It’s easy to get caught up in routines and habits when you’re in the thick of things. However, sometime it is important to step back ask yourself a few questions:
- What kind of work are you doing?
- Are you being challenged enough?
- Are you exposing yourself to sources who can help you improve?
These questions can be difficult to answer, but are important in illuminating your path and ensuring you’re working at a pace that maximizes your potential and ensuring you aren’t getting stuck on the “OK Plateau.” Author and computer science professor Cal Newport recalls a time when he was building out a new curriculum and purposely avoided talking to people who had experience in this:
Reflecting on this experience, I now notice that in my rush to embrace deep work and purposeful bets I had overlooked a more prosaic piece of the puzzle: learning the rules that govern the area where I was making my play.
If I had followed the program director’s advice and pumped experts for feedback, I would have learned about what you absolutely need for a fundable proposal. I avoided this step, I think, because some part of me didn’t want these answers. By writing my grant in isolation, I could ensure an optimal experience, where I had to put in focused hours, but never really challenge myself too much.
This was fulfilling. But it was also a recipe for failure.
I was like the amateur runner who spends her training days doing hard (but not too hard) three mile jogs instead of the brutal interval work she really needs to improve.
In hindsight, Newport admitted he would have chosen not to dive into deep work as quickly — and suggests questioning whether what we’re working on is what is important, and what we need to do to improve, rather than simply continuing forward headfirst all the time.