Being Prolific Is Not A Matter Of Doing A Lot
Rather, it’s a process of doing a little on a regular basis.
7 years ago, my son was born. About a month prior to that, my dad and mom were visiting for a week to help us get the baby room ready. We did a lot of work that week, including a fresh coat of paint on the walls.
At some point early in the process, we had the room devoid of furniture and we were putting masking tape around all of the baseboards, window sills and electric outlets. The point of this is to create clean lines of paint right up against the edges of those things, and the end result is worth the effort.
Early on in all of this taping, I looked around the room and sighed out loud. The thought of how much we had left to do was daunting and demotivating. My dad, being in the room, saw what I was thinking and said:
Don’t look at the elephant. Just keep chewing.
This was the first time I had heard this phrase, but it immediately struck me with insight and clarity about the situation at hand. If you’re going to eat something the size of an elephant, you can’t expect it to happen quickly. Rather, you have to pace yourself and set yourself in for a long haul. You may need to gauge progress now and then, but most likely you just need to keep at it because you won’t be as far along as you think you are.
My Elephants: Code And Content
The vast majority of the online content that I have written is still around in various blogs and websites and generates a ton of traffic… more than 75,000 pages views per month! That a lot of traffic! But I haven’t always had that much traffic. I started with zero page views, like everyone else. 10 years later, though, I have near 10 years of content with hundreds (thousands?) of articles, posts, snippets of code and other bits of things that I’ve written. Some of these are no longer available, granted – I haven’t maintained every single website. But the majority of the things that I care about are still around.
This kind of traffic isn’t accidental. It’s also not something that I attained overnight. It took me near 10 years of blogging and writing articles to attain this traffic. There wasn’t any one thing I did that generated all of the views and links and eyes on the content that I wrote. It was not that I sat down and cranked out every thing I knew in one sitting. I never set out to document my career or write a memoir. I simply wrote what I could, when I could and I let it collect over the years.
The end result is not 75,000 page views a month, though. That’s only the current result. The end result is yet to come.
I’ve never bothered to look at the elephant of content creation and growing a blog. Instead, I just keep chewing. I do little things on a regular basis, and it adds up over time.
The same holds true for the code I write. I have dozens of open source projects, thousands of contributions to them, hundreds of systems that I’ve build for employers and clients, and more than 20 years of code under my belt. I never set out to eat an elephant of code. But when I look back at my career, I can see that the many little bits of code I have written have added up to an elephant that I’ve chewed through.
What Elephant Are You Chewing?
So what’s your elephant? What’s the big thing that you keep looking at, wondering how you’re ever going to get through it? And should be taking stock of that elephant’s remains, or should you just keep your head down and your teeth chewing?