This post is about a concept that inspired me to start WIP in the first place: what I call the non-linearity of WIPs.

One of the things I hope to showcase through WIP is how interests and hobbies change naturally over time. I've noticed that you often don't hear about the struggles and challenges in someone's journey, only their destination i.e. their success, achievements, overcoming adversity. Of course we could spend all day discussing why it might be like this, but I'm more interested in a different approach.

The graph and the reality of WIPs

What I want to do is to make sure I document my entire journey across the various WIPs on my blog. For me it's about painting an authentic, comprehensive picture of the WIP process. I tried to show off this idea in the graph above. The red line is what most people probably think of when they imagine themselves taking up an interest; smooth, linear progress with no real hitches. The green 'reality' line is how I've started to think about my WIPs, with each little deviation within the green line reflecting different phases based on my own experiences:

  • The initial green line: when I'm first learning from scratch and everything feels foreign, similar to when you first get into the driver's seat of a car.
  • The second, steeply rising green line: a burst of energy/motivation when I feel like I've mastered the basics. This is usually my most productive time because everything feels new and exciting and things start to click.
  • The third flat green line: a plateau. In my experience this is usually when I've been learning loads but then invariably slow down from some combination of tiredness/burnout, things not being as new and interesting anymore, or deprioritising it for other things. I actually think this is a very useful phase because it acts like a natural filter - in other words, is this interest really interesting enough to keep pursuing?
  • The fourth, downward green line: I start to decline or forget things from a lack of practice. Very real but not something I hear about often.
  • Fifth, upwards green line: the second burst of energy/motivation when I rediscover my passion for the interest. A very interesting line because from my experience, only a few of my WIPs have ever reached this point as a lot of my WIPs fade away after the third stage.

So, what's the significance of all this? How might it benefit you? Well, I think understanding and acknowledging the natural course of how WIPs evolve can be beneficial for the following reasons:

Perspective: the bird's eye view

The best thing about the graph above is that it gives me a birds' eye view of what to expect over the long term. The ups and downs, the periods of amotivation and the periods of joyous productivity all get contextualised within the bigger picture. It makes it harder to lose sight of my goal or get too disheartened when I'm having an unproductive period. On the flip-side it'll keep me humble when I'm having a productive streak. It also refocuses my thinking into the idea of net gain over the long term, rather than say a day or a week.

Take what I've been working on and posting about on my blog over the past 3 months, for example. In September last year I posted about some potential lifestyle WIPs including building an optimal wardrobe and a vinyl collection; I've posted 0 follow-ups since then. I'm not actually bothered by this though because I've been travelling while thoroughly enjoying learning languages, giving extra priority to my goals of being a polyglot. This is how the bigger picture mindset has really helped me; the non-language goals haven't been discarded, they're just parked to the side for now.

Discipline vs. motivation vs. burnout

Discipline and motivation are concepts where my thoughts have evolved over time. Chasing a goal based on your level of motivation is more unpredictable compared to discipline, which suggests you should impose a consistent practice/learning routine regardless of your level of motivation. On the other hand, ignoring motivation completely might not be the smartest idea as sticking relentlessly to a habit in the name of discipline seems like a recipe for burnout.

My current thinking with this is to listen to both sides; have some discipline with chasing my goals but listen to what my motivation (or lack of) could be indicating apart from just stock-standard laziness. In the context of recognising that WIPs are non-linear, it gives me more flexibility in how I approach them. While I'm still aiming to be disciplined, I'm not trying or expecting to get the same amount of practice in every day*.

*The obvious caveat to this whole post is professional stuff like work or study, where you often can't afford to be flexible because you're answering to a boss, a client, a teacher, etc.

Competing priorities? Doesn't matter, I'm flexible

Here's the best part of it. Putting the above points together allows me to juggle several demanding WIPs and not feel overwhelmed because I have a good balance of 1) flexibility with discipline, and 2) current priorities with big picture thinking.

I prioritise certain WIPs based on the time I have available, my current plans (e.g. travelling), my current priorities (i.e. becoming a polyglot in a year) and what I find fun and enjoyable. Other WIPs get parked to the side, ready to be revisited in the future. I'm mindful as I'm doing all of this that my days will vary and I may have periods of feeling inspired and productive but equally periods of feeling stagnant and disinterested. If and when they happen, I can reassess and decide to park my current WIP or persist, all while keeping my overall goals and the reasons I'm pursuing them in mind.


In summary: through WIP, I want to showcase as authentically as possible the natural timecourse of working on a goal the ups and downs of a WIP journey.

I feel like when I've written this above in a nice packaged blog post it all seems simple and intuitive. But when I think back on other WIPs I've worked on in the past I realise how easily I slipped into trying to do too much at once or not knowing how to deprioritise or deal with periods of amotivation. So it's probably not a stretch that there'll be other people who could read this post and find some clarity and benefit for themselves - if you are one of those, do let me know. :)

You can follow my current WIPs by 1) subscribing to this blog or 2) following my current Instagram pages: general account, lifestyle, drums, languages.