New Year goals got you paralyzed? Tiny steps win the race

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It was around August 15, 2008 and I should have been in the process of finishing my book. A Word document stared me in the face with a bunch of chapters filled with random blog posts, quotes, disconnected paragraphs and a few usable pages. I felt like one of those poor souls on the Hoarder shows, paralyzed by stuff and ideas all around me, but unable to move from the sheer terror of the task.

My daughter was still under a year old, and I had the weight of my family’s income on my shoulders since the construction market in Phoenix was in the 4th Circle of Dante’s Inferno.

I picked up the phone to call a favor in to Martha Beck, my Jedi Knight High Council member. “Writing a book is hell,” she said to me when I first got my book contract. “Call me if you get stuck.”

So I did.

“I can’t do this,” I said. “It is too big. I am totally overwhelmed, and I am never going to get this done.”

“Of course you will,” she said. “Just break it into tiny little pieces that are so small that they are almost insulting. Do you think you could write one paragraph?”

“Yes, I think I could do that,” I said. “But I have sixteen chapters to write! I will never finish on time!”

“Then put that as your goal,” she said. “Don’t worry about your 16 chapters for now. Just write a paragraph each day, and be sure to reward yourself for doing so each day. At the end of the fourth day, give yourself a bigger treat.”

Feeling better that my writing hero had confidence I would finish, I agreed to her crazy process and went back to my Word document.

I started with one paragraph. It was not pithy, profound or crisp. But it was a paragraph, and I felt a tiny weigh lift from my chest.

I kept writing each day. Paragraphs turned into pages, which turned into caffeine-fueled 14-hour days of flying fingers, writing, copying and pasting.

I turned the book into my publisher on October 31. The next day, my editor Emily sent me a lovely email.

“Congratulations, you did it!”  she said. “Now, can you cut it by 30% in the next two days?”

Amazingly, cutting content that I had sweat over for months was a breeze. I could feel the book take shape as we hacked off  meandering stories and unnecessary sidebars.

I think about this experience often as I set new goals, including writing another book.

Once you define the goal that feels right (and I gave you some tips on how to do this here), start really, really small.

Big Hairy Audacious Goals Sometimes Give You Hairballs

Get out of debt by 2013 starts with alphebetizing your bills and setting them in date order.

Writing a book starts by opening up your word processer, naming the document and creating the cover page.

Getting on Oprah’s Life Class starts by calling a local gym and asking if you can deliver a 15 minute talk to its members.

Tiny Steps Win the Race

Final thoughts here: (See directly on YouTube:

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13 Responses to “New Year goals got you paralyzed? Tiny steps win the race”

  1. […] NEW YEAR GOALS GOT YOU PARALYZED? TINY STEPS WIN THE RACE. –It’s not very difficult to gather what this story is about. But Pamela Slim’s advice is good: Sometimes carving huge goals into smaller, more attainable ones is the first step to success. To paraphrase, think big? Yes! But maybe start small first.   […]

  2. This is JUST what I needed to read today. I have been paralyzed by fear over the big goals I’ve set for the next year. But really it’s just about writing one sentence and then the next. Thanks Pam!

  3. Terri says:

    Mies van der Rohe was onto something when he said “Less is more.” perhaps he was writing his New Years Resolutions

  4. […] New Year’s Goals Got You Paralyzed? Tiny Steps to Win the Race – Escape from Cubicle Nation Filed Under: Blog, Exercise, Health Tagged With: Exercise Goals, Financial Goals, Goal Setting, New Year's Goals, New Year's Resolutions, Weight Loss Goals […]

  5. So true Pam! When I set a big goal one important thing I do is to do something (anything, something tiny usually!) towards it within the first 24 hours. As you pointed out, this can remove the burden of it being such a daunting task and get you rolling in the right directions. Thanks Pam!

  6. EB says:

    Weirdly focused on the Yoda while listening to you…. made the advice all the more “sage” somehow 🙂

  7. […] up this morning: New Year Goals Got You Paralyzed? Tiny Steps Win the Race. This is another article from my favorite blogger Pamela Slim. I love this article because there […]

  8. Yoneco says:

    Wonderful advice. My business has started picking up momentum and I definitely see that I’ve been losing focus on the small things that got me there in favor of bigger goals.

    And is that your next coaching client waiting in the chair behind you? 😉

  9. Ali Davies says:

    So easy to forget to go small after the going big piece. Thanks for the reminder – I’m on it!!!!

  10. Molly Gordon says:

    This dovetails so beautifully, Pam, with your post, “Beware of fancy formulas and slick shortcuts.” The combination of focusing on the main thing (writers write, coders code) and chunking things down even to the point of ridiculosity is powerful.

  11. Kyle says:

    Have you been bugging my home? The timing of this post could not be better.

    Thanks again for cutting right to the heart of the matter and again providing heartfelt and actionable advice!

  12. I needed this today. Thank you for the reminder that I won’t ever finish if I don’t start. Now pardon me; I’ve got a date with a Word document. 🙂

  13. Sandi Amorim says:

    love, Love, LOVE this Pam!!! Chunking things down always works for me; so obvious and so good to see your reminder.