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“Little and often” vs “only once”

Over in the Mark Forster corner of the online “productivity” world (a favourite well for procrastinators to return to again and again) there’s often focus on the idea of working on something “little and often”. You have a stack of letters to send or doshes to distim? Don’t do them all at once, just go and do some of them, take a break, and then you can return at a later time.

The drawbacks of this little-and-often approach are many.

Whenever we switch contexts we add overhead, it takes energy, it’s tiring, it’s unfocused, it’s a waste of time. Going to the kitchen and washing twelve plates all at once can be more efficent than going to the kitchen, washing one plate, going to the living room, going back to the kitchen, washing one more plate, going to the garden, going back to the kitchen etc. “Touch it once”, I’ve heard this opposite approach called.

But the one single advantage of the little-and-often approach is nothing to scoff at:

It’s way better than never doing it at all.

So for me, that settles it. I’ve been trying to cultivate some awareness of things that I just wouldn’t be doing at all if it weren’t for little-and-often, and using the little-and-often approach for those things.

Given the disadvantages, I try to use the technique sparingly and as seldomly as possible. I am definitively not in the Forster corner of promoting little-and-often or always looking for opportunities to apply it. If anything, I think I already do it way too much and would really benefit from batching much more than I already do. One way I’m trying to get there is by getting a little bit higher tolerance for boredom, since doing a whole batch of the same thing can be super boring.

I only want to apply little-and-often “as seldomly as possible” and no seldomlier. The pitfall of not even doing something at all just for the sake of trying-and-failing to attain some efficiency ideal is one I don’t wanna fall into.

If “little-and-often” is the only way I’m gonna get a big and boring rock done, I’ll gladly and gratefully apply it.