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Take one small step at a time

Barbara wants a new job but just can’t get her search started. Seeing “find a new job” on her to-do list overwhelms her. This is an ideal time for Barbara to use the power of baby steps. The baby step is one of the strongest tools you can use to achieve your goals. Baby steps come from breaking your larger goals into smaller and smaller elements, which you then achieve one by one. When all feels lost, baby steps can keep you moving towards your goal.

Set goals

Pay attention to how you’re feeling (and what you’re saying to yourself) about the goal you’re trying to achieve. It’s time to use baby steps when:

You feel paralysed by the size of your goal. (How the heck am I going to do this?)

You aren’t motivated to work on your goal. (I don’t feel like it right now.)

You could benefit from the feeling of accomplishment. (I’m stuck!)

You feel you don’t have much time to work towards your goal, but you want to progress nonetheless. (I’m stretched too thin!)

Get going

It’s easy to begin using this immensely powerful tool. Here’s how Barbara can get started:

Pick your No. 1 priority. Barbara has many priorities, including finding a job, losing 20 pounds and planting a garden. When forced to choose, Barbara says her top priority is to find a job.

Break it down and list the steps in order. Finding a job has many smaller steps, including researching employers, drafting a résumé and landing interviews. Barbara must consider how these smaller steps fall in place.

Make sure it truly is a baby step. Before you progress, be sure the step meets the following criteria: it must be something you can do in 30 minutes or less; it must be directly connected to a bigger step that directly supports your ultimate goal; you must have all the resources you need to complete it on hand.

Litmus test

“Find a new job” is Barbara’s ultimate goal, and she’s identified “draft my résumé” as her baby step. But is this really a baby step? Let’s put it to the test.

Can it be done in 30 minutes or less? Barbara’s résumé is fairly recent; she just needs to update it with information from her last position. She estimates it will take her no more than 30 minutes to create a new draft and polish it. So far, so good.

Is it directly connected to a bigger step that supports the ultimate goal? “Draft my résumé” is directly related to other subgoals, like “land an interview”, that support Barbara’s ultimate goal of finding a new job. She also has to make sure unrelated tasks don’t derail her efforts.

Are all the resources on hand to complete the baby step? To update her résumé, Barbara wants to review her old performance evaluations to jog her memory of the projects she worked on. Unfortunately, those records are in storage. Therefore, this task fails the baby-step test, because Barbara does not have all that she needs on hand.

Don’t give up

You climb even the tallest mountain one step at a time. You can keep moving towards your goal if you set aside time each day to complete one or several baby steps. Keep your list of steps handy in case you lose steam. The momentum you create by completing one baby step will lead you to complete the next. Before you know it, you will have achieved your goal.”

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