This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission to help keep my blog up and running, but it won't cost you a penny more). For more information, please read my disclosure policy.
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.
Robert Louis Stevenson
If you want to make BIG changes in your life, start by making small goals.
SMALL is the hero word here and it’s the key to getting things done one half hour at a time.
Small, simple changes allow you to work on and complete a small task. That’s why the idea of tasks you can complete a half hour at a time works.
And that’s why you should only work on 2-3 goals a month at most.
Making changes all at once can be intimidating. A dream doesn’t feel like reality until you break it down by goals and then tasks.
You don’t have to deal with the overwhelm of the whole dream at once, just chip away at it one goal at a time.
Doing everything at once is like going on a fad diet or making big New Year’s resolutions. You are enthusiastic about it in the first day or two, but then everything is too foreign and hard and can’t be sustained and you quit.
Small goals are S.M.A.R.T. goals.
They are, by definition, easy to achieve. Each time you complete one successfully, you receive positive reinforcement and experience the satisfaction of success. This makes the next step easier to take.
Productivity experts will tell you that the key to being more productive is to do less, not more.
One small step today, another tomorrow.
Keep taking small steps until you reach your goal and then keep going.
Kaizen, a Japanese productivity philosophy, is all about small steps leading to big changes. It is not a productivity system with a to-do list. It’s a way of thinking and organizing everything you do.
Kaizen (“good change”) is based on the belief that everything can be improved.
Nothing is ever done and static. There should always be continuous efforts to improve, by making small changes over time.
These small, almost unnoticeable changes add up to big changes over time, without having to completely overhaul what you are changing. It’s organic, steady and easy to learn and implement.
Small goals after small goals, building up over time and with little effort on your part.
The basic principles of Kaizen are:
- Standardizing a process so that it’s repeatable and organized.
- Measurement and evaluation of your progress.
- Comparing your results to your plan.
- Finding new and better ways to get the same results.
- Responding to changes and evolving methods over time.
Let’s say you eat oatmeal with blueberries and brown sugar for breakfast every day. But it takes precious time in the morning to cook the oatmeal and clean up afterwards. So let’s say you decide to:
- Use your crockpot to cook the oats overnight. This is your process.
- Using the crockpot saves you 10 minutes in the morning. Measurement of success.
- The oatmeal produced by the crockpot is as good as if you cooked it in the morning, except that they are softer. Your results match up with your plan.
- You experiment and find that by using steel cut oats, you get a better consistency. Finding a better way to get the desired results.
- Over time, you find that pre-washing berries and measuring out sugar the night before makes breakfast assembly faster by at least 2-3 minutes, so you implement that change. You also put your crockpot to soak through the day, making clean up easier later in the day. Evolving methods over time.
Kaizen is about deliberate, constant improvement. Small steps, even tiny steps.
Changes that don’t bring you rewards shouldn’t be made. This is especially important when setting goals and tasks. If you approach them the Kaizen way, you will work on small steps that will bring you to your goal, one step at a time.
Kaisen is also aimed at decreasing waste. Waste of time by doing unnecessary work, putting quality over quantity, being more efficient and reducing unnecessary activities.
This matters to us because of the emphasis on small changes, but also the logic in paying attention to the small things.
An example might be having important phone numbers in a digital file on your computer, or in a physical phone book on your desk. By printing out the numbers you call repeatedly and taping them to the wall next to your desk, you save a few seconds looking them up.
A VERY small step that saves seconds, then minutes over time and adds to up to less time wasted.
RELATED: What Can You Do In A Year?
Small goals snowball.
Positive small goals snowball in the right direction. You are more empowered as you complete each goal and that makes the next one, and the one after that, not only easier to do, but faster as you pick up speed and confidence.
Imagine a 14 year old dreaming of becoming a doctor.
If you ask her what she needs to do in order to become a doctor, she might say
“Go to medical school.”
And how do you get to medical school?
“You have to go to college.”
And how do you get to college?
“You get a high school degree.”
And how do you get a high school degree?
“You work hard, do your homework and get good grades.”
So what can you do today?
“I can work hard, do my homework and focus on getting good grades.”
By breaking down the big picture into small goals, you are able to take the first step without any delay.
What can you do today?