Micro-Progress: The Beauty of Baby Steps

The launch of any big project is daunting, be it a new career, writing a book, or even the seemingly mundane task of conquering office clutter. Many of us, scanning the landscape in front of us, respond predictably: we procrastinate. The more we procrastinate, the more we dread starting.

The solution is one so simple as to provoke a ‘doh!’ moment, but like many of life’s simple solutions needs to be pointed out to us.

Start small. Take baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Eat the elephant a bite at a time. There’s truth in these adages.

  • Just do it. Borrow Nike’s slogan, and just get started. Delay and procrastination are the biggest hindrances to success. Making a commitment to just do something, even if it’s only a small thing, is the simplest way to make progress.
  • Break it down. Start with small goals. Got a disastrously messy office? Start with one pile of paper and sort through it. Don’t think about cleaning the whole office at once. If you need to write a business plan, tell yourself you’ll write five bullet points with your goals as a starting point. Studies have shown that achieving micro-goals like this can trick your brain. Once you achieve a small goal, you are excited about moving on to the next. Ever tried to lose weight? If so, you know most fitness and nutrition counselors recommend losing a pound at a time and focusing on that small success, rather than the hurdle of a 20-pound loss, say.
  • 5-2-1 Rule. This rule means you pick a task and work on it for five minutes, or two, or one. Then take a break. It’s proven successful for any number of goals or tasks. For example, the Galloway method is a running training program created by former Olympian Jeff Galloway that guides marathon or half marathon runners to successfully complete distance races by running for a few minutes, then walking for a minute. It breaks a 13 or 26-mile race up into manageable segments, and it’s a technique that can be carried over into business life. Let’s go back to that business plan you’re writing: work for five minutes, then take a one minute break.
  • The steps of micro progress. Some experts say you cannot break a task down into components that are too small. You may need to write a monthly newsletter to client list but feel stuck. Using the steps above, just get started and keep it small: literally, step one should be, ‘start a new document.’ Step two will be, ‘name document,’ step three will be ‘write one line,’ and so one.

 The beauty of the technique of micro progress is that once you see a little progress, you’ll want to keep moving: success breeds success!