Small Steps: The Surest Way to Success

What is your big, worthy goal for the next month, quarter or year?

Do you know what the next step is to reach your goal?

How can you divide it into smaller, doable actions you can take?

At the end of the year and the start of a new one, we tend to reflect on accomplishments and think about aspirations.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping the status quo if it works for you. Constantly striving for the next big thing is no better than leading a simple, satisfying life.

But like all human beings, you probably have a wish or a dream that has yet to come true. A wish or a dream is not a goal until you have a plan of action. And a plan of action is not made until you define the next steps.  And the next steps are not done until you actually complete them.

In episode 44 of The Incrementalist, you will learn: 

1. When you have a high, hard goal that you want to reach in the next year, 5 years, or 10 years, lack of motivation is not the biggest issue. Usually, what holds you back is lack of clarity on what you need to do or lack of ability to take the necessary action.

2. With the Incrementalist approach, you can achieve big things with little resistance and less friction. 

3. The first principle is to get clear on your priority or priorities. 

  • The projects that are important but are not urgent often get neglected, but they are the ones that will get you to the next level. 
  • Discover your own purpose and your reason for being. While you can look to successful people for inspiration, they are not you and you are not them. You will have to carve out and follow your own path to feel truly successful. 

4. The second principle is to break down the big goal into actionable, manageable steps. 

  • To grow, develop and transform, you want to move out of your comfort zone. But if a project is too hard, you lose steam and give up. And if it’s too easy, you get bored. 
  • Challenges need to be within the optimal zone of difficulty. 
  • The Goldilocks Rule says we have peak motivation when we tackle tasks that are just right for our current skill set.  
  • The right level of stress is 7 out of 10, where you succeed most of the time, but need to pay attention to what you’re doing. 
  • The sweet spot is where the challenge is 4% greater than your current skill level (not a whole lot, but outside your comfort zone). 
  • The 1 Percent Rule says that over time, the rewards in a given field will accrue to the people, teams and organization that maintain a slight edge over the competition. A 1% improvement every day, repeated over time, leads to disproportionate rewards. 
  • Building good habits is essential. Make the new behavior tiny by taking a starter step or scaling back. 

5. The third principle is to set a time block to do the important thing. 

  • Protecting time for the next step goes beyond making a to-do list. You decide when exactly you will do a task, in what context and under what circumstances, and for how long. 
  • Time blocking and time boxing encourage you to take deliberate action and reduce distractions and interruptions. 

6. The fourth principle is to synch with your natural rhythm. 

  • Match your energy and focus level with the task at hand. 
  • Deep work requires high focus and vigilance. 
  • Creative projects require a relaxed and insightful mood. 

7. The fifth principle is to rest and recharge.

  • Necessary rest prevents you from burning out.
  • Deliberate breaks keep the fire burning. 

To listen to episode 44, Small Steps: The Surest Way to Success, click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

If you’re a visual learner, watch the video on episode 44 on the new YouTube channel

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Dyan Williams is a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is also a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.