Exercise: Small Actions Big Planner

This exercise will help you break big projects into simple tasks that you’ll want to do, instead of overwhelming ourselves into procrastination.

Exercise: Small Actions Big Planner

Our first newsletter this month was about the concept of One Big Day: The desire to try to rush through our marketing tasks, all at once, instead of tackling them a little bit at a time, each and every day.

But if we slowed down, took our time, and made it fun, we’d get more done much faster than exertion ever could.

Then, last week we provided an extensive appendix of the quotes and references that helped influence our thinking on the subject, along with our commentary.

This week, we’re putting the pieces together and making them practical with the Small Actions Big Planner:

This exercise will help you break big projects into simple tasks that you’ll want to do, instead of overwhelming ourselves into procrastination.

Here’s how it works:

You’ll write down your answers to six questions. Then, you’ll put those answers into the provided sample paragraph. This is your mission going forward, your guide to getting great work done, and your motivation to keep going by making it fun.

1) What is the big idea?

Looking back, what were you trying to do here?

Example: “Launch a marketing newsletter this year”

2) Who cares?

If this never got done, would it actually matter? Would anyone but you notice? If not, is that okay? Do you care?

Example: “I care about getting my ideas out into the world” or “My customers said they want more frequent product updates”

(If no one would notice if you didn’t do this, and you don’t actually care, strongly consider moving on to a more important project.)

3) What’s the first job you’ll need to tackle?

Going forward, what’s the first hurdle along the way you need to overcome?

Example: “Write a content plan/calendar”

4) How long can you take to get this done?

Can you take 10 days to do this? 10 weeks? 10 months? Not how fast, but how slow can you do this and it still be worth doing?

Example: “Three weeks”

(If you notice it can be put off indefinitely, good news—this doesn’t need to be done, or you’re never going to do it. Realizing something need not be done at all is the same as doing it—check it off the list, give yourself a high-five, and move on to a more important project.

If this is something that needs to be done today or as soon as physically possible, this may not be the right exercise. However, the principles of breaking the job up into small tasks, making it fun, and keeping a sustainable pace will help you get anything done, whatever the timeline.)

5) What’s the smallest action?

What can you do every day, in under 10 minutes, that will get you there within your chosen timeline?

Example: “Write down a newsletter idea and a possible subject line”

(If the smallest possible action takes more than 10 minutes, you need to extend your timeline or break this job up into smaller jobs.)

6) How will you make it fun?

If the task doesn’t sound fun by itself, how could you combine it with something else to make it fun? Is there another way you could accomplish the same thing in a more interesting way?

Example: “I’ll do this first thing in the morning, while I’m drinking my coffee, when I’m most inspired”

Your Small Actions Big Plan:


2: “I care about getting my ideas out into the world”

for the next…

3: “Three weeks”


4: “Write down a newsletter idea and a possible subject line”

5: “While I’m drinking my coffee”

so that I can…

2: "Write a content plan".

which is my first step on the path to…

1: “Launching a marketing newsletter”

Or, putting it all together, by following this simple exercise, instead of becoming overwhelmed with the newsletter project, you have a simple commitment for the next few weeks:

Because I care about getting my ideas out into the world, for the next three weeks I’ll write down a newsletter idea and a possible subject line while I’m drinking my coffee, so that I can write a content plan, which is my first step on the path to launching a marketing newsletter.

Joyful Structure:

Writing a plan is the easy part, now it’s time to build a structure to make it happen. For the above example, you’d want to set a daily reminder/alarm for the time you typically drink your coffee so you don’t forget. Keep track of the days you do it, but as a tracker of your progress toward your goal, not as an accountability or guilt device.

Guilt-Free Tracking:

If you miss a day, that’s okay! No makeup days, no makeup effort. Just get back on track as soon as you can without any judgement. The point is to get the thing done however long it takes, not to half-do it as quickly as possible and then beat yourself up about it. If you keep missing days, it’s time to re-do the exercise with the knowledge you have now about what’s working and what isn’t.

Structured Joy:

Celebrate every single day you get your task done. Don’t wait three weeks to congratulate yourself—three weeks from now “You” didn’t do anything. It’s the “You” every day who gets your tasks done that deserves praise. Give yourself a ridiculous self-high-five or an extra walk around the neighbourhood. Talk to and treat yourself like you’re the kind of person who commits to doing great, important work every day and gets it done. Because every day you do, you are.

Oh, and remember what we quoted last week about environment?

“You modify our own behavior by modifying the situation in which it occurs.” — Ayelet Fishbach

That’s right, in a few weeks, if you stick to this, you’ll start having content ideas every time you drink coffee. Of course, that’s both good and bad, but if you’ve been struggling to come up with ideas, this tiny, incremental and attainable plan will flood you with ideas within a month.

Try it and you’ll see.