What’s the Smallest Change You Can Make?

It’s January, resolution time. I bet many of you have resolutions. I don’t do resolutions.

I try small changes that help me accomplish what I want. I often ask, “Can I do one more?”

When I want to increase my steps, I say, “Let’s try one more.” It might be a lap around the driveway, or a lap around the house, or just one more length of the kitchen. I try one more and I succeed.

I’ve been trying to lose a few more pounds. In this case, I try, “Can I do one more vegetable and less protein?” (I low carb, so I make different tradeoffs than you might.) “Can I do one more tablespoon of fat and have less protein?” (I try to stay ketogenic. I like food, what can I say?)

With writing, I might do one more timebox of five minutes.

It could be anything. The idea is I challenge myself to improve, but just by a small amount. No big commitments, no resolutions. Just one small thing, as in one more step. One more keto approach. One more word.

What is the smallest change I can make that allows me to progress?

With small changes, I am more likely to succeed. Not always. One day this week it was in the 20’s and windy. I asked myself if I could do one more lap outside and the answer was, “No. Not on your life. I’m going inside.” I was way too cold. Sometimes, I don’t do one more.

When I try a small change, I challenge myself to do one more improvement. Just one, not a gazillion. I’ve seen several good benefits to my little challenges:

  • I’ve been walking 200-300 more steps on my walks.
  • I feel healthier. I lost 5 pounds from July-December. I know this is slow weight loss. It’s still a loss.
  • I wrote more, even though I had a ton of client work and life interruptions.

Here’s what interesting to me: My self-esteem is higher because I’m succeeding more often.

For me, “one more” is a trigger to do better. It might work for you, too. It’s a small change.

That is the question this week: What’s the smallest change you can make?

7 thoughts on “What’s the Smallest Change You Can Make?

  1. Tomas

    Hmmm, this is a tough one, at least for me. However, generally speaking, the smallest change for me is anything I can do and see some outcome (to formalize it more, I’m inclined to say that it’s the smallest thing that makes my life happier, or that brings some value to my life or to whatever I might by trying to do).

    The funny thing is that I usually start thinking big. And thinking big usually means subsequently investing a lot of effort into these big thoughts to actually materialize, which may discourage me from even starting. So I then break these big chunks into smaller ones – this has two main benefits: 1. I am able to achieve (and feel good and happy) much more quickly and much more often, 2. I can adjust my imperfect big thoughts as I go, which also makes me feel good :) Does that make any sense?

    Anyway, all the best to 2016, Johanna! And more of your great articles!

    1. johanna Post author

      Tomas, thank you. One thing I do is actually a lot like the agile roadmap I have in the program management book. See We Need Planning; Do We Need Estimation? for images of the product roadmap from the six-quarter perspective and the one-quarter perspective.

      I don’t know about you, but when I plan what I’m going to do this year, I need to break it into monthly (or more often) deliverables. I have a 4-quarter perspective for my business and a one-quarter perspective, so I know what I need to deliver when. That also allows me to achieve something (with all the brain rewards that brings) and I can adjust my one-quarter and year to take advantage of new possibilities.

      Hmm, maybe I should write this up, too? Let me know if you (or others) would find that valuable.

      Oh, thanks so much for telling me you enjoy these articles!

      1. Tomas

        Yes, that makes sense to me. I’ve read your program management book, and I believe that what you are saying (and I completely agree with that) is that many of the techniques you describe there (and what we are talking about in agile community as potential approaches to deliver software products) can be applied to a much broader array of problems, and even to our everyday lives.

