I posted fourteen times in the last fourteen days. This number may not seem relevant enough so here’s a little perspective. I usually post four times a month, on an average. That makes the last fourteen days worth over three months of my blogging routine. That’s a fairly big achievement now, don’t you think? This made me realise the importance of what I like to call critical effort. It’s a random term but let me elaborate.
If you’re aware of how nuclear reactions work, you will guess what I mean as you finish reading this sentence so you can skip the next paragraph.
Every nuclear reaction needs a particular amount of fission material (read: radioactive stuff) to sustain the chain reaction. If the amount of material is less, it’ll explode on its own but fail to trigger the chain of reactions that make nuclear reactions spectacular. Critical mass is a threshold. When critical mass is reached, the reaction is sustained and can go on and on which is what makes it dangerous.
Critical Effort works similarly.
Every idea that I’ve blogged about in the past two weeks was in my head since months. Honestly. However, I just failed to put them out because no matter how much I tried, the posts sucked. Plain sucked.
One day, fueled by some particular personal chaos I went out and wrote a post. I wrote another the next day. At the three-day mark, I had reached Critical Effort and everything after that was spontaneous. That is, I didn’t have to try and fail writing a post. I could easily start and finish writing it in a few hours.
As I ran out of ideas, newer ones started popping into my head. The whole process of supply and demand of ideas became so wonderfully synced that it got exceptionally smooth. Currently, I have ideas for over ten posts that are constantly being shifted around in my head. They’re also on my Google Keep.
That is where my workflow peaked and every day I had two or three idea points to work off. Forming the post in my head throughout the day, writing and posting it by evening.
Critical Effort could be defined as,
The smallest amount of work you have to do for you to successfully enter the workflow, thereby helping you complete the task at hand to the best of your abilities.
The smallest amount of work you have to do for you to be able to work efficiently.
I’ve only found one caveat in this observation. Similar to how a nuclear reaction is controlled and eventually made to stop, I too would need to stop if I go way in over my head. For that, I have put checks in place.
One of them is simple, if I’m running out of authentic content that doesn’t automatically pop-up in my head then I should stop. Another is that I’ve asked a number of people to tell me as soon as the content quality dips in their opinion. If enough people tell me this about the same post, I will stop and take a break.
Critical Effort is more of a workflow gimmick that I think works because of the time you’ve invested off your own free will into a task. Since you put the time in yourself, you won’t feel forced into it even if the task was in fact, forced on you.
I believe this works because you’re rewarding your own effort and self by working harder on the thing. In a way, it’s an infinite loop. To create better content, you have to create good content and to do that, you need to create content first. I’m at the lowest end of the chain at this point but I have a feeling I’ll get to the better parts soon.
Simply put, Critical Effort is a Do-first approach.