The power of small increments.

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When you look at a brick wall, there is strength, power, and utility in it. If it’s part of a house it keeps the occupants and their belongings safe from the elements and potential predators. It is strong and whole; we see it as a unit unto itself.

But if you look at the individual pieces, the bricks and mortar they become much less imposing. A brick is tough, but it can’t keep you safe by itself unless you are a very small creature. The mortar to starts off as nothing more than powder. But add enough bricks and a little mortar together and you have an imposing wall. 

All of the small increments that we take for granted can add up to so much more. But we discount that all the time and when we stop adding these small increments we’re left with something very unimpressive. Add these small increments to a goal with the power of consistency and you end up with something truly magical over time. This applies to 

  • Savings
  • Exercise
  • Debt repayments
  • Really any net beneficial task that you want to succeed with.

Savings

Wanting to save $10,000 is a big goal especially when you are just starting out. It seems like a huge mountain that you are trying to climb. The goal seems daunting but if you start small say $100 per pay and you keep saving, over the course of a year this will add up to $2600. More than a quarter of the way there and you probably didn’t notice that the $100 was gone each pay. Within 4 years you should be past that 10K mark and the reality is that you will likely be well past that a lot sooner because you’ll improve and if you’re remotely good at your job going to get a raise. 

Exercise

The money example is straightforward, but this applies everywhere. If you exercise daily for 15 minutes, it will get easier over time and then you’ll be able to do 20 then 30 minutes. Personally, I have seen this with cycling. When I first started out, I struggled with my 11 KM ride, it was painful and took me over 40 minutes. I did this ride over and over again and quickly that same ride became a quick and enjoyable 30-minute ride. When I started out that ride seemed daunting and something I didn’t want to do; the small incremental rides made it easy and enjoyable in time. 

These small increments make up everything around us from the buildings that we live in, to the mega-projects like the building of the Burj Khalifa.

How many things are you putting off because they are too big and daunting? Have you ever wanted to write a novel? Save a million dollars? Run a marathon? Or Visit every country on earth? All of these things are collectively pretty big goals or projects but if you break any of them down, it becomes a matter of small increments. 

Take the novel for example, there are two aspects of this: one is selling the book and the second is writing the book. Initially, the more important one is writing the actual book. A novel on average is between 50,000-70,000 words (source: google). If you’re just starting out that can be very daunting, especially if you’ve never written a book. 

Let’s break this down into the small bite-size pieces that you can digest this. We will use the 70,000 words example because we’re not going to write a little wimpy book. If you were to write at a pace of 1,000 words a day you could finish that in as little as 70 days. But let’s just say you were being a lot more cautious and didn’t want to put in the time to really get this done. Let’s just say you wrote a measly 250 words down on paper – maybe 15-30 minutes. If you did that every single day right after your morning coffee for a year, do you think you’d have it finished in a year? 

Yup, you’d be over 91,000 words. 

For all the authors that might stumble on this, I know there is a lot more to writing, I am illustrating is the power of those small increments. Breaking the big problem down into the smaller pieces and it gets a lot easier. 

You can apply this to almost any problem, the more structured and factual the easier it becomes. This concept of really small increments comes in really handy when you look at something like debt. You didn’t get into your large consumer debt all at once but by small increments. That same concept can get you into trouble just as easily as it can get you out. 

It’s important to keep this in mind, small increments add up over time and eventually get really large. Do you have examples where you’ve seen how powerful this concept can be?

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

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4 thoughts on “The power of small increments.

  1. Love this mindset as I have written a similar post – small actions lead to big things. This is so important to consider, especially when it comes to your money and what the power of compounding action can do for it. It’s also a great mindset to have towards any aspect of life as you pointed out. Fitness, writing a book, eating healthy, building relationships, learning a skill – one bit at a time towards a finished product or end result! Great post – keep it up!

    1. Thanks for the comment Liz. Small and steady all the way. I was taught about compounding in high school; logically I understood it but I didn’t really learn it till much later.

  2. Great examples of how we should break things down into bite-sized pieces. I often end up procrastinating because of how overwhelming a task is and I think that’s why many of us end up trying to tackle a big project last minute. I’ve found that breaking projects into milestones as you mention, makes it much easier because you are knocking out the small stuff and before you know it you are completely done!

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Thanks for the comment Kat! I too fall into the trap of stalling because I haven’t broken a project or problem down enough. Then unfortunately, I also fall prey to paralysis by analysis, you just have to keep going back to the basics and keep pressing the reset button.

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