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The importance of focusing and starting small

There’s a ton of articles out there already on how to motivate yourself to achieve your goals and do all of the things. They can totally help you more than I can. But one of the biggest things I support, personally and professionally, is the importance of focusing on one thing and starting small with anything you’re working on.

Small goals

Mind mapping is an exercise I wholeheartedly recommend. It allows you to zoom out and think about your life, what you want to accomplish, your big picture goals.

That same exercise can work for your business. Just the act of drawing out circles with lots of smaller circles – hey, it helps.

But it can also be terrifically overwhelming. Trying to figure out what you want to accomplish can make you start questioning your priorities and where you are now. Same thing for new year’s resolutions, if you’ve ever been stumped there. What do you want to accomplish?

What I recommend is starting small. Very small.

Small steps

Pick your small goal and don’t get hung up on analysis paralysis. Remember, this is super small, right? There’s no pressure.

If you’ve always wanted to read more, start with a goal of reading one book this month. If you want to start a garden but get overwhelmed with the possibilities, buy one plant and see how maintaining it goes. The possibilities aren’t endless, but they’re pretty close. Here are a few other small ideas of new things to try, depending on what your challenges are:

  • Cook one meal daily
  • Go for a 15-minute walk every day before lunch
  • Record your food in a journal every evening
  • Reconcile your bank account daily
  • Meditate for 5 minutes at a set time each day

You’ll see that my recommendations tend to focus on something you can spend time on each day – this approach helps you make progress without even realizing it.

Professionally, think small too. Pick one key performance indicator (KPI) and determine the small steps you can take on that front. If you’re wanting to expand your brand awareness, start posting once a day on Facebook or Twitter – just once, since you’re starting small. Trying to do more in a day? Make a to do list every morning. Some other ideas:

  • Write a thank-you note, either an actual letter or e-mail, to a vendor or employee every day
  • Daily check-ins with team members
  • A detailed sales email every day

But note that professional and personal goals don’t have to be separate – tackling your personal goals, like reading more or gardening more, will help you professionally too.

Take it one day at a time. And this is important: narrow your focus. You can’t do everything and trying to do so hurts all of your efforts.

Notice that we’re talking about making steps forward in these small goals. If you’re trying to cut back on unhealthy habits, you’ll want to start small there too but this article is mainly geared towards making progress on new habits, not revising old ones.

Prioritize & Reflect

You have to prioritize this small goal with it’s small steps. And that’s why you need to aim small – by making it something you can spend 15 minutes on each day, it’s a lot more manageable to get yourself to do it. There’s 24 hours in a day that every single person has – it’s pretty much the only thing we all have in common. That’s 1,440 minutes. Surely you can spend 15 of those on your goal.

And you’ll find more out about yourself in the process. Different people work better on things at different times of the day. One thing that can help is telling yourself you’ll do this for 15 minutes at a specific time in the day, but don’t let yourself use that as an out. In the event that that time of day has passed and you find yourself still not tackling your small goal, take that time restraint out of the equation.

If your schedule truly is chaotic – due to a job that consumes most of your waking hours or kids who consume most of your waking (and sleeping) hours, try to remember to do this one small thing for yourself or your business.

What begins to happen is that you realize hey, this isn’t so hard to achieve after all. And then, importantly, you have to remember to reflect. Track your small steps – a popular method is the “Don’t Break the Chain” approach where you mark off on a calendar every day you’ve done your small step.

You have to be able to celebrate your successes. You have to reflect on what Charles Duhigg calls your “small wins.” And if you want to read more, I definitely recommend his book. According to Duhigg, “Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”

Knowing and forming your habits is critical in any facet of self-reliance.


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