We often think big when we think of process improvement, growth, or change. 

So big that whatever we are dreaming of becomes overwhelming. Overwhelm causes our primal instincts to activate, and we will often run in the opposite direction or do everything but what we want. 

Last year, I set a personal goal to read one non-fiction book a month. This goal was easy because I read a lot. Or at least, it should have been easy. 

I failed the first month, the second month, the third… you get the idea. 

It baffled me. As part of my morning routine, I have time to read. But once I set this goal, I found myself doing everything but reading. 

Then I experimented… I changed the goal. I changed it to read 20 pages a day. That’s it.   Twenty pages a day or 600 pages a month. This is easily a book a month with a buffer. 

I found myself reading again by changing the goal to something small and doable. 

Chunk down

Something happened to me when I set the goal to read one book monthly. The goal was too big for my unconscious mind. And because it was such a simple little goal, I never gave it another thought when I mapped out my goals. 

But when I stopped reading any non-fictional books, I had to look at what changed for me. I thought I was burned out or wasn’t interested in what I was reading. I thought many things. 

I thought a lot until I remembered that one cause of procrastination is overwhelm. Then I realized I needed to break down the goal into small achievable sized. Daily is small, and 20 pages a day is doable. 

To make this goal achievable, I created a book list and purchased three of the books on the list to have them ready to read. I put the book where I thought I would do my reading and then set the goal to read five pages a day. Slowly I increased it and set it at 20.  Five pages were too small, and 25 felt too much dome days. 20 is my magic number. 

What can you break down into small chunks?

I have to do 40 hours of education hours. After spending my winter holiday cramming in almost 35 hours of educational videos, I thought there had to be a better way. The following year, I scheduled 1 hour weekly for education hours. 

That scheduled time, combined with a couple of conferences I wanted to do, I had my 40 hours done before Q4. I continued this practice and will finish my hours this year by the end of June! 

The bottom line is that small things done repeatedly add up. 

What if you want a write a book? Can you write 200 words a day? Two hundred words a day is 73,000 words at the end of the year!  

And if writing daily isn’t for you, maybe do 1,000 words 2-3 times a week? That would be 2-3 thousand words a week. 

You may want to improve at something you already do, such as playing the guitar; what if you added one extra hour a week? Three 20-minute sessions a week? That is 52 additional hours of practice a year. 

I challenge you to look at some of the things you want to do. The things that you keep putting off. Ask yourself if you are putting them off because they are too big. A sign they are too big is if you don’t think you have time for it. Likely, you are looking at too big of a chunk of time. But if you allocated 15 minutes a day or 20 minutes 3 times a week, would you then have time? 

What can you chunk down so that a tiny step, done consistently, will create the outcome/result you want?  

Small steps can help people make big changes to achieve what they really desire. That wish isn’t going to go anywhere unless you do something about it. Every day, just do one thing. At the end of six months, you’ll be somewhere.

Marlo Thomas

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