Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Few people would argue against the idea of striving to get better in your work and your life. But most of us conceive of making these improvements in large, perhaps even giant, steps. Don’t get me wrong: There are plenty of large improvements to be made: getting a better job, earning an advanced degree, mastering a major new capability, and so forth.

But it’s a mistake to overlook the power of small gains to help you get better, as well.

Just as compound interest working steadily month after month, year after year, turns small weekly savings into a giant nest egg, incremental improvements in your skills, knowledge, and abilities can build up your capabilities and reputation far more than you might imagine.

The process is simple:

  • Try to improve every day, week, and month – as often as you can.
  • Accept improvements of any size, not just the rare blockbusters.
  • Incorporate each improvement, even the smallest, into your everyday activities.
  • Check to see how well each improvement is working for you.
  • Stay alert for opportunities to make further improvements in everything you do.

Too many people overlook the value of such a process. Even if they experiment with a small change, when they fail to see immediate and dramatic improvements in their results, they go back to their previous behaviors. They are stuck thinking that saving a few seconds here and there, or eliminating a small step in a complex routine doesn’t really matter much.

But it does.

Small improvements add up to big gains in productivity and success for a variety of reasons:

  • Small changes are relatively easy and quick to make.
  • Small improvements can have a surprisingly large impact.
  • Small improvements save time and energy that adds up and becomes available for you to do more – or better – elsewhere in your work and your life.
  • Small improvements often create follow-on opportunities for additional improvements.
  • Small improvements send a message to others – and yourself – that you’re highly motivated and intent on boosting your productivity and effectiveness.
  • This message is contagious, and primes other people to help you improve even further.

I’d like to make one more point: In the baseball film “Bull Durham,” the team’s catcher cleverly and repeatedly tells the talented rookie pitcher: “Don’t think. Just throw.”

The same kind of advice will benefit your efforts to make small improvements. Don’t think about how much or how little each improvement adds to the quality or quantity of your results. Just keep making improvements, small as well as large. You’ll find that each improvement will contribute to more and better results, adding up and compounding their individual impacts, and ultimately transforming your effectiveness by leaps and bounds.

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