A quiet consistency often trumps erratic enterprises. We’ve all heard the sayings: “Little by little does the trick” or “Little by little sinks the ship”; and they’re both wise allusions to the cumulative power of taking simple actions.
This unapparent force can strengthen or erode our accomplishments each and every day, depending on how we relate with it. And yet we often neglect the power of doing a little every day, rather choosing to struggle to get things done – invariably getting caught up in procrastination.
This article is an invitation to do otherwise. After reading this, you will hopefully be inspired to tap into the huge potential of action that is yours to command, by breaking down your goals into tiny minute steps.
How to get things done without even noticing
Do you know why so many people fail to accomplish their self-imposed goals? There is a fundamental motif to such scenarios: unrealistic expectations. Most people just cannot manage to set up a manageable action plan, and instead adopt wishful thinking as the driving force behind their aspirations.
That is too bad; as much as positive thinking can be useful in a number of situations in life, it’s usually a hindrance when it comes to meeting goals.
The secret to really getting things done is not to forcefully do a lot in a short period of time. This approach only contributes to exhaustiveness and frustration. If there’s a secret method to all those who are real achievers, it’s a kind of perseverant consistency: the ability to thread closer to the designated goals, each and every day.
How to fail to write a book in six months
Let’s consider a simple example: imagine you wanted to write a novel. Ripe with dreams and potential, you self-impose a grandiose goal to finish your book within six months. How exciting!
During the first days or weeks you feel vibrant with your decision; you tell everyone about it, and lose not an opportunity to emphasize how challenging it will be, and how much you welcome the literary task you set for yourself. You feel like a real writer already!
Weeks turn into months, and several days go by in a row without you writing anything. You keep promising yourself that you’ll eventually get those creative juices flowing, and quickly catch up with your schedule. Until…
Eventually you realize that you’ve barely finished the first chapter in your book, and there’s still a long way to go… even though you already burned through three months. Then you make a point to remember that it will somehow fall into place soon enough, and make a point to push yourself harder to meet your goal.
The harder you push yourself, the harder writing gets. Soon enough it feels like a chore, you’re getting “writer’s block” and questioning why you had to pick such a strict, impossible deadline. You start questioning your ability to write a novel. It doesn’t another three months total until you decide to just forget those unrealistic pipe dreams of writing the next great novel.
Does that sound familiar? Now consider this “alternative timeline.”
How to write a book, one page per day.
You decide to write a book. You’re really itching to it done in six months, but you realize it may not be enough time (after all you can’t yet afford the luxury of writing full time). So you decide to create a realistic action plan: you will write a single page every day, for a year.
If you manage to stick with this unassuming goal, one year from now your novel should be finished. You really want to push yourself harder, but you are well aware of your constraints, as well as the power of cumulative action.
Likewise, you decide there will be no harm in writing more than a single page for the day, should time allow. But all the while, you make a point to remember: one page per day, bare minimum. No matter how busy you happen to be, there will always be half an hour you can use to add to your manuscript.
Fast forward one month… and you’ve already writing your second chapter! And it feels really effortless so far, as though your book is writing itself. Your focus is crystal-clear, and your energy is clearly aligned. You waste no time talking about how you plan to write a book, since you’re actually walking the walk. And it suits you really nice.
Six to eight months later… you actually wrote your novel! It’s over 500 pages and you’re not entirely happy with every passage, but there are still a few months to go before the end of your self-imposed goal.
Reinvigorated with how much you accomplished so far, your determination to write a great piece of literature is only stronger. At this point, there is no room for doubts, and you’ve already matured as a writer without even noticing.
Choose a rock and carve… drop by drop
Maybe you don’t even want to write a book. Maybe you want to learn a new language, or learn how to paint, or start a business. It doesn’t matter. Whatever your goal may be, the best way to reach it is not through leaps and bounds. It’s by diligent and perseverant threading.
The trick to actually achieving any goal is to break it down in as many stages as possible. And then break up each stage in as many steps as possible. Make a list of everything you’ll have to do before reaching your goal, and make sure each little step/task is really bite-sized. Make sure it’s something you can do during a coffee break or during your train ride home.
From there, it’s all about baby steps… each and every day. It’s more important to do a single task toward your goal each day, than to forcefully do several tasks in a day, and then feeling frustrated enough to do nothing for two weeks.
Remember this simple advice, and never again will you have to struggle to reach your goals. Because you will learn how to draw on the power of cumulative small actions: just like the water: drop by drop you’ll carve any rock you set sights on to.