        Myself, i prefer even shorter iterations, such as one to two weeks. For example, I write and publish one article every week – that is my short term plan and I have a bigger plan (for a year or so) to actually combine some of these into a book (I have oversimplified that, as it won’t be nearly as easy as just combining them). Maybe you really should write something more about this :)

        Anyway, what I’ve now come to believe (I am wandering into the agile territory here, which may not be entirely appropriate for this blog) is that if you believe in certain values, hold certain beliefs and share a certain mindset, you should not limit it’s application to any particular part of you life (or to a narrow spectrum of problems you are facing), but you should use and try that in all aspects you can. Sounds like a reasonable thought to you:

        1. johanna Post author

          Tomas, I’ll let you in on a little secret. (I know, it’s not a secret if I talk about it :-) I am writing a memoir of my life with dizziness. I can’t decide whether to call it, “Creating an Agile Life” because that would definitely be tongue-in-cheek. I’m not sure “Creating an Adaptable Life” as a title has the same oomph. Let me know your opinion. (I have discarded several other options, and am open to other ideas.)

          Yes, we use our philosophies to drive our daily life. Regardless of our work preferences and approaches, we all use more agile approaches in our daily lives. I knew that once I had children, I had to become more adaptable. I have kept that idea as my children grew and left home, because it works for my life.

          When I was in school for my Master’s degree (part time because I worked full time), I had a plan for several years—for school. I did not have the same kind of plan for my personal life. I have used rolling-wave deliverable-based planning and inch-pebbles since 1977. I had no idea then that I was agile. We didn’t have the words. We now have words for it.

          When we are congruent with our philosophies of life, our daily lives are much easier.

          I am offering a workshop on getting started with your writing, which you might not need. See Writing Workshop 1. That one will cover blogging your book. The workshop I have planned after that is how to write a non-fiction book, including how you blog it. Let me know if you want more details.

          1. Tomas

            Hmm, “Creating and Adaptable Life” seems fine to me – firstly, the word “adaptable” seems very good for the contents, secondly, it relates to this blog. The other option that comes to my mind would be something like “Adapting to a Happy Life” – to stress the happiness part, which I believe is important. I’ve left the “adapt” part in though.

            Yep, our daily lives are usually much more agile. But don’t you find it strange that even many of us embrace agility (or adaptation, which I believe would be a better word even in the software development area), they are having huge problems embracing the same principles when it comes to work? One would say it should come naturally.

            I’ve noticed the writing workshop, but honestly I am not sure whether I need it. But you’ve seen some of my posts, so what is your opinion? If you are planning “Writing Workshop 2” which will focus more on writing an actual book, I am very interested.

          2. johanna Post author

            Tomas, thanks for your feedback.

            There are reasons we have trouble being more “agile” at work. IME, the biggest one is prediction. Everyone wants to know what you will deliver and when. And, heaven help you if you are late. I wrote about this in Why Your Senior Managers Like Serial Lifecycles.

            Agile doesn’t predict in the same way as “plan-driven” approaches do. We can predict, and we often change things before the prediction comes to fruition. We’re honest about it. When organizations don’t want to be honest, and they want to blame people, they ask for guarantees and other nonsense. That creates an environment in which people have a difficult time using agile, with its acceptance of ambiguity.

          3. Tomas

            I believe we are completely sidetracking (and sorry for starting that). What you are saying makes sense to me – that it begins with how many of the organizations behave and what do they manifest to their employees. But I am still wondering when somebody, who perfectly well realizes that you cannot plan your life upfront and can plan it in small chunks & inspect & adapt thinks he is able to plan the “life” of his company upfront and then just follow the plan. Especially given how often they must have seen it fail.

            Now – thinking about it some more – I am coming to the conclusion that:
            1. people use this deterministic approach and upfront planning because it gives them a (false) sense of protection and it’s something what managers have done it since F. Taylor came up with his scientific management (so they see it as a “proven way” of doing things)
            2. when there is a hierarchy within the organization, people try climbing up the hierarchy and by insisting on planning they execute their control over the ones lower in the hierarchy and also when they try to hide the ambiguity so they will move further up the hierarchy
            3. even though serial life cycles may cause disappointment at the end, there are still many cases where this disappointment is prevented by last-moment heroic effort (causing many long term & people problems, which are invisible at that time) and it may be easier for some people to deal with one problem almost at the end than needing to look how things are going and adjust course much more frequently

            Anyway, your articles are great because of the conversations they spark and the multiple dimensions in which they may go, so thanks very much for them! And for all of your replies, hopefully I have not tired you to death by now :)

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