Life, Mental health, Mental Health & Wellbeing, Physical health

If A Thing Is Worth Doing – It’s Worth Doing Badly

I appreciate effort. No matter how small, silly or irrelevant, I appreciate effort.

Billy Chapata

If a thing is worth doing it’s worth doing badly.

Yes. That’s right.


I know the saying we grew up with is that if a thing is worth doing it’s worth doing well. But I think that version is too guilt inducing.

It doesn’t allow enough space for kindness – be it towards others, or ourselves.

It also leads to a lot of stuff just remaining undone. Especially for people who lack energy, motivation, or executive function.

And formerly ‘gifted and talented’ students who were never taught how to persist with anything if they aren’t immediately good at it.

Your house is a mess but you aren’t up to the almost overwhelming size of the task. So it remains untidy.

You feel like you should work on your fitness but you don’t thing you’re up to making enough use of it to justify a gym membership. So you put it off.

You want to be more sociable but, well, *gestures vaguely at the world*. So you start another Netflix marathon at home by yourself instead – telling yourself you’ll reach out to people when things are more… Something…

But if a tidy(ish) house, a reasonable level of fitness, and friends are worth having. It’s worth making a start on getting them. No matter how inadequate you think that effort might be.

If can’t tidy a room, tidy a shelf. Or a chair.

And then do another equally little bit tomorrow, and then the next day, and the next day. And maybe you’ll get there eventually.

Or maybe you won’t – but at least you’ll feel at least a little bit better for having made the problem at least a little bit smaller.

A few weeks ago I decided to make myself a fitness plan based on a similar principle.

I wasn’t fit enough to warrant a trip to a gym. And anyway we were in lockdown so they weren’t open.

But I inherited one set of live basically healthily well into their 90s despite drinking, smoking, and sun-worshipping genes. And one set of dying before getting to retirement age genes. And if I want the first set of genes to win out I’m going to have to do something to help them.

So I’ve started going on daily walks.

I started out walking literally half a block.

It hurt. A lot more than I expected it to. And it felt kinda silly. But it was a start.

Even just a small amount of movement is better for your body than no movement at all.

And if I hadn’t started there was no chance of ever getting to the possibility of being able to exercise ‘well’.

I’ve added on half a block a week and I’m now up to about half a mile. And I’ve added in some stuff with 1kg hand weights.

And I’ve posted a bunch of pictures of trees to Instagram to document my progress – #accountabilitypost – because I think it’s good for people to see that fitness isn’t just for people who can do 25k runs several nights a week.

And, hopefully, with consistent, incremental progress those trees will eventually become a forest.

I can’t seem to fit in eight glasses of water a day. What I have got down is drinking a pint of strawberry Ribena when I get in from my daily walk, and another with my tablets before bed. Which takes me two thirds of the way to hydration goal, and they’re obviously not the only things I drink all day.

If your goal is to socialise more – reach out to just one friend. You can send them a text. And arrange just one cup of tea and a chat over Skype.

Can’t manage a shower? That’s okay. This is just one of those days that cleansing wipes and dry shampoo are for.

You want to eat healthier but feel cooking every meal from scratch is about as realistic as running a marathon every day? Just make one meal. Or make one change – like switching to brown rice or eating more beans.

You’re not even up to meals? Not even a sandwich? Okay. Grab the constituent parts of a sandwich from the fridge and eat them as they are. Sure they probably taste best assembled traditionally but your digestive system doesn’t care how they’re delivered. The nutrients are just the same.

Struggling to start saving? Can you put 50p a month into a jar?

You fancy turning your hand to baking? Find a basic cake or cookie recipe and have at it. Even if they fall apart you’ll probably at least end up with a pile of very tasty crumbs.

You want to write a novel but don’t know how to get started? Approach it like it’s Duolingo and just give it 15 minutes a day.

You want a better job? At least sign up to a job board to see what’s out there.

And if you find something, apply, and don’t get it, well- if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.

At least you tried.

You tried to get something that you wanted. You tried to get better at something. You tried campaigning for something you believed in. You tried to help somebody. You tried to take care of yourself.

And it’s better that you tried and didn’t succeed than to have pretended not to care, or to have wondered what if, or to have hoped that someone, anyone, else would do it.

We don’t always get the things we try for, and that’s okay. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. Because if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing even if you fail.

But for most things, on most days, you can’t fail. Done is enough.

So done badly, or done slowly, or done half-assed is better than not done at all.

So get to done however you can manage it. Worry about well another day.

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