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Do Things Carefully

Careful attention increases quality without sacrificing speed.

By Aaron PacePublished 8 months ago 4 min read
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Do Things Carefully
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.

Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, penned those words to his son in 1774.

We all know, of course, that with a few rare exceptions you never start that way. You start by doing things poorly and progress toward doing them well. At whatever stage of the journey, the important thing is to maximize quality. For someone learning to paint, the initial quality may not be very good, but for the serious student, it is the result of their very best effort.

In the United States, there is a tendency to essentially divide the world (and our individual lives) into binary categories: important vs. unimportant, necessary vs. superfluous, desirable vs. undesirable, wealthy vs. poor, liberal vs. conservative, etc. With these stark categorizations in place, we pay a great deal of attention to the important thing and as little as possible to the rest. For example, an avid runner may completely ignore the benefits of different types of exercise. Other parts of the world tend to be better at paying attention to the details of whatever experience they’re having. They’re more present and treat whatever they are doing with attention and care.

As Copthorne Macdonald once wrote:

Now is the only time in which living can happen. When we pay attention to the activity of the moment we are alive.

Many people, myself included, spend so much time not paying attention that life often passes us by. This is why it feels like days, weeks, and months can pass by so quickly. We’re continuously bombarded by things that we don’t find particularly important yet we do them anyway. But, while we’re doing them we’re only giving a percentage of our attention to it which, by definition, isn’t really attention at all.

It’s a cycle that requires, in some cases, significant effort to break.

Here are 3 steps to doing things more carefully:

First, start with care in mind

It’s an interesting idea: if I get on social media with the intention of caring about what I see, I won’t spend any time doom-scrolling. Instead of just scrolling through social media, why not set a time limit and a purpose for being there. Take the time to be fully invested as opposed to scrolling just block out uncomfortable silence.

Imagine if you spent only 10 minutes on social media and instead of simply scrolling to hopefully find something interesting, you sought out a particular topic or individual then gave that your full attention.

Second, be present

This one is related to the first. When you engage in an activity, make it the sole object of your focus even if it’s only for a few minutes. Paying attention actually trains you to be better at paying attention.

Try this simple activity:

  • Without looking at the back of one of your hands, describe it in as much detail as you can. How did you do?
  • Now, study your hand carefully for 30 seconds. Make note of any sun spots, wrinkles, scars, veins, tendons, etc. Now, look away for the same amount of time and describe your hand in as much detail as you can. How did you do this time?

When you’re present, it’s much easier to remember the details.

Third, look for satisfaction

When dealing with the little things and dirty jobs of life, it’s easy to approach them half-heartedly. The more invested you are in something, the more satisfaction you derive from it. This is as true for tasks as it is for relationships, even difficult ones.

Imagine any repetitive task you regularly engage in. Perhaps it’s folding laundry or doing dishes. Perhaps it’s cleaning up toys left behind by kids. These are tasks that can often be done while doing something else and don’t generally provide you with a sense of satisfaction.

  • What if you were to fully engage in that menial task?
  • What if you turned off music or podcast and just noticed the minutiae?
  • Do you imagine yourself finding a degree of satisfaction in a job well done — even for simple tasks?

When we pay close attention, quality goes up. When we pay close attention, our ability to find satisfaction also goes up. This, in turn, improves the quality of our life experience. It’s a true, bold assertion.

Living in such a fast-paced world, it’s easy to lose touch with doing things carefully. Take a moment today to do just one thing with much greater care than typical. You’ll be surprised by the impact it has on you.

Thanks for reading!

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About the Creator

Aaron Pace

Married to my best friend. Father to five exuberant children. Fledgling entrepreneur. Writer. Software developer. Inventory management expert.

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