Start Small – Little Lessons Learnt

If I want to make exercising a habit I should start with doing one push up a day because no matter how late I am, I always have time for one push up.

This works. I mentioned it in passing in a conversation with a friend. A couple months later I find out he actually did it. He was at 40 push ups a day.

Too often I get bogged down in trying to find the perfect system for or getting the right tools to do some grand task. These can be organization workflows or productivity iPhone apps. I think big because I don’t want to half-ass it. No one wants to be mediocre.

The ironic thing is, in aiming so high, I completely miss the target. I’ve learnt that I am a person who finds comfort in a system. This can be to my detriment though, as I come to rely on a system to get started.

Too often the energy in pursuit of systems is wasted, as the system is never completed or I change my mind and want to pursue a different goal. Just getting started would have shown me that much faster.

Having learnt this I now try to start with small actions immediately and do the “preparation” as I go. Starting small but immediately has several benefits:

  • provides a fast feedback loop
  • motivates as progress is made
  • makes it easier to pick up & stay disciplined
  • eases letting go of misplaced goals (no sunk cost fallacy)
  • small steps compound to substantial progress