Bouncing on a trampoline today gave me insight on a new framework. Using the quality/quantity matrix to uplevel life and business.
In trampoline practice today, I started the next phase of work on improving my front tucks: taking them higher when out of lines and staying tighter. Each one takes a lot of mental energy, not to mention the physical energy. My legs were tired today —probably the result of doing leg work 2 days in a row and walking against the wind and navigating snow and ice on the 20 minute walk from the subway to Trapeze School New York in 10-degree temperatures.
The big lesson today was about quantity vs quality. Specifically, my coach said he wanted me to focus on doing fewer repetitions but keeping the quality high: focusing on better form.
As I reflected on this lesson after, I realized how it shows up in so many areas of my life. Most notably, recently, this has been my recurring thought around my daily publishing experiment. In my push to publish daily, I often feel that I am sacrificing quality.
And yet I am imbued with the conditioning that “practice makes perfect” and “repetition is the mother of skill,” and other similar clichés.
It raised a question for me:
When do you go for quality and when do you aim for quantity?
Quality vs Quantity
Have you ever noticed that this is always presented as an either/or?
This sets up the “duality reality,“ the illusion that things are one of the other, in opposition to each other. The truth is that nothing in life is so ”black or white.“ Whenever I find myself contemplating a ”duality reality,” I always look for another option.
Looking at how this shows up in other areas of my life – from writing and publishing to fitness to business situations — I came up with is a continuum of the quality/quantity dynamic.
What came to me is a 4-stage framework for progression. This applies to anything in your life or business — hard skills, hobbies, even relationships.
Defining Quantity and Quality
Before I share the 4 stages, a quick note about defining quality and quantity.
Quality is determined by you. It is whatever you define as quality for that particular project or endeavor. It could be objective quality, or your perception of quality.
Quantity can be either a volume metric, like the number of repetitions of a skill, or a measure of time — how long you spend on something, or the speed with which you do something. Basically, it’s any metric you apply to the thing you’re doing.
The Quality/Quantity Matrix
Here are the 4 stages of the Quality/Quantity Matrix
Stage 1: Low Quality/Low Quantity
In the earliest stages of doing something, it’s all about taking that first step. You want to break through the perceived barrier by just doing the thing, whatever that “thing” is for you:
- writing the article
- publishing the article
- doing the front tuck out of lines
- making the first sales call
- going to the gym
- sitting for meditation practice
- filming your first video
- a first date
- an introductory meeting
At this stage, quality is low and quantity is low. You just want to do it once.
Stage 2: Low Quality/High Quantity
After you’ve done the thing once, you want to build quantity through repetition (or allocating more time to the project). This helps you get out of your head in what you’re doing and build awareness.
At this stage, it’s about progress over perfection. Getting out of your own way to get it done. Quality will still be low, although likely somewhat increased from Stage 1. It’s important that the quality be good enough so that you don’t condition mistakes (or, in the case of my trampoline training, land on my head and die).
Practice makes perfect is a myth. If you’re playing piano and practice the wrong notes for the piece, you’ll never play the piece perfectly. Similarly, daily writing doesn’t make you a better writer. It only makes you a more prolific writer.
Stage 3: High Quality/Low Quantity
At some point you may want to level up. Improve your form and technique. Produce a better output. You want higher quality. This requires more focus and attention.
And this is where it gets tricky: to improve quality we must scale back on quantity. The reason this is tricky is that our ego views any type of scaling back as a setback.
In a culture of “more” we view “less” as conceding, or quitting. Even if we are comparing only against ourselves.
So you must scale back on quantity and focus on higher quality. Improve your skills. Low quantity, higher quality
Stage 4: High Quality/High Quantity
As you condition your improved skills, you can again increase the quantity.
This cycle from stages 2–4 repeats itself as we uplevel our skills.
Where we get stuck
We often get stuck moving from Stage 2 to Stage 3, because it’s counterintuitive. In a culture of “more” we feel like we are conceding if we do less.
It puts our ego at risk. We view stepping back as a setback, instead of a setup to propel forward faster.
But anytime we want to grow or uplevel in our life, personally or professionally, we must scale back quantity to focus on quality. We can’t jump from Stage 2 to Stage 4. At least not sustainably.
What I Love About This
What I love about this framework is that everything fits within it. And it gives me a great lens through which to view my current work.
It gives me the freedom to be with what is more easily. I can look at my writing, for example, and say “that’s in Stage 2 right now.” From there I can decide whether I want to keep it in Stage 2, move it to Stage 3, or eliminate it entirely.
I shared some of that in today’s episode of My Circus Life. You can watch the replay here:
After doing that broadcast I had further breakthroughs about how I’m going to use this matrix as a planning tool. I’ll share more in a future article.
After you watch today’s episode, I’d love to hear what you’re taking from it.