The Power of Small Wins

Getting into “work mode” is pretty difficult, because often we’ll somehow get sidetracked. I often sit down in front of my computer with the notion “of getting work done”. But often I end up doing something entirely different, like reading the plots of the alien franchise on wikipedia. As of recent I’ve been reading lot about habits, and one point that has particularly stuck with me is the benefits of small wins.

A small win is completing a task done that doesn’t require a whole lot of time (less than 20 mins) or brain power. Studies have shown that by accomplishing a small win, your more likely to accomplish additional small wins.

“Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage,” one Cornell professor wrote in 1984.

Not all small wins are born equal. A good rule of thumb is to choose a task that can be repeated daily. You want this small accomplishment to eventually become a habit. So answering emails wouldn’t necessarily be the best choice because you might not always have emails to answer. You also want the task to have some personal value to yourself. Reading for 20 mins listed, as an example below, wouldn’t personally be as valuable to me. Its a task I enjoy, but don’t really relish in having done so.

My personal small accomplishment that I try to do every morning is a simple exercise routine to improve my posture. As someone who cringes at the thought of going to the gym and working out, completing this small step of regular exercise routine is quite the achievement. The warm feeling of doing my exercise routine makes me feel productive and in turn bleeds into the rest of my day. So now when I sit in front of my desk I’m not reading Quentin Tarantino movie plots on wikipedia but getting work done, like writing this blog post.

My personal recommendation is to accomplish your small win in the morning or before you plan to start working. Some examples of small wins:

  • Reading for 20 mins
  • Make your bed
  • Going for a jog (physical activity)
  • Draw for 20 mins
  • Doing a crossword/ sudoku
  • Go for a walk