It’s pretty normal for us to get overwhelmed by the quantity of work we have to do everyday. It’s hard to keep up and we slowly start to lag behind. We usually stop doing things in order to free up time for other work we value.
I could easily run some mile about a year ago but now I can’t even manage to run for 10 minutes. It’s because I’ve stopped doing it. And it’s not surprising that we can’t keep doing everything we want – mostly because of time constraint. There’s very limited time everyday and we can’t afford to do everything we wish to. So, it’s obvious that we will stop working on our project someday.
We work on any given project for a short period of time when we are motivated and slowly start to lag behind. It’s not only because we are not motivated to work on it. There are various other reasons for it – time constraint being one of them, and I’m mostly concerned about it. This is where maintenance mode comes in.
Here’s a good explanation about the maintenance mode I found on SETT:
To explain, let me touch on how triathletes train.
Triathlons start with a swim, then a bike ride, then finish with a run. So, obviously, in order to win you have to be really good at all three, and in order to improve it is of course tempting to work on all three at once. Triathletes don’t do this…kinda.
In order to improve your performance in triathlon you pick one of the sports and focus on it, perhaps for a week, a month, or several months. THAT is what your focus is and what you are consistently (probably daily) working on improving. However, if you ignore the other sports while focusing on this one, your ability in that one will slip to a degree that it costs you several weeks just to get it back to baseline.
Enter “maintenance mode”.
This is seen as the minimum amount of involvement with a sport necessary to keep it at its current level, or to at least significantly reduce its rate of decline. This might mean hopping into the pool only 1-2 times/wk just to keep your form from deteriorating and riding your bike for an hour on the weekends to keep some of those bike specific muscles from “forgetting”, just so you can focus on running 10 miles a day. Then, when you’ve got your running up to an acceptable level, you switch it into “maintenance mode” and focus on actively improving some other aspect of your game. I got an email from a triathlete that’s in the top 1% (finished the Boston Marathon in the top 100 overall) and he told me “ I alternate weeks between hard bike, hard run, recovery week. So, bike weeks, no really hard running, and vice versa.” So, I promise, it’s how things get done by those that are “so good I can’t ignore them”.
This method not only keeps you from being overwhelmed with working out all the time, it actually helps you get better faster because your body has a sufficient amount of recovery time.
What it basically explains is that you are setting yourself up for some discouraging cognitive dissonance when you fail to meet the mark you set for yourself.
To make this simple, while you plan to write a book or song or paint, you shouldn’t set a very high mark like,”I’ll write 1000 words everyday, or I’ll paint 5 hours everyday.”
If you, somehow, miss a day, and then another, you become more and more convinced that your plan is not working, that you are “failing” and therefore less and less inclined & likely to stick with your goal the next day. The point is that you should commit to plans that you know can succeed, and by doing so, you keep your brain’s motivation centers on board with the project.
When you’re working on a project, approach each week as its own scheduling challenge. Work with the reality of your life that week to squeeze in as much work as you can get away with, in the most practical manner.
We might be interested in playing football for a period of time. During that time we play it almost everyday. We get better at it and after sometime, we stop playing either because we have switched our interest or because of time constraint. It might happen with any skill.
I used to get interested in playing guitar when I was at school. I started learning and was slowly getting better at it. But after some time I stopped playing it altogether. I could play it pretty well at that time. Now, I can’t even tune the guitar just because I have stopped playing it. Same happened to me with the keyboard. I stopped playing after I was getting better at it, mostly because of time constraint. Maintenance mode would be of great help if I had implemented it.
This works great if you want to eat healthy. People eat healthy food for some days and then they finally start to loose the momentum. So, if you can bring in the maintenance mode and eat healthy meal at least once a day then you can keep up with the momentum. Instead of saying “I’ll eat healthy meals all day” and not being able to do so, you could eat healthy meal once a day to not loose your momentum.
Maintenance mode works for almost anything.
If you’ve stopped programming because of time constraint, you can practice programming everyday for just 5 minutes. Just touch it. Touching will help you keep your memories fresh and it will be easy for you to program when you next need it. I have very bitter experience with programming. I learned Python and PHP but since I failed to use it from time to time, I almost forgot everything. I’m learning it again. Had I known about the maintenance mode, I would keep touching it everyday, at least for 5 minutes. We can manage 5 minutes of our time easily, since it’s not that hard. We tend to leave our projects or work after we immerse ourselves to another set of work. Keeping those set of works aside, if we can manage just 5 minutes, we can keep our skills intact. That’s what the maintenance mode is all about.