I have been thinking about this one a lot, lately. I was thinking about it long before I read Manage Your Day-to-Day, but that book helpfully distilled it to a single sentence: “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.”
This is our temptation in all areas of life: to look for the quick fix, to look for the one or the few great moments that will accomplish more than the hundreds or thousands of smaller moments. “Anthony Trollope, the nineteenth-century writer who managed to be a prolific novelist while also revolutionizing the British postal system, observed, ”˜A small daily task, if it be daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules’. Over the long run, the unglamorous habit of frequency fosters both productivity and creativity.”
The spasmodic Hercules: this is how many of us behave. We behave as if one moment of great activity can overcome a thousand moments of inactivity, as if one moment of taking hold of opportunity will overcome all those moments wasted. The unglamorous habit of frequency is what makes up so much of life’s progress. Yet we are constantly tempted to put our hope in the brief and the glamorous.