When Can You See You Have an Unsustainable Pace?

I have not created or maintained a sustainable pace this week. I’m finishing books. I discovered my checklists now miss some steps. I’ve been working too early and too late.

Sustainable pace? Not right now.

Under normal circumstances, I use these tactics:

  • Start work at roughly the same time every day.
  • Stop work at roughly the same time every day.
  • Take my walking and lunch breaks during the day. (I don’t feel the need to walk and eat at exactly the same times each day.)

I know I work better when I maintain a sustainable pace. How do I know? I have the data to prove it to myself. (Yes, I track a variety of metrics so I know how I’m doing.)

Why am I working in a way that’s not sustainable?


Here’s why I’m pressuring myself:

  • I can’t stand this book project anymore. I need to finish it so I can clear the decks and do something new next year.
  • I’ve created delays in this project (the flu in February-March).
  • Other people created delays (more sickness and a long-haul Covid person).

All of us had good reasons for our delays. However, all the individual delays added up to months of delays.

You’ve probably experienced projects just like this.

I had a personal goal of finishing these books in 2020. I have been so close for so long that I wanted to finish the damn books. So, that’s my choice—to use an unsustainable pace for now. And, I knew this back in September.

If you can’t maintain a sustainable pace, or if you don’t know when you might choose an unsustainable pace, here’s how I  normally work.

How I Create Sustainable Pace (Under Normal Circumstances)

Since I create products, as well as sell services, I measure several aspects of my work:

  • How many of which kind of words I write each day. I write in books, regular nonfiction, articles, here, and fiction. Yes, I have a spreadsheet so I can see how many words in which category.
  • How many “things” I produce each week. I know approximately how many chunks of workshops, articles, blog posts, etc I can finish each week.
  • My daily step count. You might wonder why I track my steps as part of my work. That’s because I learn when I listen to my podcasts on my walks. I often synthesize ideas from the podcasts. Also, when I spend time away from the keyboard, I synthesize/integrate ideas.

What I don’t track:

  • My sleep. I sleep well, so I don’t worry about it.
  • Food in terms of a food diary. I am amazingly boring—I have the same breakfast and lunch almost every day and I’m happy about that. I know that my choices are keto, and that’s all I need to know.

Notice that my “boringness” creates fewer decisions for me during the day. I don’t need to take any decision time to eat. That means I can work as long as I want to in the morning before my lunch break. Decisions don’t interrupt me. (I realize most people are not like me at all!)

I use Personal Kanban to create a weekly, roughly ranked “plan.” (I also use a yearly roadmap with monthly rolling waves to see where I am as opposed to where I wanted to be.) Every day, I execute against that weekly plan, finishing work.

How I Use Data

My data helps me see where I’m on or off where I want to be. I could tell back in September I was going to have trouble finishing these books. I was somewhat mentally prepared for an unsustainable pace at some point. The closer I got to 2021, the more unsustainable my work was going to be.

I suspect my unsustainable pace might be different from yours. I knew several months ago that I was going to push these books to done this year. If you suffer from not-sustainable pace, when did you know? When did your managers know or admit it to themselves?

I can see—from my data—when I will encounter an unsustainable pace. Can you?

That’s the question this week: When can you see you have an unsustainable pace?

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