A vision for a better future is motivating and inspiring. It motivates us to act. It helps us prioritize our efforts. As business leaders, our job is to provide vision and direction to our companies. We are captains of the good ship Dream Job Inc. and we chart its course. Once the course is set, however, one quickly recognizes that communicating the vision was much easier than realizing it. We face the problem of how to complete the task we’ve set before ourselves.

Much thought has been given to this problem and for all the nuance of the current leadership literature, I think the solution is quite simple:

  • How do you eat a buffalo?

    One bite at a time.

  • How do you finish Murph?

    One rep at a time.

  • How do you create the business where you’ve always wanted to work?

    One decision at time.

  • How do you create the SaaS app you’ve been dreaming about while running your consulting business?

    Again, one programming session at a time.

Can you see the pattern?

In life we’re tempted to sprint. We’re seduced by speed. How many times do we say to ourselves, “Tonight, I will finish the project!” “If only I could implement this entire feature set today! Then we’ll be making big money!”

I think we do it more often than we think. I know I do. It so easy to get caught up with speed. “Tonight, I will achieve greatness!” Or worse yet, “I won’t sleep for a week and write this app. It’s going to change the world!”

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is akin to the Sunk CostFallacy. It betrays our long-term goals by focusing on short-term gains. And the problem with elevating the short-term is it often results in long periods of inactivity. How productive am I after that all-nighter? How productive am I for the weeks following my 3 months of 14 hour days? Not very. And there’s probably a good chance I’m on the verge of burn out.

Let’s consider a scenario. Let’s say you can give a 25% effort for 10 days. (25% could mean 2 out of 8 hours or something else. It could be 25% of a feature. It’s a percent of the total [blank] you could do.) Compare this with a sporadic effort of varying degrees of effort for 10 days. You could give 50% effort, miss a day and then go all out one day. After going all out, you’ll probably need to take a break for several days to recover before you will be able to return to a high level of effort again.

Look what happens. If you give a consistent, moderate effort, you end up with a better result than if you were to give a high effort and then recover. To illustrate the point, here’s a chart:

The beauty in trusting the Law of Accumulation is you get farther in the long run than if you were to sprint. And a moderate effort is much easier on the body, mind, and spirit. It creates a sustainable pace for you to accomplish your vision.

The Law of Accumulation says over the long-term, moderate, consistent effort will out perform less frequent bouts of high effort.