There are plenty of benchmarks you're supposed to hit.

For example, you need to spend 30 minutes a day building and maintaining connections in order to create an effective network. You need to sleep 8 hours a night in order to improve your mental and physical performance and reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. You need to meditate for 20 minutes per day in order to refresh, recharge, and be more self-aware.

Sounds great.

Also sounds incredibly daunting.

Manage to carve out 30 minutes for this, 20 minutes for that, 30 minutes for that, carve out additional blocks of time for everything else you're "supposed" to do while still getting a good night's sleep... do all that and there's little time for anything else.

So what happens? There are plenty of things we want to do, know we should do, even need to do... but we don't have time.

So we don't do them.

Hold that thought.

A widely-cited guideline that has reached conventional wisdom status from the Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity. If you only work out 3 times per week, that's 50 minutes a day. Even working out 5 times per week requires putting in 30-minute aerobic exercise blocks.

For many people, that's a lot. So they give up.

Yet a 15-year study of over 55,000 adults shows that people who ran for 51 minutes per week -- which works out to a little over 7 minutes per day -- had a 30 percent lower risk of death from all causes, a 45 percent lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke, and lived an average of three years longer than people who didn't run.

Yep. 7 minutes per day.

In fact, people who ran for less than 1 hour per week benefited as much as people who ran more than 3 hours per week (at least in terms of reducing the risk of heart events and improving mortality rates.)

And even though they only averaged running at a 12-minute mile pace, which is by no means sprinting. (Do the math and running for 7 minutes at that pace means you only have to run a little over half a mile.)

According to the researchers:

Protecting ourselves against life-changing conditions like a heart attack or stroke should be everyone's top priority. But the reality is not everyone is managing to achieve their 150 minutes of physical activity a week.

(Plus),... running may be a better exercise option than more moderate intensity exercises for healthy but sedentary people since it produces similar, if not greater, mortality benefits in 5 to 10 minutes compared to the 20 to 30 minutes per day of moderate intensity activity that many find too time consuming.

What this study proves is that when it comes to keeping physically active, every step counts.

Which is true for almost everything you think you should do... but don't feel you have the time to do.

The Power of Small Steps

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 starting?

The key is to pick one thing -- one small thing -- and do it, over and over again. Because success is never overnight; success is the accumulation of a series of small, incremental, consistent steps.

For example:

Want to build a better network? Spend 5 minutes a day making and maintaining connections. Send a note to someone who just did something great. Send a link to an article you know someone can benefit from. Call a vendor or supplier and praise their service.

Do that for 5 minutes a day, and over the course of a year you'll have put 20 hours into building a better network. While it might not sound like much... since you only have 5 minutes a day, you'll make those minutes count. 

Which will result in building the only kind of connections you really need: Genuine, lasting, and mutually-beneficial.

Want to build a better body?

Run the aforementioned 7 minutes per day. Or if you want to improve your strength, use 5 of your minutes in front of the TV to do a few basic exercises. 

A friend does 30 pushups, 50 air squats, and 30 sit-ups. It takes him about 5 minutes. 

Then follow the Jerry Seinfeld method: Put a calendar on the wall, and when you're done mark each day with a red X. Then, as Jerry says, "After a few days, you'll have a chain. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain."

Five minutes per day won't turn my friend into Brandon Curry, but that's not his goal -- he just wants to maintain a certain level of strength, balance, and flexibility.

For him, 5 minutes is enough -- and because it's only 5 minutes, is something he's happy to do.

Want to get a little smarter?

Use your edge time to read a book for 10 minutes a day. Or read for 10 minutes before you go to bed. While that's not a lot... stay consistent in a year you'll finish 9 or 10 books.

Which also doesn't sound like a lot -- but happens to be at least twice as many books as the average person reads.

Want to start a business?

Make a list of tasks, and knock off one item per day.  Call one potential supplier. Visit one potential location. Scout one similar business. Have lunch with one successful entrepreneur. Work on a section of your business plan.

The accumulation of small steps will take you to where you want to go.

The Power of a Long Chain

Pick a benchmark. Pick one thing -- business, personal, family, etc. -- that will make a big difference in your life.

Commit to spending 5 or 10 minutes per day on that activity. Commit to consistency: Commit to checking off the boxes on your calendar.

Within a few days, you'll start to embrace your small successes.

Within a few weeks, you may not be able to imagine your life without that activity.

Because success doesn't always have to mean going all-in and committing to an incredibly daunting level of effort.

Sometimes consistent small steps are all you need to get the results you want.