It’d be pretty nice if you could snap your fingers and get what you wanted, just like that—get in shape, land a promotion, finish 20 books.
But, as life goes, it doesn’t work this way. Change takes time—getting in shape means a lifetime commitment to changing your diet and exercise, getting a promotion requires hard work and diligence, and finishing 20 books requires, well, actually sitting down and reading.
Once we think about the “time” factor it starts to freak us out. We get impatient, binge on our habit for a week maybe, and give up when it gets too hard and there doesn’t seem to be any improvements.
And James Altucher, author and investor, posted a pretty awesome perspective to this on Quora.
His advice? Just do 1% better every day:
What does 1% a day mean? Nothing really. It just means get a little better each day. It’s hard to quantify. But the important thing to know is this: 1% better each day, compounded, is 3800% better each year. 1% worse each day, compounded, means you lose 97% of value each year.
3,800% better? When you put it like that, doesn’t that make those small changes seem so much more important? In fact, it seems almost too good to be true that putting in minimal effort on a daily basis can result in such a huge output. But when you break it down, it’s actually not.
So, as he asks, what exactly does it look like to do a little better each day? Well, let’s think about that promotion. Maybe tomorrow you grab coffee with someone above you and you talk about a process that seems to be moving slowly, so the next day you brainstorm a new project that could streamline it. The following day you ask a co-worker for feedback on your idea. And so on and so forth.
Sure, that effort might take months, even most of the year, to be recognized. But it makes it possible for you to see a major improvement that didn’t seem all that labor-intensive to get to.
Rather than focus on the end goal, or the time it takes to get there, let’s start focusing on the little percentages we add every day. Not only because this is 10 times easier than the alternative, but because in the long run we’ll have made that much more of a difference for ourselves—as long as we stick to it.