Small Successes Lead to Big Victories

One of the hardest aspects of work for me is when I know I have a hard task to do. I’ve found some psychological trickery that works well on me that might be useful for you too.

I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique. There are lots of ways to implement it, but the basic premise is to work for 25 minutes, then take a five minute break. After four 25 minute work periods then take a longer break.

The reason this helps me is because no matter how hard the entirety of the task is, I know I can work for 25 minutes. It’s embarrassing how often I have to tell myself that any old dummy can work for 25 minutes, or that after I do one pomodoro I’ll quit and work on something else. Starting is the hardest part. Once I get going I nearly always find that I’m surprised by the timer going off, and starting the second, third, and subsequent pomodoros is never a challenge.

There is a lot of interesting research into why a technique like this, and I consider this a form of batching, works so well. Beating resistance and getting started is so important. Getting started early is important. Perhaps the most important aspect of this for me is that I may not see a path to success for a large project, but I know I can win if the game is simply to work for 25 minutes. I’m not worried about winning the whole war, just winning this one little battle.

Hat tip to David Cain and Tim Ferriss who wrote great posts this week on subjects that reminded me of this.


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