New Goal — Progress, Even if it’s Small

by Katy on April 11, 2010 · 17 comments

I have a tendency to get a little down when I feel like all I’m doing is what I did the day before, and also what I’ll be doing tomorrow. You know, the treading water of day-to-day life.

Kids off to school, get laundry going, write blog, tidy up, run errands, make dinner, take kids to sports practices, clean up from dinner, help with homework, get kids off to bed, collapse into own bed, start over.

It’s far from invigorating.

But I’ve noticed that if I’m able to accomplish even one small task that moves me forward towards a certain goal, (whether it’s decluttering my house or investing in my friendships,) I’m able to feel enough sense of accomplishment. This is far from an earth shattering revelation, but since I started concretely focusing on doing something every day that isn’t just treading water, I really feel as if I am moving forward with my life.

For example, today I did three loads of laundry, made dinner, took my older son to find a formal outfit, walked some errands and then got the recycling and yard debris organized for tomorrow’s pickup. But I also bought the fuschia starts for my hanging baskets, weeded my tiny plot and planted some seeds. The former tasks are revolving and maddeningly never ending, but the latter only have to be done once, and prove (at least to myself) and I am not living the same day over and over again. And these do-them-once tasks will last beyond a 24 hour period.

I have most of the week off from work, so I should be able to get some stuff accomplished. Even if it is just small accomplishments, it’s still something. And I know better than many, that small consistent efforts, (whether they be monetary or otherwise) add up faster than you can say “Coin Girl.”

Do you find this accomplish something small everyday a worthy goal? Have anything to add? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie April 11, 2010 at 9:07 pm

YES! I absolutely need to be able to say “Today I accomplished X” even if it as boring as re-organizing the linen closet. There needs to be something that is just a teeny bit different than the usual daily grind. My current project (who am I kidding? my current one among 257 projects) is to go through all of the photos and keepsakes I have been saving for YEARS to turn into scrapbooks and get them sorted by date so that they can eventually actually go into the scrapbooks. In the process, I’ve been finding tons of stuff that I do not actually need to keep, and it has been gloriously freeing! 🙂


Gypsy April 12, 2010 at 1:17 am

I think this is really important for me to remember – some days all I accomplish is not going backwards and that isn’t very satisfying!


Karen April 12, 2010 at 2:17 am

I needed this today – thank you!


Katy April 12, 2010 at 7:48 am


I need this EVERY day.



Cate April 12, 2010 at 4:00 am

I’ve been struggling with this lately, too. Like Jackie, sometimes it feels great to accomplish even little things, like organizing the pantry or cleaning the windows.

Also, I’ve picked up coins from the ground several times lately and thought of you!


WilliamB April 13, 2010 at 5:57 am

I do *not* consider cleaning the windows to be a small thing. I consier it a big thing, so big that I hire someone to do it for me. They did so yesterday, arriving as I was meticulously pressure-washing the front porch, front porch furniture (both pieces, both freecycled), the front walk flagstones, and the neighbors’ kids tricycles. Ah, the irony.


WilliamB April 12, 2010 at 7:30 am

I consider it very important. It’s been working for me for the past 6 months or so. I think of it as a very slow surge of momentum. The surge isn’t taking me quickly but it is taking me where I want to go.

A’course that just means that my list of capital* tasks changes rather than gets smaller.

*I think in finance terms: I have incidental tasks and capital tasks. Incidental tasks are the routine common ones (laundry, situps) that happen all the time, just as incidental expenses do. I also have capital tasks (getting the gutters fixed, redoing the back yard) that happen rarely and are like investing in my life. Dividing the tasks into these two categories helps me recognize the timeframe in which they need to be done and how much time per week I should be spending on them.


Jacquelyn April 12, 2010 at 8:17 am

Absolutely! I’m glad I’m not alone.


Lisa April 12, 2010 at 9:42 am

Baby steps will still get you to where you’re going.


Becky April 12, 2010 at 2:49 pm

When I became a SAHM 2 years ago, after working for 8 years, this was a hard lesson learned. From time to time, I still find myself wallowing in the “treading water of day-to-day life”. I bought a student planner & write down a few things to accomplish each day. It feels so good to cross things off – even if it’s *just* wash the bottles or take out the garbage.


Tracy Balazy April 12, 2010 at 5:19 pm

I do get a lot of satisfaction from small accomplishments. Since I was laid off from my copy editor job in January, I’ve organized closets, sorted stuff in the basement, and all sorts of little tasks that no one visiting would notice, but I feel good about doing them because now the things I use on a daily basis are so much easier to find. And Katy, I thought of you, too, when I picked up a nickel in a parking lot yesterday. You’ve helped me realized that little efforts add up!


Katy April 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm

I put that nickel there just for you!



Sue Mama April 12, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Some elderly, ahem, thoughts on the matter:

1. Sometimes, treading water IS progress.

2. Think in terms of Forward Momentum. No matter how slowly you’re going, you’ll get there eventually.

3. Getting big stuff done takes a lot of small steps. I think, “What needs to be done before XXXX can happen?” And then I do a bit of it. E.g., before the laundry room can be sheetrocked back to its pre-1983 condition (don’t ask!), a plumber must assess what we’re sealing up for all eternity. One phone call should get the plumber over. Sheetrock must be bought and put in the basement. Paint must be bought. One trip to Home Depot. Once the sheetrock’s at your house, soemone else can carry it to the basement. The sheetrocking itself is a single chore. (A chore for someone else, I hasten to add!)

4. When oohing and ahhing over the Amazing Enchanted Lives of Others, keep in mind you’re only seeing the outside. I read/heard a warning somewhere, sometime, to resist comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides. As a writer, I sometimes think, “Forget it — I can never write a book THIS good! I think I’ll go eat a bowl of dirt.” Then I remember I’m not reading a crappy first draft, but something that’s been rewritten who-knows-how-many times, and probably edited within an inch of its life.

5. Most importantly, no matter how much you’re “getting done,” with young children you are doing something hugely important: through actions and words, you’re shaping their values and modelling how a parent behaves. This will ripple out through generations to come. Be nice: they — and their children — will be choosing your nursing home!


Molly On Money April 12, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I agree with Sue Mama, don’t forget the importance of treading water.
It often feels uncomfortable when you’re doing nothing but that’s when some of my best ideas come up. I often forget to ‘do nothing’.


Katy April 12, 2010 at 8:47 pm

I do see the value in treading water, but I also need to swim or I’ll never get anywhere.



Magdalena April 12, 2010 at 6:07 pm

I love routine. It would be bliss to me to have my life organized to the point that I have a good idea of what is going to happen one day after another! But there has to be room for recognizing that changes are being made, positively, rather than just growing older and losing some mobility and skin elasticity. I made a big step today toward regaining a good job, and tomorrow I have to take another, albeit one I’ve atttempted before, without success. Rather like the widow in the parable, I keep petitioning for justice, and maybe this time I’ll get it. I could get discouraged but each “petition” is a step forward, because if I stop I will go nowhere. And it was many small steps to get to today’s big one!


Ashley April 13, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Anything in our home is rarely small, and he (or she) who calles it small or easy is doomed to be at it for hours.

A good day for us is straitening up the living room and doing the dishes. On a successful day, we sweep the floor too!


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