Big Things Are Important, But Little Things Count

The small todos that don’t get done.

We all have them.

You know, the little things that always seem to slip through the cracks.

We tell ourselves that the small things will take care of themselves.

But, what happens when they don’t? 

What’s Not Getting Done?

Normally, it is about getting the big things done.

After all, we have to stick to our priorities, right?

However, if we let enough little things by… they start to add up.

Before we know it, the flood waters have reached our waist.

And then there is a lot more work to do.

Little things unattended become big things.

Tasks undone create more work.”

We intend to do these seemingly simple and innocuous tasks, but we never get to them.

Why can’t we get the small things done?

Catching the Little Things

The small tasks are often the hardest to get done.

They are the ones that linger on our todo list indefinitely.

Here are some tips to ensure that you “Do the Little Things:”

  • Have a System – If you hope to catch the small things, you must have a method to do it. Many people miss the small things simply because they are not tracking them. Keep a list. It doesn’t matter whether it is on paper, or on your smartphone, but ensure you have a way to track your todos.
  • Capture Them – Small tasks are easily forgotten. When one presents itself, don’t let it slip by. Write down even the tiniest of tasks down immediately.
  • Review Regularly – Your todo list can’t have your back if you don’t look at it. Ever find that abandoned list in your desk drawer of the things you were going to do? Look at your list regularly, and keep it in a prominent easy-to-see place.
  • Do Them Bit-by-Bit – When the list of “small things” piles up, it can become quite daunting. A todo list with 100+ items can leave you wondering where to begin. However, small tasks are easily whittled down. Attack that list bit-by-bit. Soon it will be under control again.
  • Fit Them In – Small tasks are just that… small. You can fit them in during even the smallest of opportunities. Instead of wasting that 5 minutes before the meeting playing “Words with Friends,” use the time to get a small task done. Return a call, answer an email, or prepare for your next appointment.
  • Delegate Them – Small tasks are often the best ones for delegating. They can often be done by others without much explanation. So, keep the tasks that require your expertise and delegate the smaller ones that a team member or colleague could address.
  • Do One Thing You Wouldn’t Have Done Today – Small tasks are ones that don’t scream for our attention. So, you need to give them extra effort when appropriate. Do one extra small task each day that has been lingering on your list.
  • Group Them – Small tasks don’t take much time. When you have a small time block, do 3-5, or even 8-10 little tasks in a bunch. Knocking out small tasks in groups is not only productive, but feels great! This motivation can help drive your bigger priorities, as well.

Adding Up the Small Things

Getting the most important tasks done is normally our priority.

However, you can’t ignore the little things.

If you do, they will catch up to you.

So, take a look at your list and make an extra effort to do a few small things today.

Question: What small things regularly slip by you?

15 thoughts on “Big Things Are Important, But Little Things Count

  1. Small things like cleaning out the fridge seem to get neglected- tossing out old salad dressings and condiments, that sort of thing.

    Going through the closet and tossing out clothes not worn in years.
    Cleaning the garage.
    Pulling the weeds in the backyard.
    cleaning out the junk drawer.

  2. Even when you do start taking care of the small things, they keep replenishing.

    I find setting aside a fixed time every day to take care of the little things dramatically reduces the to-do buildup.

    1.  Vito –

      I agree.  A great example for me is all the stuff that comes in the mail (from the Post Office).  If I deal with it every day, it’s not such a chore.  But…allowing just a few days to accumulate on the kitchen counter and it becomes an ugly task.

      Like tartar buildup on our teeth, to-do buildup is a bad thing too.


    2. Vito, agree… some of the small things do come back… with regularity. 

      For those things, I try to set up a regular time or cadence for dealing with them.

      When they come back… I am ready for them. 🙂

  3. Even when you do start taking care of the small things, they keep replenishing.

    I find setting aside a fixed time every day to take care of the little things dramatically reduces the to-do buildup.

  4. People make fun of me for writing little things on my list.  But if I don’t write them down, I forget them.  And honestly, I’m not very good at taking advantage of small blocks of time.  When I have a few minutes before something else, I can’t think of anything to do – unless I have some little stuff written down.

    But with traditional to do systems, where priorities reign as king, I’ve always been concerned about how those little things fit in because they definitely become big things eventually.

    Great post.

  5. The one “small thing” that really helps my peace of mind is taking 5-10 minutes before I leave the house to wash the dishes and do a quick tidy-up. It’s just an immense relief to come home at 10 PM after teaching class and NOT be greeted with a sink full of dirty dishes!

  6. These are some great tips. I have made it a point to write down the small and big tasks I need to get accomplished. Then intermix them when I’m working on my list. 

  7. These are great tips. So many times I find myself with a few minutes to spare and not doing a 2 minute task, or trying to remember that thing I really have to get done for the client, oh why didn’t I write it down… 🙂
    I’ll apply some of these methods, see if they help me manage my time better and complete more tasks.

    Mike Drew
    HappyTODOS Project Management  

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