The Productivity Paradox


In many of my newsletters, I have emphasized the importance of practicing more often – on a schedule rather than using the popular hit-and-miss approach. In our fast-paced and achievement-oriented world, the prevailing wisdom often dictates that doing more leads to achieving more. However, there is a profound paradox hidden beneath this common belief - doing more sometimes results in achieving less. This may sound counterintuitive, but let’s take a closer look. Here’s what may happen.

  • Dilution of Focus: When we spread ourselves too thin by taking on numerous tasks and responsibilities, our attention becomes divided, making it difficult to concentrate on any single endeavor. As a result, the quality of our work suffers.
  • Reduced Efficiency: The quest to do more often leads to multitasking, a practice that, contrary to popular belief, may hamper productivity. When our brains have to constantly switch between tasks, we may actually accomplish less.
  • Burnout and Stress: The stress and pressure of trying to accomplish a multitude of tasks can lead to burnout. Burnout can not only affect our productivity but also our overall happiness and satisfaction with life.
  • Lack of Strategic Thinking: When we are preoccupied with doing more, we often neglect the important step of setting clear priorities and devising a strategic approach. Without a well-defined plan, our efforts become scattered, and we fail to make meaningful progress.
  • Quality vs. Quantity: It’s a common misconception that quantity always trumps quality. In reality, achieving more should not be our sole goal; achieving meaningful, high-quality results should be the priority.
  • Overcommitment: Lastly, the desire to do more can lead to overcommitment. We may say yes to every opportunity, request, or project that comes our way, without considering our capacity. Overcommitting can lead to missed deadlines, unmet expectations, and a reputation for unreliability.

Now let’s apply that to your efforts to learn to play the dulcimer with a few practical examples.

  • Just focus on one new skill a week, such as a new rhythm or a new technique.
  • Break difficult pieces down into bite-size pieces (measures) and zoom in on those for an entire week.
  • Don’t start more than one new tune at a time.
  • Create a practical way of measuring your progress, such as keeping a journal or posting a goal list with both tunes and techniques (skills) listed.
  • Remind yourself that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your dulcimer repertoire become extensive in a week.

It’s a Balancing Act

While the idea of doing more to achieve more has been deeply ingrained in our culture, it is essential to recognize the paradox it presents. To truly maximize our productivity and achieve meaningful goals, it is crucial to strike a balance between ambition and practicality, prioritizing quality over quantity, and carefully considering the consequences of our choices.

Happy dulcimering,



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