Not Time

The more work we put into something, the better it will be, right? An idea, a skill, a product—it should all get better so long as we put in more time and effort.

The statement does not sit well because it is both right and wrong. For example, when we try to do something we’ve never done for two hours in a row, we quickly find ourselves exhausted. Furthermore, the work is rarely good.

However, given time in a different manner, we can hone ourselves to work on something regularly for two hours or even significantly longer. Done daily, we can deliver deep focus into a craft, whatever the medium and create wonderful things.


More accurately than looking at time, then, is rhythm. We can intuitively sense this. Habits are rhythms, after all.

And rhythms have a beat. And every beat has a beginning and end to its sound. A drum’s voice sharply rises and quickly falls into a long drawn tail. Meanwhile, a violin can build from barely audible through a gentle rise into swelling sweetness and blend back into silence. Or it may be plucked.

Any of these may create a beat. Even the broad strokes of the stringed instrument can create a slow moving beat, stretching over time.

And beat, in turn, draws its strength from regularity. Thumping, moving, walking, or racing, a beat drives us through time. It does so through its regularity.

Certainly, more complex patterns can be created. Some are quite beautiful, rendered into wondrous soundscapes from the rustling of leaves to a song blossoming in popularity as it is simultaneously shared in the medium of humanity itself.

But at the fundamental level there is a beat. And that power must be understood before adding layers.

As an example, when trying to get the most out of a book, we can ask ourselves, would it be best to sit with it for an hour per day? For some that would be exhausting—a painful, perhaps even impossible struggle against will.

For others reading for an hour regularly is minimal work. However, such an ability began in gentle waves of exploration. No one started learning to read by doing it for an hour straight.

In this way, we can see that beat, that rhythm, actually needs to harmonize with the rest of the one’s life harmonies and rhythm’s. Certainly, I am invoking the concept of a rhythm of life.

Striking a Beat

To lay down any arguments of will, consider if a short interval would work. I am most fond of avoiding setting any time minimums or maximums when possible. Instead, focus on the difficult part: starting.

What is nice about starting however is that it only takes a few moments. A beat is struck. Its sound takes care of itself.

Once those few moments are done, you can decide whether to stop or not. Either direction may work well. We have to sense the moment and decide.

Then do it again the next day.

As soon as we have some deliberate repeat in time, we have rhythm. While, we can see that the length of time of each interval, while certainly providing the worlds of depth, harmony, and the richness of life, it is not rhythm.

And rhythm is what drives the pattern.

Perhaps everyone has a different schema from which to examine such an approach to engaging the world. For me, that has been through and from music. In learning and guiding its patterns, I find I study what meaningful play and work is.

This post was originally titled, “The Secret of Productivity That No One Told You, Because They Forgot to Tell You, Because They Didn’t Know How, or Maybe They Did and Put It on a Top Ten List, but Listed It as Number 6, Which No One Really Reads, but Instead Look for the … Wait There’s Something Else on the Internet?”