Doing your best & 8 tips on continuous improvement

Music to listen with this post: Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsvkii's Concert 35 D-major, Allegro (Spotify link , Youtube link). I'll write why this piece in a forthcoming post.

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A week and a half ago, @nochiel, a twitter follower retweeted the following, initially written by @marcoarment (lead developer of Tumblr and Instapaper):
If you sit on, sleep on, stare at, or touch something for more than an hour a day, spend whatever it takes to get the best.
This is a very sound advice, probably the best in terms of where to spend your money. Don't get a cheap laptop, lousy pen or bad-looking notebook. If you follow this rule, you will be always using the best tools.

But there is more. Your work or passion probably involves doing something that someone should use. What would happen if everyone followed this rule? People would only use the best, thus
You should fight to do your best
Bold, italic and I have even considered yellow background with blinking red text. This should be your motto, your driving force, the fuel in your rocket, the metaphor in your book. But doing your best is far easier said than done, isn't it?

Vince Lombardi said it before I was even born,
Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.
Perfection and excellence are far away in a long (and maybe winding) road. If you have ever taken part in some endurance competition, you know how to do it: just one more. Just 1 minute more, just 1km more. This is constant improvement. If each day you do just one thing that improves one facet of your life, the cumulative effect in the long run can be astonishing.

Brainstorm your life areas and related projects. For each project, think about a task you can do daily that will lead to an improvement in the long run for that particular project. Don't be tempted to just break projects into small tasks and then assign each to a day. I'm talking about those projects that seem to wander in your Someday list, the projects you would love to do if you had the time, and the projects without deadline you just procrastinate day on day off.

As a sample, each day you could

1. Improve your domain knowledge:
By reading something in your field, a chapter, an article, a page. Or by practising the skills you need, or a skill you know could be improved.

2. Learn one or two words of a new (or old) language, translate a phrase:
This also serves as a review for languages you already know. One word a day translates into 365 words a year. Three words a day translates into 1095 words a year. If you were learning a full new language, 1000 words would roughly cover 70% of text in that language (extrapolating from English). Three words a day is not that big a deal, isn't it?

3. Write a paragraph of a book:
Any writer can tell you that a book is written step by step. If each day you add a well-crafterd paragraph to your book, it will be finished in no-time. Some day you will finish and will be able to publish your book online or in paper.

4. Improve a paragraph of a book:
Re-writing is what takes a lousy text and produces great text. Don't underestimate this, rewrite what you wrote previously. In the game of Go there is a distinction between urgent moves and big moves, a big move being a move that is a gain for one side. An urgent move is one that keeps a previous move from being meaningless. In writing, you can rewrite, thus before playing that big chapter, be sure that what you have written previously is almost perfect.

5. Write a new function for your pet project:
This is the paragraph metaphor, applied in computer programming. This could also cover improve or optimise a function in the program.

6. Draw something you see on TV:
If you want to improve your drawing, you have to draw daily. Just while you are idling in front of the TV, draw some scene that catches your eye. Repeat.

7. Exercise for 10 minutes (or more):
Exercising daily should already be in your routine. If it is not, add it now.

8. Keep in touch with a friend:
Strengthening relationships is fundamental these days, when being friends means clicking Accept on Facebook. Write an e-mail to a friend, or pick the phone and phone him just to say Hello.

If you try to tackle all this straight ahead, it will overwhelm you. Be warned. You are the only person who knows how much you can handle, but if you can spare an hour and dedicate 10 minutes to 6 projects, they will start to roll ahead, and before you know, like the proverbial snowball turned into avalanche.

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Written by Ruben Berenguel