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“I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I've done that sort of thing in my life, … ”Steve Jobs

“I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, …” Steve Jobs

Choosing incremental as my word for 2012 was one of my year’s better choices. It is time to trust I’ve learned it well enough to move on.

The past four months, I’ve accomplished a single task almost daily from my mental list marked I-don’t-want-to-do-this. I pressed on to finish projects instead of stopping short of my day’s goal. I quit talking about why I struggle to achieve what I set out to do and began accomplishing it.

None of this was as conscious as I’d like, but still, it happened.

In retrospect, three steps helped.

First, I wrote what I wanted to undertake (or what I didn’t want to undertake, but knew I should) on a piece of paper and, instead of writing dozens of run on ideas, I numbered each job as a separate item.

Second, I left white space in between so the list didn’t appear overwhelming. The unmarked area between goals kept me from being tempted to clump together two tasks in one day. I thought about a newspaper editor explaining white space and how it made print appear reader friendly. I’m visual and white space made my list appear doer friendly.

Third, I assured myself I’d deem my time productive if I accomplished one item daily, instead of attempting a flurry of nine or ten and completing none.

Several times I skipped ahead and completed two or three tasks. It was okay to overdo my list as long as I was careful not to dishonor the agreement I made; one accomplishment a day was enough.

My resolution reminded me of the frustration I felt years ago when my husband completed a job. He would do the simplest thing like take down a door that was catching on carpet. He’d cut an inch off the bottom, paint the door, and rehang it, then admire his work and take a nap.

I wondered how he could be happy accomplishing so little. That was, until I noticed he finished 15 projects to my one.

Long to-do lists and long work hours tend to be paralyzing, not productive.

Rachelle Gardner, in her post “Success in 90-Minute Increments” (based on Tony Schwartz’s book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working), encourages what I’ve practiced. It was timely at the end of November to see 2012’s word mentioned in one of her titles. She offers advice for breaking down work into manageable portions.

  • 90 minutes is the optimum high-focus work time; and
  • a maximum of three 90-minute focused periods a day provides for the most productivity.

What’s the final word on your goals and/or your word for the year? Were you successful in 2012 or are you looking forward to putting this year behind you?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – “Never perfect, always better” comes to mind when I think of incremental living. I’m appreciative to all my encouragers. I throve (I like that word) because of your help.

On the side:  Rachelle also shared a link to Schwartz’s article “The 90-Minute Solution: How Building in Periods of Renewal Can Change Your Work and Your Life.”

Stay tuned tomorrow for 2013’s word and be prepared to share yours.

I have something for you!


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