Small is the new big. The average executive is working 30% longer hours in the day compared to 1982. The implications of this are more pressure to maintain a quality of lifestyle, and more energy to stay competitive and thrive in today’s distracted buyer marketplace. With the assault on attention spans, people are in general checked out. Irreverence has become a way of life with people consumed by social media, email, and television media. We are saturated with the rush and gush of modern life. This has people losing the battle to keep their focus, their boundaries, and their state of mind. Sound familiar? Just the thrill of so much going on leaves you no time to even think or plan, and you can’t get to things that you say matter most because of your reactive orientation. This requires a shift of mind: Small picture thinking.
Instead of a focus on the “big idea”, focus on the next step. Get rid of “bigstuffidous.” Instead, focus on “resizing” your goals. Don’t get so consumed with the outcome, instead shorten the time frame, and focus one a simple step. Instead of pursuing an annual goal, focus on 12-week objectives. Having too much time to complete something invites other “fillers” that waste your energy and distract your course. And when we have more time than we need to get something complete, we tend to do the easy parts first and neglect the unwanted or difficult parts to getting it done. Instead, coil the time frame into a fractal.
A fractal is a smaller version of the same thing. Look at a week as a day, a day like an hour, an hour as a minute, a second as a minute. When you apply small picture thinking like this, you shift the supply and immunize the demand. With more supply, more demand is likely to level up to it. When you shrink a change and measure step-to-step progress, you 1) initiate faster, 2) gain victory sooner, 3) learn where to go and 4) pay better attention what is going on. You make things up as you go along, building a house brick by brick as a metaphor, “Ready, fire, aim!”
Write down 3-5 annual goals that you didn’t finish last year. Jot down how far you got. Then ask: What is further progress? What does it look like? And what’s the first action? Then think “within two weeks.” This swath of time will help you itemize a small step toward your unfinished goal that you’ll complete by narrowing your focus on it. Rather than coming at your goal like a boxer leaving his corner swinging with a flurry and knocking himself out, you’ll put your attention on one thing that matters and chart progress more often in smaller segments. When you fail to think through these steps you cause yourself procrastination because your standards are to get everything right. This is how a performer thinks, not a learner. Give yourself plenty of second chances, get rid of your ideals, and rejoin the purpose of all of it again. The process also is its own reward, not just the outcome. Keep the outcome in one eye, and the other eye on your current reality.
When you reflect on the point of all of it (the outcome), you tune your awareness to an outcome focus. The outcome is the catalyst or “why” you coordinate action today, and the action is what moves the current reality (where you are now), to where you want to be. By taking steps, you can adjust when you’re failing with agility. If you’re off track, you can adjust within two weeks. You can put the bad behind you and course correct sooner, to remain diligent.
Slow is the new fast. As you learn how small is the new big, you probably recognize that speed is a key player in this resizing process. You have to slow down to speed up. Think of it as a sling-shot effect. That without reflection the learning process is handicapped. To level up, you have to stop and then re-enter. This process of intensity and renewal is a critical combination of being effective at creating what you want, and getting good at anything.
It is scary to go slow to go fast. By gathering your intention and controlling your attention, you’ll trust your decisions. When you don’t trust your decisions you a short circuit, compromise, and get off the rails. But if you’re alert, vigilant, and reverent to what is going on, it’s because your intention is the eye behind your attention as if your awareness if informed. You’ll always be keenly aware of where you are by having a place to go. Like being on a race track, if I know my current position and know my distance to go to the goal-line I can be resourceful and make favorable, informed decisions as to what is required. The key to slowing down is to avoid lying to oneself and telling the truth. Discernment motivates preparation and resourcefulness.
Here are five simple steps to implement:
- Retool: Break down your three biggest unfinished goals into further progress and initial steps.
- Position: these within two weeks, then review, and position your next two weeks.
- Adjust and Learn: Make adjustments from slowing down and taking stock of what you’ve done, and not done, and what is working and not working—the good, bad, and ugly.
- Plan: Schedule periods of maintenance and reflection to shift your level of preparation and intensity.
- Focus: Build momentum and celebrate progress by measuring two weeks back to current reality. Then set small step to two weeks ahead. Don’t multi-task. Do one significant thing at a time and in the end game you’ll be ten times further along than bogged down in the trivial many.