Making Progress Is About Small Steps, Not The Big Picture

While people employ lots of strategies to help them make progress, there is a really simple one that is embraced by most of the successful entrepreneurs I know...

Much is said about the importance of the big picture. Experts and gurus alike encourage their clients to spend time focusing on envisioning their goals and what they will look like. At first imagining where you’d like to be in several years time is daunting, most of us can really get into it.

The more we think about what we want in the future, the more excited we get! We picture ourselves in improved circumstances, happy and fulfilled.

Finally, we’ve arrived and reached our destination!


When you still have far to go

The hard work has paid off. Just before we give ourselves a congratulatory pat on the back though, our minds slip back to the present day reality and the wind quickly goes out of our sails. We are suddenly confronted by just how far we have to go. Excitement gives way to overwhelm. Our focus shifts from “this is where I want to go” to “how will I ever get there?”

This is especially true for entrepreneurs, who are constantly defining and redefining their goals and desired business direction. No sooner do they achieve a goal, when another emerges to take its place. So they are quite used to flipping back and forth between feeling excited and overwhelmed.

The trouble arises when the goal is so huge and the anxiety about how to get there is so great that paralysis occurs. Unsure of how to chip away at all the work that needs to be done, entrepreneurs do one of two things – stick their heads in the sand making no change at all or completely exhaust themselves trying to achieve transformation over night. Thinking big doesn’t mean much if you can’t move forward.


Building a ‘big enough’ company

While people employ lots of strategies to help them make progress, there is a really simple one that is embraced by most of the successful entrepreneurs I know – embracing small steps. In fact, many of the 100 entrepreneurs that we interviewed for our book, The Big Enough Company, talked about learning (sometimes the hard way) the value of consistent everyday action and an incessant focus on what can be done now.

The ratio of time spent on moving things forward versus defining the big picture was sometimes as great as 90/10. It makes sense, but still sometimes it can be hard to fend off that ‘I need to do it all’ anxiety.

In our experience when we are feeling anxious or overwhelmed we have found it helpful to remember the following five things:


  1. Entrepreneurship is always a work in progress. If you learn to embrace the journey instead of always wistfully thinking about the destination, you’ll enjoy it a lot more.

  2. As an entrepreneur, you’re gearing up for a marathon not a sprint. Small steps will help you pace yourself and ensure that you have the stamina to make it to your goal.

  3. If something feels too big to be actionable then it isn’t broken down enough. Break apart projects as much as you can before you put them on the to-do list.

  4. Working backwards is an easier way to create a time bound project plan. Think, if I want to be here in 2 months, what do I need to achieve in 1 month? How about in two weeks? How about next week? How about tomorrow?

  5. Some action is better than no action. You can’t always wait for the circumstances to be perfect. Instead, just get started.


We’re curious how you handle the same challenge. What helps you make progress in the face of a big, daunting goal?


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