“It’s better to do a little a lot than a lot a little”
Little Big Man
The other day, I was in the park with my dog, Ryder, watching him chew a stick — one of those weird things that some dogs just love to do. The stick was long and thick and I wondered how Ryder was going to tackle it. Here’s what he did: he bit off one small chunk and chewed it with gusto. Then he bit off another and then another. By and by, he’d chewed that big stick down to half its size.
Watching Ryder reminded me of the quote above. In all honesty, these 13 words have transformed my work life. They’re from a long-time caller of my friend Rob Gilbert’s Success Hotline (973.743.4690). Ever since I heard them, I’ve been applying this concept to my creative projects.
I used to be an “a lot a little” gal when it came to my writing. I’d get into a lather about something I was working on and throw myself into it intensely for a while — and then let it drift away until I had another fit of inspiration. In short, I’d work on something “a lot” but only from time to time — intensely, but erratically.
While the results often had some promise, I never built any momentum. I’d often find myself discouraged because things were half finished. Then I heard Rob say, “It’s better to do a little a lot than a lot a little.” I decided to try this strategy. First, I used the concept to clean up a small room in my house by tackling it just half an hour a day for a week. By the end of the week, it was all cleared out.
Emboldened, I started devoting two hours a day to working on my book, Birthing the Elephant, while continuing to do my freelance work. After eight months of working steadily day after day, the book was completed and I was a total convert. I’ve continued to transform my writing approach from haphazard to habitual. It’s been very liberating creatively. If building momentum is an issue for you, why not try this approach out?
Karin, I really like reading your wonderful tips about writing. I’ve written 2 small books and what you write here is absolutely true. It took me a year for the first book, but if I did not work on it every Tuesday morning, It would still not have been done.
Thanks so much for your note and for your kind words about my blog — so glad you are enjoying it! I love writing it and sharing ideas — and receiving comments, which really encourage me to keep going!
So interesting to hear about your book experience. I really found it so amazing to see how much progress I made when I committed to working steadily and in small steps — the universe really supported me and I began to look forward to my next session.
Thanks again for taking time to share your thoughts — it’s much appreciated!
Write on! Karin
Thanks for sharing this word in due season Karin. I am very bad at this approach…and yet I know this is how things get done…writing being no exception. I think of my sister who determined 15 years ago that she wanted to be a teacher. At the time, she was having babies and working in a lucrative job, yet her heart yearned to be in the classroom. Many times she was tempted to give up, but little by little, sometimes just one class at a time, she reached her goal and received her Masters in Education. She is now a teacher in the Newark public schools and though extremely challenging work, she loves it. Here’s to doing a little a lot!
Thanks so much for your note and your encouraging story about
your sister — it’s very inspiring. So often we think that biting off
huge chunks of something is the way to go, but working on a
smaller scale and taking a step-by-step approach can be so
much more manageable. The challenge with this is that sometimes
we don’t seem to be making all that much progress. Having faith
that we’re moving in the right direction is so important.
I hope you find the doing a little a lot approach helpful in your work.