Wednesday, December 10, 2014

All or Nothing vs. Baby Steps

Ever didn't want to start doing something because you don't have time to finish it?  A big task such as cleaning a room, or scrapbooking the year's photographs, or making a quilt?  Because you are an "all or nothing" kind of person and you'd rather not start doing something if you can't finish it all on one day or weekend?  So you'd rather wait until you have a free day or weekend to devote to the big task.  When was the last time you had a whole day free to work on something?     

I used to be one of the "all or nothing" type of people, myself, and a "perfectionist", to boot. Still am, to a certain extent. I guess it goes back to what I was taught in childhood: "Don't start if you can't finish", "If it's worth doing, it should be done well", etc.  And since I didn't have that many free days to devote to doing a project, many things didn't get done.  Then, I learned to break big tasks down to small baby steps that can be finished in small segments of time, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, etc.  That was an important, liberating, concept to me.  I could do anything for 15 minutes.  Maybe not redo my entire filing cabinet, but I could sort through 5 file folders and it will add up, eventually.

Every now and again, I tend to regress.  But, for the most part, I am getting better at tackling big projects, one small task at a time.  So, instead of "cleaning the kitchen", I have it broken down into "wash copperware", "wash 1 wall", "wash 5 upper cabinet doors", etc.  Instead of "write holiday cards", I have "buy cards", "buy stamps", "write overseas cards", "write domestic cards", etc.  Baby steps.  Easily accomplished in 5 to 15 minute segments.  The entire big project might still take several hours to complete, but it is done in smaller segments and it's easier to find 15 minutes than an hour or two. 

On Monday, I had the day off from work; I posted a long to do list and I accomplished most of it:

- Grocery shop at ethnic store 1 for red rice, palm treacle, curry powder, cloves, etc. - DONE
- Grocery shop at ethnic store 2 for garbanzo, candied ginger, etc. - DONE; except they didn't have candied ginger
- Shop for paper napkins and holiday cards - DONE
-  Cook lentils - NOT DONE
- Wash 5 remaining kitchen upper cabinet doors and top of fridge - DONE
- Put away laundry from yesterday and do another load/hang to dry - DONE
- Take trash cans to curb - DONE
- Write rest of overseas holiday cards - DONE
- Continue to read my library book - DONE

I also went to the regular grocery store, although it wasn't on my to do list.

I didn't post a list yesterday, but I went to the post office for air mail stamps, went to the library to return the library book I finished reading (and borrowed a new one), went to the pharmacy to buy some over-the-counter medications, started on the local holiday cards, and went to the office, too. 

Today, I went to the office, went to the bank during my lunch break, went to the post office to mail my cards during my afternoon break, renewed one of my library books, online (and put a hold on another book), and put garbanzo beans to soak overnight.  My other baby steps to do today include washing the fridge/freezer doors, and start washing the lower kitchen cabinet doors and drawer fronts.

Are you an "all or nothing" kind of person?  Do you let big things wait until you have sufficient free time to tend to it?  Or do you break things down to smaller chunks and keep at it until it is all done?


  1. Bless, please forward my greeting to DD and am full of curiosity about whether she had challenges to overcome getting to the airport via subway or delays as a result of what is called here...Pineapple Express. You ordered a book from the library on-line and renewed another! good on you, we'd so like to get you using more and more of these computerized 'helps.'

  2. Hon, I've conveyed your greeting to DD. She did have a few challenges - no electricity in her apartment on the morning of her departure (still don't know when it was/if it has been restored; we might have to toss all the food she had in the freezer). Some subway stations had closed but not the one she went to. Some flights had been cancelled but her flight was only delayed by less than 30 minutes. I had the home altar light burning from the time she left her apartment until she came home, and the monks at the temple said special prayers for a safe journey, checking with me for regular updates. These monks are like family members. I am a firm believer that prayer is a lubricant that facilitates things running smoother.

  3. I usually like to start something and see it through to the end, but sometimes I break it down into interim goals so that I feel the progress. Like you, I make to-do lists as a way of staying organised but at the moment I'm really struggling to get motivated and maintain momentum. It might be the pandemic - shapeless days/too much free time or just restlessness in general, but I really hate not being as productive as usual. Gaah!

    1. I think it might be the pandemic. I lost a lot of my motivation to do things, last year! I always find it hard to get started on a project and one of the biggest motivators for me was having people over. Well, the pandemic hit and there went one of my biggest motivators! What did it really matter if I deep cleaned and organized the family room if no one ever visited me? Or, if I didn't clean out the utensils drawer? But, this year, I am determined to get myself back on track. I tell myself just do one small thing and then, I get to do something fun for the rest of the day! :)


Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting. Your comments are much appreciated. Please comment in English. Thank you.