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Is the Concept of "1% Daily Improvement" Useful?

Raffy Banks • March 31, 2024

If you improve by 1% everyday, within a year you’ll have improved 37X.

Getting 1% better every day is impossible.

The problem is that soon after you start making improvements, you’re having to improve on top of your previous improvements.

Imagine you want to learn Chinese and get 1% better every day. But what does 1% better mean? How do you track that?

Let’s say you know 2 phrases and you want to build this up. At 1% improvement every day, you’d need to know 75 phrases by the end of the year.

That feels achievable so you keep it up.

But you then realize that by the end of year two you’ll need to know 2,800 phrases.

And by the end of year three you’ll need to know 107,000 phrases.


Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Improvement is NOT hyperbolic. It’s linear for a bit, followed by a plateau.

And I get it. The premise of 1% daily improvement is that small changes lead to big outcomes.

But for me it’s still a flawed argument in terms of its usefulness.

Rather than thinking in terms of never-ending improvement, I’ve found it’s more useful and more motivating to think in more binary terms.

Either (a) I’m taking care of myself or (b) I’m not. (This, I currently think, is the point of life. But that’s a topic for another time.)

I don’t care about desires or outcomes or ambitions. In fact, I think this framing is a key element. I.e. to lower my expectations and desire only the few things I truly care about.

So, every day I do my best to take care of myself. If I’m able to do that, I’ll get the opportunity to do it again tomorrow.

For me, procrastination then dissolves away and motivation increases.