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Small Steps make a Big Difference

1. Brainstorm ideas for Blog post.

2. Write post.

3. Edit post.

4. Publish to Blog.

5. Bask in adoration of numerous fans.

You’ve probably heard this before, but small steps can make a very big difference in your productivity.  A list like this one looks silly – I know that all of those steps are essential to publishing a post on this blog. But sometimes that can be a burden.  When I think “I have to write a post today” the little bookkeeper in my mind makes that list, and then the rest of me thinks “I’ll do it after dinner.” Which may or may not happen.  But when I write that list out, I have a tangible series of small goals to accomplish in order to complete the bigger task of writing a post.

Lists like these can apply to just about anything in your life.  Got a project that you’re stuck on, a looming deadline that’s stressing you out?

1. Get out pen & paper/word document/sticky note.

2. List all tasks required to bring project to completion, in the order that they need to happen.

3. Start working on very first one.

I promise if you start making a habit of this you will become far more productive and less stressed out.



On a related note, here’s an episode of a podcast I really enjoy called the Make Shift Happen show, starring Dean Dwyer.

The episode is called “Sweat the Small Stuff” and it’s about taking care of the seemingly small things in your life that actually have a big impact on your whole world. It’s pretty cool.

Tough or Brave?

Bravery is not the same as Toughness. To be tough is to be changed by the world. Tough people have little use for feelings, because feelings are ‘soft.’ Tough is inherently hard. Calloused. Being tough means that you don’t feel the lashes. Being tough means you look out for yourself. Yes you can take the punishment, but at a cost.

Bravery on the other hand is different.  Bravery means taking on the trials and hardships of the world without being changed by them. Someone who is brave feels deeply. But they persevere because they know that they can. A brave person uses their feelings to reach out and help others. Being brave means putting yourself out there even though you know it’s going to hurt.

I think our society puts too much value on toughness and not enough on bravery. What do you think?

A Train Metaphor

You’re the conductor at a busy railway station. The station is your life. The trains are your current pursuits. Some trains are going to take priority over others.  The supply trains will (almost) always take priority over the passenger trains. All of the trains are important and have to get to the station eventually. Your job as the conductor is to manage the trains accordingly. You don’t want any of them to derail and crash. You certainly don’t want two trains to collide. So some of the trains will have to wait on the side rails as the more important trains lumber by. Once the big train has passed, the smaller commuter train can continue on uninhibited until it reaches the station.

The supply trains represent money, resources, the things you need to conduct the station.  If the supply trains stop coming in you’re toast.  Unless you have a pretty sizeable stockpile of coal, in which case you can slow them down a little bit so the passenger trains can have their fun. Those trains are your goals. Personal goals, spiritual goals, bucket lists, what have you.

Figure out which are the most important trains and let them pass. Some trains will have to wait.  It sucks to be on that train, but then again you don’t have a choice.  So check your schedule and mind your coal.

Just don’t let ’em crash.

You Can Choose to be Happy

In all honesty this is something that I never believed.  Self help literature will tell you this.  My parents told me this (they phrased it as ” PMA or Positive Mental Attitude”), but when you’re bummed this advice can seem anywhere from asinine to downright malicious.  Well since it’s Valentine’s Day –  a day that traditionally breaks to either Way Too High Expectations or Total Misery depending on whether or not you’re in a relationship – I figured we could all use some PMA.

But first let me get to the origin of this post.  I work at a massive corporate book store (you can probably guess which one since as far as I know, it’s the only one still around).  We on the sales floor have a quota that we have to meet for signing up new customers for the company’s Membership program. It costs $25.00 per year, offers a 10% discount, and if we don’t consistently make our quota we get fired.  Naturally this can be a hard sell. When people do the math they realize they would need to spend $250.00 per year at our company just to break even. While it’s a very good deal for very specific types of people, our average customer would lose money by getting one.  As such, small transactions (anything under $50) are bad news for the cashiers because they make for a very tough sell.  Very small transactions ($2-5.00) are the bane of our existence because the sale is all but impossible.

Normally I’m a pretty good salesman. I almost always exceed my quota. However this month I’ve been doing very poorly. Getting a talking-to from my managers kind of poorly. The kind of poorly that I thought would not happen at a job ever again.  So I really, really need to sell some Memberships.  On top of all that, it’s the day before Valentine’s day – a time of year that I typically hate and get depressed about – and I’m feeling pretty lonely. T

he only sales that I make all day are Valentine’s Day cards. Hundreds of them. Destroying my already meager quota numbers and making me feel worse and worse as the day goes on. Finally I clock out and  go home feeling about as dark and dismal as I can. I spend the rest of the day like that.  But then I watched this very inspiring video, a TED talk from Alain de Botton

That got me thinking about what I was doing with my life, and more importantly how I felt about it. I decided it was time for some PMA. So I wrote in my journal about things that I wanted to change. I also wrote about how I wanted to feel.  I was in such a dark place the day before Valentine’s day. But what if I decided that on February 14th I was going to be happy? How nice would it be to wake up on a day that is typically the worst one of the year, and actually enjoy it? I made the decision that Today, I am going to be Happy.

I went to bed with that thought. I woke up with that thought. It’s cold and gray and snowing outside. I am alone on the day of love. And you know what? I’m actually happy. I really am enjoying what I have been given – one more day being alive. The fact that I chose to be happy and actually feel happy makes me even happier.  I think that this is a big pivot point in my life.  The knowledge that being a bummer is completely my choice makes it much less appealing than if it were something that just happened to me. The choice is mine. Just like the choice is yours.

What do you think of this idea? Is it something you have tried in your own life? Leave a comment and let me know.

Check in with your New Years Goals

It’s mid-February. How are you doing with your Resolutions for the new year? Take the time today to check in and assess your progress.  If you’re charging along full-steam ahead, good for you! If not, it isn’t too late to correct course.  Where did you think you would be by this point, and where are you? Where do you want to be one month from now? Don’t give up if things haven’t been going as planned. They never do. Audit your results and change plans accordingly.

Remember, the people that succeed are the ones that keep showing up.