Before we get going, let’s get a couple things out of the way. No, I’m not saying quantity always trumps quality, and no, I’m not saying high quality isn’t an important part of the equation. What I’m saying is that most tasks are best handled through consistent frequency, and that when you focus on consistent frequency, quality takes care of itself. The bottom line is that more people and businesses underperform, flounder, and fail not from a lack of high quality, but from a lack of consistent frequency.
“More people and businesses underperform, flounder, and fail not from a lack of high quality, but from a lack of consistent frequency.”
Why? Because cultivating high quality is frankly the easier of the two — the desire to do things well and produce high-quality work is part our collective upbringing, culture, and mindset. Cultivating consistent frequency, on the other hand, is seldom talked about, unexciting, and feels unnatural to most people. And yet, one of the biggest mistakes we make when approaching frequency-driven tasks is bringing our high-quality mindsets with us. In other words, we engage frequency-driven tasks (i.e., all the tasks that we need to do — or wish we actually did — on a regular basis) only so far as we can maintain high quality as we do them. I’m here to tell you that this misaligned approach underlies the vast majority of every type of failure you’re experiencing — personal, educational, marital, professional, you name it. Let me illustrate this with a personal example.
An Immobilizing Mindset, a Liberating Decision, and 1,196 Journal Entries
We all know there’s great value in keeping a journal. It’s a wonderful way to express yourself, to record and reflect on important life experiences and memories, and to give others insights into your life now and after you’re gone. But with the daily demands of personal and professional life, I didn’t keep a journal of any kind for many years, not because I didn’t see the value in it, but because I believed the mantra that “anything worth doing is worth doing well” and I was always holding out for higher quality: more journal-worthy events, more time to write high-quality entries, and the perfect place to capture and store these amazing memories. In other words, my high-quality mindset wouldn’t let me engage this frequency-driven activity with low quality, no matter how valuable this activity was. It took a significant event in my life (my grandfather passing away) to compel me to write my first entry in almost a decade.
I took the time to craft a beautiful tribute to my grandfather and told myself, “This is it! This will be the start of a new journal-writing era. I’m actually going to stick with it!” But sure enough, my high-quality mindset crept in and kept me from writing consistently. That is, until I finally made a simple, difficult, life-changing decision: I decided to completely abandon high quality and instead completely focus on consistent frequency, at least as it related to my journal. For the first time I was able to actually write in my journal daily — not because I found a shortcut to producing high-quality entries, and not because I finally started having experiences every day that were worth writing about, but because I finally removed all expectations about writing amazing entries and simply committed to writing something, anything every single day.
“I finally made a simple, difficult, life-changing decision: I decided to completely abandon high quality and instead completely focus on consistent frequency.”
This approach has proven to be as liberating as it’s been lasting. Since making that decision, I’ve continued to make at least one entry in my journal every single day without fail, and as of today I’ve written 1,196 journal entries across 639 days, capturing hundreds of priceless and pedestrian experiences. Some days have extended entries about exceptional experiences, other days have brief entries about the more boring parts of my life. The point is, my current process of “write something daily” has given me infinitely more results than my former process of “write something amazing randomly, rarely, or never.”
Just take a moment and think about all the big and little aspects of your life you’re frankly failing at right now — job/career, education, marriage/relationships, fitness/diet, spirituality, etc. Now take a moment and think about a few simple tasks that if you actually did routinely instead of rarely, even if not always with high quality, then these aspects of your life would be better. Remember: the goal with frequency-driven work is not to do everything well, it’s to do the work consistently, even at the expense of your quality. I know, the craftsman inside of you cringed when you read “at the expense of your quality,” but just hear me out, there’s still a way you can use your penchant for perfection to your advantage here.
“The point is, my current process of “write something daily” has given me infinitely more results than my former process of “write something amazing randomly, rarely, or never.”
A Call for Low Quality and Lots of It
If you’re a quality-driven person, how can you overcome this deep-seated avoidance of frequency-driven tasks so you can begin to actually develop the skills and achieve the outcomes that can only be attained and maintained through consistent frequency? By channeling your desire to produce high quality into maintaining consistent frequency. In other words, by realizing that producing “high quality” for these tasks is not about the quality of the work itself, it’s about the quality of your consistency. Reread that sentence and let it sink in, because it’s the key to maintaining success in every single aspect of your life.
How can you start building a bedrock of consistency? For each task in your life you want to do a better job sticking with: 1) Pick a frequency (daily, weekly, monthly) for the task and 2) Make sure the task is something that’s offensively simple. Trust me, anything more than offensively simple will be too tempting for you to start “improving” through higher quality, which is what got you stuck in this productivity paralysis in the first place.
It’s not about quality. In fact, in the beginning it’s about ridiculously low quality and lots of it! It’s about actually sticking with offensively simple tasks like these: write one sentence in a journal every day; run for 30 seconds on Monday through Friday; message one person in your LinkedIn network each Tuesday; work on that neglected project for 15 minutes every Thursday; go out to dinner with your spouse every other Friday; send an encouraging email to your employees at the end of each month. In the beginning, commit to doing super-simple tasks like these and nothing more!
“It’s not about quality. In fact, in the beginning it’s about ridiculously low quality and lots of it!”
Look, I know you’re capable of running for longer than 30 seconds on any given day, but capability isn’t your challenge — consistency is. It’s more important to run 30 seconds every day for 30 days than to run for 15 minutes once a month. Feel free to write out that amazing journal entry: just remember that today’s quality doesn’t take care of tomorrow’s quantity. And when that quality-addicted part of you tries to build Rome in a day instead of build Rome daily, just remind it how much time and energy (let alone how many relationships and opportunities) you’ve worn out and wasted building and rebuilding Rome over and over again because you didn’t do the simple work of consistently keeping Rome running.
A High-Quality Tool for Your Frequency-Driven Work
If by now you’re serious about doing a better job sticking with your recurring tasks, or even if you’re just serious about wanting to get serious about sticking with them, then don’t do what most people do when they get to the end of articles like these: simply log away the main message somewhere in the back of your mind and go back to whatever you were doing five minutes ago. Instead, take five more minutes right now and make these simple, powerful tasks come alive in Tactick — the task management software built specifically to help you stay accountable and actually stick with all the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks that get and keep you successful. You only need your name and email to start your free trial through the end of next month — that will give you plenty of time to start laying a foundation of consistency with the simple tasks that lead to sustainable success … if you’re simply willing to stick with them. And don’t worry about having to do it on your own: We’re here to help you every simple, consistent step of the way.