Here are two contradictory truths that are valid for lots of folks right now. The pandemic and its resulting fallout has many of us reconsidering major aspects of our lives, from our career choices to our current city of residence.
But while many of us are looking at our lives with new eyes and considering serious overhauls, it's also true that the middle of a global crisis is a terrible time to make momentous decisions. You can barely plan a birthday party because of virus-related uncertainty right now. How can you plan to revamp your business or uproot your family?
The result is a lot of people are feeling simultaneously unsettled and trapped. You long for change but can't do much to affect it. In short, you're stuck in a rut. What's the solution? A pair of experts offer the same actionable advice: Try a tiny project.
Tiny steps lead to big changes
Writer Alexandra Franzen discovered the joy of the tiny project when she was working on her first e-book. At just 10 pages long, it hardly qualifies as a book at all. But Franzen reports pounding out that first attempt at a longer work over a couple of days in a comfy armchair at her local coffee shop was incredibly freeing.
First, it's really hard to procrastinate on something that small. Rather than stressing about the project and forever putting it off, Franzen "pretended like I was writing an extra-long email to a friend" and just got started.
Second, even though the end product was small, the satisfaction and motivation it provided was huge.
"It was a tiny project, yet it brought me big buckets of joy. Joy, and also satisfaction, pride, and a big boost in confidence. I felt like a 'finisher,' not just a 'starter' or a 'dabbler.' It shifted how I felt about myself as a writer, as an artist, even as a human being. A tiny shift -- yet, a big deal," writes Franzen.
Run multiple "pilot projects"
Franzen isn't alone in singing the praises of starting small. Former Google career coach turned author Jenny Blake uses the term "pilot project" rather than "tiny project," but her prescription is essentially the same. The way to get over inertia and anxiety and actually change your life is to start very, very small.
She advises those stuck in a rut to ask themselves, "What are small experiments I can run right now that will not drastically shift my day-to-day life, but involve skills, or test a new hypothesis of something I'm interested in?"
"By running several small pilots concurrently, you can see which are going to emerge in the lead," she adds. "The whole point is to take the pressure off any one having to work."
Crazy 2020 might not be a good time for huge life overhauls, but that doesn't mean you have to ignore your urge to shake things up. Tiny projects will help you scratch your itch for change and accomplishment and also provide data on whether new directions are actually right for you.
Whether it's a simple new product, a bare-bones website, a five-minute podcast, or a quick new journaling habit, small steps are often the best way to get started on big changes.
Or as Franzen says of her own experiments with tiny projects: "Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I feel focused, light, and energized. Instead of giving up, I march forward. Instead of feeling inadequate, I feel capable. When I set tiny goals, ironically, I make big moves."