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June 10, 2016 4:22 PM   Subscribe

What are some activities and endeavors where there is a fairly linear relationship between the effort you put into it and the results you get back? Examples inside.

I know there are always mitigating factors, but here are examples:

Good examples:
- Exercise: If you exercise more frequently, you will get better at the exercise and lose weight (assuming your eating habits are healthy and stay the same, no health problems, etc.)
- Cleaning: Very easy to measure success, although that's a boring one

Meh examples:
- Starting a business: Meh because many factors out of one's control
- Playing a musical instrument: Meh because of the factor of natural talent, success can be somewhat subjective

Bad examples:
- Cooking: Because you eat it not long after and the result is gone
- Clipping coupons, going to special events for free samples: It's hard to generalize why this doesn't fit, but at a certain level of financial security, spending an hour to save a few dollars actually seems like a loss to me in terms of time

Hopefully that gives a better idea of what I am looking for, but I will take all ideas. Bonus points for things that are fun and awesome (or have fun and awesome results).
posted by unannihilated to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I know you brought up "exercise" generally, but success in powerlifting (the sport where people compete for the best 1RM total across squat, bench press, and deadlift) tends to be very strongly linked to how much effort and discipline you put into it. And most people start lifting/peak somewhat later in life compared to other sports (you actually fit into the IPL "Junior" category until the year of your 23rd birthday). It's kind of like the opposite of tennis or gymnastics where you pretty much have to be groomed from a very very young age to be successful. Progress is also of course very quantifiable -- you have X total at Y weight.

I'd revise your thoughts re: playing a musical instrument. Talent is a factor, but consistent, diligent practice will get you incredibly far, and while "far" isn't quantifiable, if you put in an hour of consistent practice every day into an instrument for a few years, I guarantee the results will be really cool.

Learning a second language probably fits. More effort = more fluency.
posted by Gymnopedist at 4:31 PM on June 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

I totally disagree with some of your examples! Exercise's rewards vary from person to person just as the rewards of practicing a musical instrument do. In almost any endeavor, natural talent for the task plays a significant role, but consistent, effortful practice helps almost everyone get to a reasonable level of competence.

On the other hand, I think as long as you're cooking with recipes, practice will make almost anyone faster and more confident and competent in the kitchen. There's some natural aptitude involved in altering and inventing recipes, but almost anyone can measure, chop, and follow instructions. So the immediate rewards of cooking are gone in a short time, sure, but you get a lot better with even a little bit of practice.

And if you don't work a job for pay, clipping coupons isn't a bad way to use your time. It's basically like doing Mechanical Turk or something, assuming you only clip coupons for stuff you'd actually be buying anyway.
posted by town of cats at 4:37 PM on June 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

Pretty simple and obvious, but what about building or crafting a thing? Put X hours of labor in, get an item-- knit a scarf, build a deck, dig a hole?
posted by The otter lady at 5:07 PM on June 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

Commission-only sales.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:16 PM on June 10, 2016

If you want some specific exercises where it's easy to see results right away, try holding a plank (like holding yourself in the plank position, not holding a piece of wood) for 30 seconds, then a minute, then 90 seconds, etc. You're not gonna see ab muscles, but it's easy to feel evidence you're getting stronger.

For someone who doesn't currently run, running is another exercise where it's really easy to see progress.

Learning a foreign language, like Gymnopedist said. You'd have to define "success" for yourself but it could be learning 500 words or 100 phrases or reading a children's book, then a YA book, then a novel.

Eating spicy food.

Drinking alcohol/ building a tolerance for alcohol.
posted by thewestinggame at 5:27 PM on June 10, 2016

Learning to play an instrument is pretty linear.

Hourly work.

I think clipping coupons can be linear. Some folks get like 200 dollars of product for 4 dollars. But they put in a lot of time and practice to get there (like, they'd have come out way ahead financially if they just worked at the grocery).
posted by Kalmya at 6:06 PM on June 10, 2016

Memorizing poems. Spend a little time and you can learn one poem. A little more time and you can learn a second. A lot more time and you can learn 20.

Reading books. If you keep a list of what you've read it makes for a more tangible result. Reading as many books as possible from some list ("30 books everyone should read" or Pulitzer Prize winners or something) might increase the feeling of accomplishment.

Training your dog (or other animal)

Gardening. How many vegetables you get or how nice your flowerbeds look is going to be pretty directly dependent on the amount of time you spend.
posted by Redstart at 6:20 PM on June 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Martial arts.
posted by Dilligas at 6:20 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Before I clicked on this, I was totally going to say musical instruments! To me, there is as much talent involved in "musical instruments" are there are in "exercising" but at the end of the day, it's about practice, practice, practice.

Hand woodworking might fit. It's partially exercising (planing takes real muscles!) and partially getting good at the precision.
posted by ethidda at 7:09 PM on June 10, 2016

Stacking firewood. Laying bricks. Painting a wall. Cutting grass. Typing. Packing to move. Shaving. Learning something via flash cards. Knitting and crocheting. Making soap. Delivering packages for UPS. Painting your nails.

And smiling. Any server can tell you that the the more you smile, the bigger your tips.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:08 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you mean results for a one-time task, or results in terms of getting progressively better at it with practice? I had assumed you meant the latter but some people seem to be giving you answers for the former.

It's a good question though. I can't think of an answer yet. Even your "good" examples aren't perfectly linear: with exercise you eventually top out.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 8:40 PM on June 10, 2016

Boxing. Peak age for a boxer is mid 30s. An extremely physical sport that rewards experience pretty linearly through that age.
posted by so fucking future at 11:00 PM on June 10, 2016

Exercise does not necessarily lead to weight loss. It does lead to building muscle. You can build up to 100 push ups, holding a 3 minute plank, etc. fairly easily. See Couch to 5K also.

Cooking, however, does tend to get better with practice (and you know it *because* you eat the results right after!) I've been learning to make awesome food at as high a level as I can for over 20 years, and I can say from experience that my time has definitely paid off. I have had people ask to marry me solely on the basis of my dinner parties, and they were only sort of kidding.

Other things that repay time investment: partner dancing, any flow art (contact improv, hula hoop, diablo, poi, staff, etc), drawing, bonsai cultivation, training an animal, learning to meditate.
posted by ananci at 1:55 AM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rich Smorgasboard, yes, you summarized it better than I did: progressively better with consistent practice. I know that there are theories about how, despite what we think about natural talent, everything gets progressively better with enough focused practice, but I'm looking for things with progress you can see quickly enough for reinforcement. Like, say, if you start training now you could build up to running a 5k by the end of the summer. That is really my ideal example. Also, I work full-time, so I don't have excessive amounts of time for practice.

I hate cooking, so no need for further replies on how cooking fits what I'm looking for.
posted by unannihilated at 4:18 AM on June 11, 2016

Learn to make your own clothes. It's easy to get started, the most basic project is done in an afternoon and you get to wear the result. With a bit of experience you can make unique garments that fit you perfectly.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 4:52 AM on June 11, 2016

How about crossword puzzles? You can get a subscription to the NYT's archive, so you can practice at whatever rate you can manage; they're graded by day-of-week so you have more axes to measure yourself, e.g. "Today I completed a Wednesday, and also got a Monday done in < 7 min"; and the "cleverness" and pop culture is fairly constrained, mostly a matter of learning what words get used in crosswords.
posted by batter_my_heart at 5:33 PM on June 12, 2016

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