I like this question because every single one of us had to make some changes over the last year. Determining which small change, even the very smallest, made the most impact was the challenge for our responders this month. From developing a business mantra, to improving an ability to judiciously say no, to a humorous take on the value of wearing a mask, this month’s replies span a variety of small changes.
The resulting impacts are clearly affecting lives both in the workplace and outside of it. Imagine yourself making a small change that could create more success in your life. The beauty of this exercise is you are the one who decides the change and defines success on your terms. Be bold. It’s just a small change … or is it? In this column, adopted from the familiar “Heard on the Street” format, we offer our responders a chance to answer the question posed in the title. These are their replies reported verbatim.
The Ripple Effects of Small Changes
At the start of 2020, I had a vision for myself of what I wanted to accomplish. Everything I planned went out the window with the pandemic, but there was one goal that remained — the shift from “have to” to “get to” in my internal and external dialogue. It’s not an easy change to make, and I am not perfect at it, but I find less and less moments where I am correcting myself.
Whether I am talking about my work to-do list or family commitments, if I frame it all as something I get to do (rather than have to do), my load is easier to carry. I can confidently say that this small change has made a huge positive difference in my life and for those around me.
Working less hours. For many years, I have worked between 50 and 70 hours a week. I often worked until early hours of the morning and didn’t get enough sleep. I have dropped to 40 hours a week (and some weeks only 30). I feel healthier. I’m happier. As I near the age of 65 (Shhh!) this summer, it’s time to let the next generation step into their positions in the company. Rural Computer Consultants has been preparing for this for years. It’s time to actually step back more and let each of the four [members of the] next generation of “Sheehans” step into the business more and more.
Rural Computer Consultants
Bird Island, Minnesota
I have worked hard at finding the silver lining in all situations. It’s been difficult at times during the pandemic, but it has paid dividends in both easing stressors and recognizing opportunities where I otherwise may have missed them.
The smallest change I’ve been trying to make (not always successfully) is learning when to say no. There are so many opportunities every day to get distracted with projects that sound like good ideas, and in fact, many of them are good ideas, but there are only so many hours in the day.
I recently listened to an audiobook on the subject of productivity, and the author came to the conclusion that most people maximize their productivity at about 50 hours of work per week. It was also found that working more hours can actually be counterproductive. I only began this new habit recently so I can’t speak to the results just yet, but I’m hopeful that I will experience less stress and that I will be able to perform better on the projects that I say yes to.
In the past year, I’ve tried to adjust my attitude towards life based on three proverbs attributed to the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu. Those three are: take the world lightly; consider everything minor; and regard death and life as equal. Doing so would unburden the spirit, clear the mind and remove fear from one’s heart. I can attest to a positive effect on my emotional health when concentrating on those principles.
National Propane Gas Association
Tinley Park, Illinois
Slowing down the pace. In hindsight, I realized that I have been saying yes to too many invitations and overbooking myself for years. The relaxed pace of last year was a beautiful gift to me. It taught me to be more present with the family, friends and coworkers in my life. It also allowed me to enjoy new hobbies and quiet time with nature. It is tempting to say yes now that the invitations are flowing again. I am reserving my “best yes” for the right people and opportunities.
Ted Johnson Propane
Baldwin Park, California
When the world went on pause and everything was changing by the minute, we started daily huddles to discuss what we needed to do and repeated the mantra, “We can navigate this.” By doing small daily meetings, heightening our communication and always remembering our mantra, we did navigate 2020, and at the same time, developed our team with a spirit of reassurance that is present today and will drive us into the future.
Buffalo, New York
This was a tough one, but as I sat on the plane to return home from D.C. and felt a nice nap was in order, an answer came to mind. The small change of having to wear a mask on board an airplane has had a positive result. Besides the supposed health benefit, I saw it as a great bonus for not worrying about falling asleep with either my mouth open or drooling on my neighbor — LOL. Just a little comic relief — you’re welcome!
Do Small Things in a Great Way
As with most changes that have lasting effectiveness, a key element is consistency. Developing those new patterns or habits that drive change takes a steady willingness and awareness of the reason for the change in the first place. Do you want to work less hours or have less stress? Which small changes will help you achieve these goals?
The theme running through this month’s responses has a great deal to do with how we approach our days, our opportunities, our challenges, the people in our lives and ourselves. As someone who appreciates art, I discovered my favorite quote on the topic at hand from one of the most famous artists of all time, Vincent Van Gogh. He wisely and simply stated, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
If you are interested in submitting responses, contact Coop at firstname.lastname@example.org.