When we begin training for a new skill, we start by making large improvements for every small change. Fix your stance and swing, for example, and your strokes become much better.
But, the plateau arrives sooner rather than later. Suddenly, every small improvement takes a lot more effort. And, if you become an elite performer, these tiny improvements in your speed or accuracy can be the difference between being the best in the world and an also ran.
While this is easy to imagine this curve for an athlete, it is easy to forget that it applies just as nicely to the rest of us. Instead of producing athletic performances, our success is often measured by the value we produce, i.e., our productivity.
When we get started on the productivity curve, we make a ton of progress by just learning to focus on the right things. But, once we learn to do that, it is the tiny changes that make a difference. If we halve the amount of time we spend mindlessly surfing television or checking our notifications in a day, we give ourselves an extra few minutes every hour. And, the effect of those extra few minutes adds up and compounds over time to give us time and energy to spend on things that matter to us.
Over time, these small improvements have the same effect on our lives as they do in the legacy of elite athletes. They can make the difference between a life with regrets about time wasted and a life well lived.