In swimming, there’s a natural relationship between cadence, speed, and fatigue.
A higher stroke rate makes you go through the water faster, and you’ll tire more quickly.
Similarly: lower stroke rate, slower pace, easier.
Except not always.
Take a moment to think about why this might be…
Because when your stroke rate is too low, because of the water’s resistance, you start to slow down between each stroke (and sink, a bit).
When this happens, each time you pull through the water you’re fighting this resistance. You’re pushing through a fast-slow-fast cycle which requires expending extra energy.
It’s much more efficient to maintain a constant speed.
Ironically, the very thing we’re doing to avoid fatigue is making us more tired. Worse, the problem can be self-reinforcing: slowing our stroke rate even more because we keep finding ourselves out of breath.
And so it goes with how we approach our throughput in other areas of life.
Task switching, of course, is the most obvious culprit: the ultimate undo-er of pace and flow.
But the point is broader. It’s about seeing that there are moments of optimal flow awaiting us at every turn, ones in which we are producing more with less effort, even though from the outside it might look like we are working harder.
In a similar vein, we can consider that our attempts to insert more breaks and distractions into a day full of an insurmountable pile of work might be helping us and might be contributing to the problem.
The outside world—distractions, worries, the chatter of in our own mind—can all be sources of resistance.
Which means that the solution to our sense of having too much to do might be the exact opposite of what it appears to be.