Don't do it if you can't do it right
July 30, 2020 4:20 PM   Subscribe

I need an example of an action with the following properties: 1) Doing the thing regularly and consistently is better than never doing the thing; 2) doing the thing poorly or inconsistently is worse than never doing the thing.

I feel like I'm probably missing multiple really obvious ones, but my brain keeps getting hung up on flossing (Flossing doesn't even qualify, as far as I know) for some reason, and I can't think of better examples. Please help?
posted by Spathe Cadet to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Taking antibiotics? Do it inconsistently, and you just breed antibiotic resistant variants of whatever you're trying to kill.
posted by smcameron at 4:24 PM on July 30 [21 favorites]


Taking medicine, as for mental health or antibiotics?
posted by solitary dancer at 4:25 PM on July 30


Making coffee?
posted by Melismata at 4:33 PM on July 30


Does "poorly" here just have to do with the schedule of doing the thing or also the quality of effort?

If it's the latter, anything high stakes or potentially dangerous if done carelessly might work -- parachuting, scuba diving.

If it's just inconsistency in showing up/doing the thing, then things with a high cost would qualify -- if you're only going to go to class once every couple of weeks, it's probably better not to pay for a semester of college, etc.
posted by space snail at 4:34 PM on July 30 [2 favorites]


Training a dog
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:37 PM on July 30 [16 favorites]


For a lot of physical therapy exercises, doing it with bad form can be worse for your injury than not doing it at all. I don't know about irregularly, though.

Oh, I think watering the lawn might qualify. If you never water, the roots grow deeper to find water and it will (often) be just fine. But if you water sometimes but not regularly, it gets enough water to rely on, so the roots don't grow as deep, but then it will die fast if not tended in a drought. (At least that's what my dad told me)
posted by gideonfrog at 4:40 PM on July 30 [3 favorites]


Motorbike repair.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:42 PM on July 30


Birth control pills
posted by babelfish at 4:43 PM on July 30 [12 favorites]


Voting?
posted by mhoye at 4:48 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


Lifting weights! Doing it regularly is really beneficial for all kinds of reasons, both physical and mental, but doing it badly can injure you, and doing it irregularly means you get to minimise benefits and maximise delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which is the worst.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 4:48 PM on July 30 [12 favorites]


Baby sleep. Sleeping on their backs is safest. However, babies who normally sleep on their backs and are occasionally put on their stomachs-say at a sitter’s-are more likely to die than babies who are always put to sleep on their stomachs.
Page 4.
posted by purenitrous at 4:49 PM on July 30


Rewards and punishments for kids: if you do it consistently, they learn the lesson, if you don't do it, the world has its own consequences that they will learn from, if you do it inconsistently, you get all kinds of screwed-up behaviour and things like learned helplessness because they can't predict what things are going to be rewarded or punished.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 4:53 PM on July 30 [15 favorites]


Yeah, the standout example that comes to mind is exercising using resistance or weights. Excellent for a number of reasons but can be actively harmful if you aren't doing them right.
posted by theory at 4:53 PM on July 30 [2 favorites]


Piloting an aircraft is very rewarding but, as attributed to A. G. Lamplugh, “Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.” Best to keep well practiced.
posted by exogenous at 4:57 PM on July 30 [2 favorites]


Along the lines of training dogs or raising children: giving rats cocaine. If you give it to them regularly when they press the lever, they use it a few times a day. When you give it to them randomly after hitting the lever, they just hit the lever all day.

Watering newly transplanted trees can qualify, similar to the grass example above.

Anywhere 'benign neglect' is a term is a potential example.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:01 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


Calendaring.
posted by letahl at 5:07 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


Keto diets. If you do it poorly, it can just be eating way too much fat with no benefit.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:12 PM on July 30 [4 favorites]


It turns out that you can actually brush your teeth too hard to the point where it significantly wears away the enamel. Unfortunately, I don't know if we have the data to show that this is actually worse than not brushing at all.
posted by mhum at 6:13 PM on July 30


Walking in wild places; regularity brings survival know-how and situational awareness, both need time and repetition. Irregular visits lead to discomfort and early death.

Sex needs practice too, if 'practiced' indifferently you might as well not bother.
posted by unearthed at 8:26 PM on July 30


Brushing your teeth
posted by Amy93 at 10:41 PM on July 30


Riding horses. Perfect practice makes perfect.
posted by onebyone at 5:32 AM on July 31


Any kind of exercise. It became much easier mentally once I started doing some intense cardio (running or biking for me) most days each week. If you do it wrong, you are much more likely to injure yourself.

Practicing a foreign language (any kind of learning). If you do it infrequently, you are likely to not learn that there is a more idiomatic way of saying something, or realize your understanding of the grammar or vocabulary is faulty.
posted by JawnBigboote at 6:29 AM on July 31


An example of both is investing.
Regular investing is much better than never doing it, and regularly investing but doing things like daytrading or jumping from hot idea (gold!) to hot idea (tesla, bitcoin) is worse than not doing it at all, because you are going to lose all your money with nothing to show for it.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:58 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Shaving your legs as a woman. Doing it regularly and well makes your legs hold up to modern beauty standards. Never doing it results in a fine-looking pelt. Doing it irregularly or poorly means your legs look patchy or feel prickly.
posted by coppermoss at 8:18 AM on July 31


Oh, I think watering the lawn might qualify. If you never water, the roots grow deeper to find water and it will (often) be just fine. But if you water sometimes but not regularly, it gets enough water to rely on, so the roots don't grow as deep, but then it will die fast if not tended in a drought. (At least that's what my dad told me)

Not to derail but the "right" way to water is regularly, infrequently, and deeply. You're not watering the grass so much as soaking a large amount of water deeply into the soil.


Also: surgery. Surgeons are advised that they should either do particular operations regularly or not at all. This is in the same "dangerous when out of practice" category as driving or piloting.
posted by atrazine at 8:35 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Playing any musical instrument? That 'woodshedding' phase is often downright painful for anyone who is not actively involved in it.
posted by pseudophile at 9:10 AM on July 31


Cooking. To follow your example, cooking a dish regularly and consistently is better than never making that dish at all, it will hone your skills and you will learn how to modify, and hopefully you'll eat well. Conversely, not cooking a dish you're not interested in is a better choice than wasting time and product.
posted by winesong at 11:52 AM on July 31


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