The gift of small wins during super busy times

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Have you discovered the incredible power of small wins? If not, be sure to learn more about this way to super-charge your writing practice…

By Ann Gomez

For as long as I can remember, I envisioned becoming a prolific author.

But I could never seem to find the time for this lofty goal on top of my day-to-day urgent tasks. If you’re like me, you may find “free time” is elusive, and even more so during the busy holiday season when everything feels a bit like a juggling act.

But then I came across a gift that gave me a tremendous boost during my most busy times. I experienced the gift of small wins.

The best way to achieve small wins is to start, well, small. Small steps get us moving. They don’t feel overwhelming. And they easily fit into hectic, overscheduled days, which most of us regularly face. Perhaps most importantly, small steps lead to small wins. As just as the saying goes, good things come in small packages; small wins are incredibly powerful.

Teresa Amabile, author of The Progress Principle, found making progress in meaningful work is the biggest predictor of our work experience.

Stanford research also supports the power of attainable steps. As Professor Szu-chi Huang says, “When you are just starting a pursuit, feeling reassured that it’s actually doable is important, and achieving a sub-goal increases that sense of attainability.” Note, this same research shows shifting one’s focus to the final outcome benefits you as you come close to completing your goal.

Athletes often tap into the power of small wins when facing gruelling workouts. They focus on their immediate next step, such as putting on their running shoes and then getting in their car, even if the sun hasn’t yet started to rise. Eventually, they get to their tough workout, but they don’t allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the larger goal.

Similarly, small wins can help all of us build valuable habits to help us achieve our big goals. Once we achieve early success, our momentum grows, and this leads to meaningful progress in our goals.

Sure, it’s easy to discount small wins when we have mountains to scale. The mountains of work make us feel drained and defeated. But we can empower ourselves during busy times by recognizing our small wins. This translates into higher creativity and productivity, which helps us perform at our best during even the busiest times.

Focusing on small wins — such as writing for five minutes or doing 15 minutes of research — makes it easier to manage our cognitive load, so we have more headspace to deal with all our other thoughts and plans. And this helps us to better manage distraction. When we mitigate the destructive habit of multi-tasking, the more success we’ll have with each small step.

Small wins create also critical momentum. And this momentum is crucial to how we feel about our work. Simply put, once we realize some early success, it’s easier to continue.

Whether you are preparing for a big presentation, undertaking a home renovation, or trying to write a book, breaking big tasks into smaller, attainable steps (wins) is key to getting started – and finished! Never underestimate the gift of small wins, especially during busy times.

For more strategies you can use to set yourself up for success, see Ann’s latest book, Workday Warrior: A Proven Path to Reclaiming Your Time, published by Dundurn Press, 2022.

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