Generally, it’s easy for us to think of small decisions as being irrelevant to our long-term success.
But, these little decisions really do add up over time. For instance when I buy a $5 cup of coffee every day, five dollars may not seem like a lot, but the total amount of my spending on coffee adds up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.
And even though I am aware that these small amounts ultimately add up, and take this into consideration in decision-making process, I haven’t ever applied this principle to the decisions I make in other fields. I was always setting long-term goals and putting a lot of major tasks on the calendar, but didn’t complete them because my motivation disappeared after 3 weeks of intensive work.
But my approach radically changed when I read an interesting book called “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy. This book left me enlightened, because it taught me that:
Minor routines practiced daily yield big results over time.
But what does this mean in practice?
First: Set and prioritize your goals
First of all, I learned that setting and prioritization of goals is an absolute must. I like to compare this process to navigating the sea. When you don’t know which port you want to reach, you will sail in whichever direction and hopefully find land, but not necessary the port that you wanted to dock at.
Additionally, when we look at studies of the habits of rich and successful people we can clearly see that there is a significant correlation between wealth and focusing on accomplishing a specific goal. For sure this is not a coincidence!
So, I highly encourage you to set your own goals, which is the crucial first step in the improvement of anything you might want to do. You can find a detailed description of how to set achievable goals in just 4 easy steps in our previous article.
Second: Write down all the tasks that are necessary for the achievement of your goals
When I already knew which goals I wanted to achieve, I created a list of tasks that I needed to do to accomplish them. I wanted to organize my mind, so I wrote down all the tasks that I could think of. During this process I also thought about activities that I could engage in that were not time-consuming but that I could do routinely over long period of time.
In Hardy’s book, I found a perfect example of how to do this. There was a story about a woman named Beverly, who said that she would never run a half-marathon, because she could barely walk up a single flight of stairs. At the same time, Beverly dreamed about losing weight before her 20-year high school reunion.
Hardy didn’t suggest that she buy expensive gym membership, spend a fortune for a personal trainer or buy great athletic footwear. He knew that such rapid and radical change would cause her to eventually quit the gym and throw the sneakers in the corner. Instead, at first he told her to walk a one-mile loop around her house twice a week for two weeks – an easy task that required no major effort.
Then, she should increase the number of walks per week to three for the next three weeks. Next, he advised her to start jogging slowly until she was out of breath and then stop, catch her breath and then continue to jog. For the next couple of weeks, she increased the distance and was able to run an entire mile without stopping and feeling exhausted. At that point, she began to see the results of her initial efforts and this strengthened her desire to lose weight. She got into in the habit of gradually increasing the distance each time she run. After nine months she was running 13.5 miles on a regular basis.
In the end, not only did she lose weight, she also felt more self-confident, had more enthusiasm for the work and was more affectionate toward her husband.
This story perfectly illustrates how our day-to-day activities can bring anyone closer to achieving their desired goals. At this stage, what you need to do is to:
- break down tasks on your to-do list, look for the tasks that can be done routinely and will eventually create the greater value.
Third: Register what you are doing throughout the day and plan your tasks
When I had already defined a list of tasks, I started an experiment. At the beginning, I felt that I had no spare time to schedule any new tasks. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of work and duties that I need to be accomplished in this period of time. At the same time, even though I felt busy, I did not feel fulfilled.
I decided to take Hardy’s advice, and started putting on my calendar blocks of time with annotations of what I had done during these time periods. After three days, I realized that I had empty spaces in my calendar that I couldn’t account for. I discovered that during the day I was wasting at least 2.5 hours surfing the Internet for no particular reason.
In the following days, I became more aware of how I was spending my time and I began to more carefully plan my actions. I found enough time in my calendar to add tasks that were related to my precious goal. Below you can see a short video showing how I did it.
Now, I continue to keep track of my daily schedule, because I can clearly see where my time goes and I can regularly verify my progress.
Fourth: Monitor your progress
At the beginning, I had difficulties to staying focused and sticking to the initial plan. Many times I needed to struggle with doubts that were surfacing, such as whether I was wasting too much planning everything. I was afraid that planning everything with my calendar will remove all of the spontaneity — but now I can say that it was the other way around.
Previously, I failed because I wanted to change too many things at once, and my bad habits caused me to waste a lot of time. After reading Hardy’s book, I decided to conquer one bad habit at a time and chose one minor issue for the first step.
I regularly monitor and update my daily plans for 10 minutes each day and once a week I plan a longer session to summarize what I have done in each week. I use statistics generated by the app, for example, how much time I spend during week on different tasks, and how significant the progress is that I have made.
I also discovered that when I skipped these tasks for only a couple of days, it was much harder to get back on track and continue doing them. Every time I gone through the crisis period and wanted to quit something, I actually became even more motivated.
All the tasks that I’ve done regularly for a couple of weeks eventually became routine, and the compound effect that I experienced encouraged me to continue doing them.
In Hardy’s book, there is an example of a hand-operated water pump, which uses a pipe to draw water up to the surface. If you want to fill your pot with water, you need to pump the well’s lever for a longer period of time.
When most people start working on a new goal, they grab the lever and start pumping really hard, and after several pushes they stop, because they feel exhausted.
But the secret is to pump the lever slowly, but for a longer period of time in order to create the vacuum needed to suck the water into the pipe and eventually out of the spout.
Those who persevere will eventually a few drops of water. If they continue to pump, a steady stream of water begins to flow. When the water is flowing, you no longer need to pump as hard.
So, the moral to the story and the conclusion which I always keep in mind is to avoid giving up early and be persistent. We never know how close we may be from to the water or maybe even diamonds.
I encourage you to begin with registering your goals and daily routines with: www.cayenneapps.com