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Advice on being patient

Don’t do too many things at once. Do a few things, do them well, do them quickly. Finish things, one after the other, and move on.

Surprisingly, completing projects is fairly difficult. Completing a draft, for instance, means doing a variety of things that must necessarily happen slowly. These include fact checking, proofreading, or in other words, making sure your sentences say exactly what you mean. These tasks cannot be completed in a burst of activity.

This is precisely the moment where the temptation to switch projects or tasks is greatest. But being able to wait until you’re done is what gets things done. In other words, you need patience. Impatience means you put off finishing things because you don’t feel like you’re making progress. Ben Kuhn is excellent on this:

As a programmer, I tried to make sure that I was only ever working on one thing at a time. Even if I got stuck on that one thing—say I was blocked on waiting for a tech partner to give me API documentation—I’d let myself stay stuck instead of sliding off to work on something else. In the short term, this made me less efficient, because I’d spend less time programming and more time staring vacantly at the ceiling. But if I stared vacantly for long enough, I’d eventually get mad enough to, e.g., reverse-engineer the partner’s API in a fit of rage. This resulted in me shipping my most important projects faster, hence getting faster compounding growth.

Set aside large spaces of time to write and think during the day and the night. I think sometimes about one of my colleagues, and how they sit in front of a screen patiently: looking at each clause, evaluating each word, weighing them slowly, and rearranging their order.

Write and read more patiently and diligently. Do this every day, with metronomic precision. Paragraphs can be produced in bursts of inspiration but the real work of writing happens with slow forebearance under the meditative spell of the word processor. Ensure that every sentence is composed carefully, slowly, with regard for exactly what is meant.