Successful people make huge achievements all the time, so how do they do it? What makes them different?
They go for the small win.
Turns out, there is big power in accomplishing small tasks. They increase confidence, motivation, positive emotions, even joy. Physiologically, every time you make incremental progress or record a “small win,” your body releases the happiness neurotransmitter dopamine, which boosts your energy and perseverance, according to research led by John D. Salamone and Mercè Corre. Mentally, as the small wins move you toward completion of your bigger goal, your motivation increases to keep going, setting up a pattern of positive feelings that allows us to tackle even more formidable projects in the long run, says Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D., Chief Behavioral Scientist at The Team W and author of “How to Get People to Do Stuff.”
Here’s how to harness the big benefits of small wins:
1.Break it Down
Look at the big tasks you need to accomplish in the day—writing a report on a customer call, for example—and break it down into manageable steps that take about 20 minutes each. That’s about as long as we can stay focused. When you make a little progress and record your first small win the good feeling will help you take on the next task, says Weinschenk.
2.Note the Progress
Cross the action items off the list. Pause long enough to feel the confidence that comes with completion then get back to work, says Bobby Hoffman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Central Florida and the author of “Hack Your Motivation.”
One note: Beware of celebrating too much. Research shows rewards can actually curb your motivation. “In most situations, you don’t need any more reward than accomplishing the task,” she says. “Finishing is enough of a celebration.”
3.Connect to the Meaning
We all have regular tasks and responsibilities that can be difficult to get excited about, but when you can link even the most mundane task to a larger more meaningful goal, you’ll find it easier to accumulate those small wins. Talk to co-workers or supervisors to understand how your work creates a better customer experience or provides better team support. When possible have direct contact with the people who benefit from your efforts so you can see the difference you make.
4.Create a Game Plan
For many, an early-morning workout is the small win they need to feel energized for the day ahead. Others are motivated after making their bed first thing. Some tackle the toughest tasks during the first hour at work, others use the first few minutes to connect with co-workers before getting started. Take a minute to reflect on the conditions that prime you to make progress at work, says Hoffman. Then find ways to build them into your day.
5.Record the Highlights
Take a minute at the end of each day to list the small wins. Or have every member of the team share their progress and high points from the past week. Recognizing how small things contribute to meaningful work promotes the good feelings that help us get things done.