Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Aim for Quality, Not Quantity

A large set of file folders

Up until around 2012, I maintained a rather popular blog that covered technical communication. One day, I had the brilliant (yes, I’m being sarcastic) idea of publishing posts five days a week. That was in addition to writing for two other blogs, working on various contracts, doing a load of freelance writing, and spending time with my family.

I managed to pull that blogging schedule off. Just. Barely. The problem was that only one or maybe two of those weekly posts were of the quality that I was building my reputation on at the time. The rest were good, but nothing special. It didn’t help that I was exhausted most of the time which led my body to rebel quite spectacularly one weekend.

After about a year, I scaled back to publishing one or two posts a week. While I wasn’t publishing as much, the quality of what I was publishing went up because I could devote more time to those one or two posts, rather than dissipating my energies across five of them.

Over the years, I’ve met a number of people who believed that productivity was all about doing more work. Was all about spending more time doing work. Was all about doing as much as they could. Every. Single. Day.

Doing that keeps idle hands busy, but you can bet that the quality of a lot of that work isn’t what it should be. That could be because of fatigue, lack of engagement, or just shifting to autopilot to get the work done and move on to something else.

Doing more means that you’re doing more. It doesn’t mean that you’re doing all that work well. It doesn’t mean that you’re engaged or passionate about most (or any) of that work.

Doing more means you’ve jumped on to the productivity treadmill. As the quantity of the work you take on increases, the overall quality of that work drops. There might be a few gems in the pile of work you created, but most of it will be cubic zirconia. You don’t want that, especially if it’s work you’re building or maintaining a reputation on.

When doing anything, try to aim for quality rather than quantity. You might wind up doing less work, but the work you do will be better. It will shine brighter. It will seem more cohesive and focused. It will be something you can build or bolster your reputation upon.

Why? Because you’ll be able to focus your effort and energy more tightly on that smaller amount of work. You’ll be more engaged. You’ll be more passionate about what you’re doing. You’ll take more pride in the work and in the result.

Obviously, you won’t always be able to do that if you’re working a full-time job or even if you’re a contractor or freelancer. But if you’re working on projects or side gigs on your own time, don’t try to do as much as you can. Instead, work on something that matters and do the best job that you can. Take your time.

By doing that, you won’t join the ranks of the uber productive. You’ll will, however, feel better about what you’re doing and you’ll have more time to devote to other, important things in your life.

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