A little over a decade ago, as a consultant at a public relations agency, I was talking to a web developer on the team about how little progress I’d made on a major project that week.
“But, that’s what weekends are for,” I said, with naive optimism.
“Indeed! Because, unlike weekdays,” he said, with an avuncular smile, “weekends are infinitely long.”
Whether it’s simple procrastination or the insidiously banal interruptions of the work day, sometimes, we just don’t pace ourselves like we should.
Instead, we kick the can down the road, gearing up for what I like to call “One Big Day.”
For some reason, we imagine our future selves to have so much more time, motivation, energy, and, frankly, ability than our self of today. And so we pile on extra responsibilities, extra tasks, extra thinking, and extra stress—on top of an already overwhelmed version of ourself who is no more capable or capacious than we are.
And that’s what my web developer pal was trying to tell me—the weekend is just as short as any other set of days, just as prone to interruption, just as subject to events outside our control.
The future isn’t a wide open field for us to plant our future tasks—it’s already mostly filled with other people’s crap we haven’t thought of yet, or had no way of anticipating.
So, maybe you tend to avoid creating social media content. Instead of doing it a little bit at a time, you leave it to the last minute, and try to have one big day and get it all done.
Maybe it’s your invoicing, your proposal process, or finally getting your new website together.
All you need is one big day, and you’ll get it all done.
Of course, in the micro, it’s easy to see why this isn’t an ideal strategy. How many things end up simply not done because we didn’t give them the time they needed?
How often do we start out the workweek with a pile of unfinished tasks, or with that unique sense of foreboding that comes from a future commitment’s sudden and shocking imminence?
Because, sure, if every single thing had gone perfectly, you might have been able to get it all done in one big day. But, they didn’t. And, so, you didn’t.
And that’s all New Years Resolutions, annual strategic plans, and massive advertising campaigns really are: the desire to just have One Big Day.
The urge to forgo pace in favour of speed.
The mistake of forgoing care in favour of completion.
New Years Resolutions always fail—and worse, they make the resolvers feel like failures, when success was never even on the table. Because nothing ever goes perfectly. Motivation never lasts. Inspiration fades.
And a plan that assumes perfection is just a lit fuse on a frustration bomb.
The people who actually get what they want, who perform at unimaginable levels, who do things no one ever thought could be done—you know what they do?
They pace themselves. They enjoy the process. They make it fun, and they spend as much time recovering from their efforts as they do exerting them.
They build a joyful structure around making tiny, incremental, practically invisible changes, every single day. For as long as it takes.
Business leaders, astronauts, explorers, athletes. The ones who last, who achieve what they want—and who don’t flame out in public by betting the farm on ever-escalating risks—they don’t depend on a short series of “big days.”
Because good businesses don’t need “hardcore” effort, and good leaders don’t want it. Extreme and unrelenting exertion is a sign of weakness, poor planning, and desperation.
And trying to solve every marketing problem, accomplish every administrative task, and make every change you want to make in a single year is as silly and inevitably disappointing as trying to get everything done in one big day.
Instead of optimizing for brief spurts of desperate energy, optimize for a few hundred tiny, calm, fun, and fulfilling days.
Imagine how motivated you’d be if you wanted to do your day’s marketing tasks.
Imagine how fulfilled you’d be if you felt refreshed going into the work week.
Imagine how successful you’d feel if you knew you were making progress toward your marketing goals.
“Fresh Start” moments are real. A few times a year, we do have access to a minuscule moment of inspiration, motivation, and passion to finally take action.
And the worst thing you can do in that moment is actually take action.
Because the moment will pass, the inspiration will fade, and in two weeks you’ll be staring at your ambitious plan and to-do list, wondering what the hell you were thinking.
Instead, use this tiny, brief, and fading moment to create an almost imperceptible set of changes you’d like to make in your daily work.
Carve out a few minutes—no more than five—every day for the next 7 days to do one tiny marketing task you’ve been procrastinating on.
Set a timer, and stop when it’s done.
Force yourself to see how little you can do every day for as long as you can.
You’ll be amazed at how much more gets done a little bit every day, rather than not at all once a year.
Because all big years are a collection of small days, added together and multiplied by their reinforcing actions.
And small days are ones where we plan for things to go wrong, to get interrupted, and to feel unmotivated. But we get our work done anyway, and we make the progress we need to.
Not because we have to. Not because we’re riding a fading high of occasional inspiration.
But because we enjoy it.
Because we made it fun.
Because we paced ourselves.
That’s how to start a year. How to start a day.
And how to start a business.
So I wish you, not a big year, but a series of small and satisfying days.
Every day, for as long as you want.