When You Can’t Do Big Things, Do Little Ones

Sometimes you just can’t get the big things done. At least, not right now.

Life puts things in your way.

Or other people hold you back.

But, don’t give up. Don’t get frustrated.

When you can’t do the big things, instead, do the little ones.

Sometimes You Don’t Get to the Big Ones

There will be days that you just cannot get to the big things on your list.

Sometimes you can’t get big things done because:

– You don’t have the time (literally!)

– You don’t have the energy

– There are obstacles beyond your control

– You are waiting on someone else

There are ways around the obstacles. And sometimes you can get your productivity going.

However, other times, you just can’t get to the big things despite your best efforts.

What to do?

When I find myself in this quandary, I attack the little things.

Take On the Little Ones

When the big things are out of reach, you can still be productive.

In fact, you might surprise yourself just how much you can get done.

Here are just a few of the reasons that you should do the little things:

  • Sometimes Your Energy is Low – When you can’t do the big things due to your energy level, it makes sense to take on something a little smaller. Try doing some low energy tasks, and get back to the big things when your energy levels are higher.
  • A Bite at a Time – Maybe you have an elephant to eat. Maybe now is not the time to attack the whole thing. Instead, break off a smaller portion and do it for a short time.
  • Build Momentum – Even doing small tasks brings a sense of accomplishment. Let some small wins build your productivity momentum. Soon you will be ready to attack those big things again.
  • Whittle That List – We all benefit from paring down our todo list. When big things are hung up, is a great time to whittle that todo list. Use the opportunity to bring your list back down to a manageable size.
  • Small Things Add Up – While getting big things done might make a bigger splash, doing a whole bunch of small tasks can add up quicker than you think. Don’t underestimate the productivity of getting many small projects done.
  • Sometimes It IS the Little Things – Sometimes, the little things count more than you think. Details matter, and small things are sometimes the most important. This is especially true in relationships. When I can’t concentrate on a large project, I will touch base with individuals personally. Touching base in person can be much more powerful than sending an email or making a phone call.
  • Get Anything Done – And sometimes, something done is better than nothing. When you cannot get the big things done, it is best to use the time wisely. That way the lesser tasks are not hanging around when you do get back to what’s important.

They Add Up

When life keeps you from getting your big tasks done, take on the little ones.

You can still be productive, and even small things can add up quickly.

And sometimes, the small things make all the difference.

What do you do when you cannot get the big things done?

17 thoughts on “When You Can’t Do Big Things, Do Little Ones

  1. Yes, most of the time I will attack the tiny little things when I am not able to work on the bigger ones. Sometimes, the brain is just not functioning at the right frequency so I turn to smaller targets. After having many tiny little things done, I usually will gain “mood” to chew on the big ones.

    1. @hoeadrian Love the thought on “mood.” Sometimes it is not obstacles, or other people… but simply your own energy level or state of mind. 🙂

  2. Yes, most of the time I will attack the tiny little things when I am not able to work on the bigger ones. Sometimes, the brain is just not functioning at the right frequency so I turn to smaller targets. After having many tiny little things done, I usually will gain “mood” to chew on the big ones.

  3. I’ve found that this attack works for me, and it works for nearly everyone I’ve talked to. It must be human nature to panic in the face of so many projects, obstacles, and commitments, and then break it into smaller chunks and goals in order to start tackling it. I’m incredibly detail oriented, so I’ll eagerly break a project down into parts where I can focus, do my best, rest, and then take on the next step. Even though I tend to do that naturally, sometimes I need a good reminder — just like this post!

    1. @annedreshfield Anne, love your thoughts here.

      Breaking down big projects into smaller parts is a great way to take on big challenges in a manageable way. 🙂

  4. I’ve found that this attack works for me, and it works for nearly everyone I’ve talked to. It must be human nature to panic in the face of so many projects, obstacles, and commitments, and then break it into smaller chunks and goals in order to start tackling it. I’m incredibly detail oriented, so I’ll eagerly break a project down into parts where I can focus, do my best, rest, and then take on the next step. Even though I tend to do that naturally, sometimes I need a good reminder — just like this post!

  5. Craig,

    This is solid advice.

    I just happened to read about this from another source too (“The 60 Second Procrastinator”).

    When I think of this, it makes sense. If you have a chance to attack those smaller things, you should do it, because they are off your chest and get pumped up for that big task.

    Timo

    1. @timokiander Thanks, Timo.

      Getting those small things out of the way is a great tactic when you are unable to take on the big ones. 🙂

  6. Craig,

    This is solid advice.

    I just happened to read about this from another source too (“The 60 Second Procrastinator”).

    When I think of this, it makes sense. If you have a chance to attack those smaller things, you should do it, because they are off your chest and get pumped up for that big task.

    Timo

  7. @timokiander Thanks, Timo.

    Getting those small things out of the way is a great tactic when you are unable to take on the big ones. 🙂

  8. @annedreshfield Anne, love your thoughts here.

    Breaking down big projects into smaller parts is a great way to take on big challenges in a manageable way. 🙂

  9. @hoeadrian Love the thought on “mood.” Sometimes it is not obstacles, or other people… but simply your own energy level or state of mind. 🙂

  10. Oh, my gosh! This is exactly how I function best. I’ve never read anything that supported this idea so I gave up working this way. I like to make a big list on a steno pad – big things and small things – and then mark the important items with a star, and then just start tackling the list. It’s amazing how I can be so much more productive and manage to get the important things done. Plus if my list is only big things, I get overwhelmed and can’t get started. When my list includes little things, like you said, if I can handle a big thing, I choose something small and suddenly I’m ready to tackle the big task. Thanks for this article. I’m getting my steno pad out right now!

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