Feels like I just touched down in San Francisco and turned around and took off again! After getting back in town after last week’s working vacation, I’m off again to Dallas and then Austin, Texas for work, conferences and a weekend in Austin. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of new and familiar faces in the crowds.
If you missed it, yesterday there was a great post on Chris Guillebeau’s blog following up on the one page career cheat-sheet from last month, where Chris asked me a few questions about what it means to be happy at your job, and what tools you can use to change your situation if you’re stuck somewhere and you’re not sure what to do.
In thinking about change, however, it’s also good to remember that it can be slow at first, and sometimes not much seems like it’s happening. I get it. It can be frustrating. I’ve been there over and over again, and often I want to bang my head against the wall and ask, “why is nothing happening!??” Sometimes I get so frustrated or scared, I give up. But it’s really important to keep going. Here’s one essay I was drafting last week in my notebooks on this very subject.
A little is a lot.
I procrastinate–sometimes, a lot, I’m afraid to admit–and the bigger a goal or dream of mine is, the worse this habit is. I’ll even throw in some productive things to do in lieu of tackling the big, scary goal or project. When I set my sights too far away from my current state, I can render myself helpless, weak, scared, or terrifically frightened.
It ends up feeling something like this:
In terms of growth, we often have unreasonable expectations for ourselves to scale huge walls in quantum leaps without respect for the time and energy it takes to really do what we want to do.
And when I stagnate–when I procrastinate, delay, or avoid doing something because the something I’ve chosen is just too big–then I end up doing nothing.
Isn’t that worse?
As a constant reminder, I find that there’s a general rule of thumb I keep in my pocket for whenever I feel so scared that I want to procrastinate:
A little bit is a lot.
And along those lines:
If it’s too big to do, make what you’re trying to do today smaller.
Case in point: I was working on the designs for a 200-page document. Each time I thought about working on it, I didn’t have the time, energy, or brain space to consider editing the entire document. So I procrastinated–a lot more than I’d like to admit. I tried to break it down into chunks–Sarah, do 50 pages at a time. Unfortunately, the chunks were still too big. I was too tired at the days’ end to do several more hours of work, so I ended up putting it off some more.
I reminded myself: what’s the smallest step, the littlest bit that I can do to make a dent in the pile? 10 pages? 5 pages? even just 1 page? And so I started, telling myself that a few pages was okay. It was enough to get me to start the project again.
And then I sat and did 30 pages. And the next day, another 20 pages. Slowly, steadily, I did make progress on it–by not making myself overwhelmed by trying to tackle too much.
If there’s something you’re afraid of, or you’re putting of, and you’re still not working on it–maybe make your expectations for today even smaller.
Growth is about incremental change.
Something like this is more appropriate:
Yes, a little step is really a lot.
Just take a little step, every day.