Forget Big Changes. Just Take One Small Step
BY Jeff Haden
If your goal--in life or in business--is so big that you risk never reaching it, scale back your strategy.
If you're really not happy with some aspect of your life--your business, your career, your productivity, your health--the thought of making all the changes necessary to change your situation can seem overwhelming.
You'll never finish... so what's the point of even starting?
Sometimes all it takes is picking one thing, one small thing, and doing it. Success is rarely overnight; success is the result of a series of small, incremental steps.
So forget the long-term. Forget the end result or the exit strategy. Forget the rest of the list. Just pick one thing to do--one tangible, measurable, goal-oriented thing--and do it.
While you can't overcome every problem right away, you can accomplish one thing. Then, when you do, you'll feel a lot better about tackling whatever is next.
Here are some examples:
1. Build a better network.
Spend 20 minutes a day making connections. Pick people on LinkedIn to connect with, and then maintain those connections. Or send a note to a few people in your community recognizing their success or congratulating them for an achievement. (Guaranteed they'll respond--and they'll remember you.) Or call a supplier and compliment hiw service.
Just make sure your 20 minutes are focused entirely on giving, not receiving. Then you'll make real and lasting connections.
2. Be more productive.
Overcome your Pavlovian response to incoming email and commit to only taking glancing at your inbox three times; say at 8, noon, and 5. (You'll be surprised by how non-urgent most of your emails really are--and you won't get stuck in the multiple-replies-just-to-be-friendly-and-appear-responsive cycle that wastes tons of time.)
Or pick one task a day to see through to the end instead of multitasking. Before you start your day, add one "not to do" item to your to-do list.
3. Improve your health.
Eat one meal a day differently. Just one. Have oatmeal and fruit for breakfast. Replace your afternoon cookies with a meal replacement bar. Pack tuna and a small salad for lunch instead of eating out.
Making sweeping changes to your diet is incredibly depressing--it's a lot easier to just change one meal. In time you'll lose a little weight, feel a little better, and be motivated by your success to make other incremental changes.
4. Get smarter.
According to Gretchen Reynolds, exercise does more to bolster thinking than thinking does; people who walked for just 40 minutes three days a week built new brain cells and improved their memory functions.
And while multitasking is often inefficient, in this case feel free to take a walk with your significant other--the time you spend together, away from distractions and interruptions, will surely benefit your relationship, too.
5. Change your career.
Want to start your own business but the thought of going from zero to thriving enterprise is daunting? Call one potential supplier. Visit one potential location. Scout one similar business. Have lunch with one successful entrepreneur. Write one draft of your business plan.
If you really want to start a business, doing one thing will make you really excited about doing another thing... and soon you'll be a runaway entrepreneurial train.
Of course those are just simple examples. Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, no matter how impossible it seems to accomplish, just pick one thing and start doing it.
You'll be that much closer to success--and in the meantime you'll feel a lot better about yourself.
JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden