing?

I guess it depends on what I do with the failures.

What constitutes a failure? Is there any valid room for adjustments?

Anyhow, I don’t know the answers to any of this, but I’m going to think and probably write more about it at some point, and I’d love to hear how others approach goal management and self-evaluation in their own lives, whatever the goals.

The Dark Side of Incrementals

Working on the outline has me thinking a lot right now about the value of consistent, incremental effort. A little slacking off in spin class made me realize how much we can lose when we give up or compromise in these same tiny increments.

I’m a big fan of spin. Indoor cycling in a dim, loud room with no fresh air, sunshine, or scenery certainly sounds miserable. It’s basically the exact opposite of how I prefer to spend most of my time, but I love the class because for me, it’s about nothing but pushing myself. In that dark loud room, there’s nothing but you and the music and the bike and what you’re going to give that day.

The hardest intervals for me are sprints with medium-high resistance. A couple of weeks ago in class I was tired and sore so I let myself back off before time was up, and it felt so good.

In the next class, I did the same thing because my legs burned, or my back hurt, or I had to get the hair off my face, or adjust my pedal, or any other reason my brain could come up with at the moment. It was easier to quit, just for those last few seconds, so I did.

A couple classes later, I struggled more than usual, and those few seconds breaks at the end of the hard intervals grew into several seconds.

A couple classes after that, I caught myself barely trying to get to where the teacher directed. In tiny increments, I got in a habit of quitting on myself. THAT IS THE WORST.

The quitting felt so good, the excuses preempted my effort, and the ease and speed with which my body took to accepting this behavior kind of terrified me. I had to work twice as hard to get back, and the only way I made it was in those same damn tiny increments. 10-second increments to be exact.

When I was burning and hurting and wanting to stop, no matter what, I made myself push 10 seconds longer.

I’d think, just wait 10 seconds before you quit on yourself. 10 seconds.

After a few classes, it worked. I was able to hold on a little longer each time, and when I did give under the fatigue, I did so knowing I pushed myself, at least a little.

There are times we have to take it easy. We should rest and heal and be kind to ourselves in order to stay balanced. But there are times when we shouldn’t. When we have to be VERY UNCOMFORTABLE in order to get a little closer to our goals.

Image Credit: Day twenty four https://flic.kr/p/7y9NYu by Cyril Gravelier license link: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/


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