Why we need a game plan with little wins

One of the things I  learned about myself after four quarters of using the Full Focus Planner is that the biggest piece of my growth the past year came from a simple move away from adding up little wins to focusing on the little wins that add up.

Let’s face it, we all have a ton to do at home and at work, but we should also have goals for both.  Mine included stuff like restarting my blog (myndfuel) and creating family experiences (go, see, do something new every week) to becoming a better leader, taking leaps and using my voice. On the surface these goals aren’t that concrete, so I had to break them down into the most critical projects (the little wins) that when cranked out one by one led me down the path to the bigger picture.

Reality check

I am sure I am not alone here.  Many of us are guilty of dreaming big at the beginning of a year, quarter, month, even week or day. We take on huge projects one after another with a sense of optimism that we will have no problem cranking them out. We list them out, start one, then another, and another and pretty soon we have five or more projects going at the same time.  We start putting in longer hours.  We start getting momentum with one or two of them and the others begin to fall victim to procrastination and some we completely discard. One study by Carnegie Melon University’s Software Engineering Institute found that the more projects we take on, the more time we actually waste. Five projects running simultaneously leads us to waste 80% of our time.  They refer to this as context switching.

Now the study was aimed at software development and DevOps, but it could easily be applied to nearly every discipline including mine – marketing. This was eye-opening for me because for the longest time I have been telling my team that they should only be focusing on 3 things at any given time. If we believe the data, I was basically telling them that it’s okay to waste 40% of their time.  In all honesty, I was following the same rule on a daily basis and found that at the end of the day, I was checking maybe one or two of my daily goals off the list (if I was lucky). Multiply that over a week’s time I felt like I got nothing done.  This had to change not only for me, but for my family and my team. The epiphany to move from adding up the little wins to focusing on the little wins that add up forced me to rethink the path to growth and goal achievement.

Game plan

In sports, great coaches (my faves: Halas, Ditka, Nagy, Maddon, Jackson) know that it’s not about the big play. Breaking down the game into smaller pieces ultimately leads to accomplishing the bigger objective – the win.

In football it may be ball protection, time of possession, field position, yards gained on 1st down.  In baseball,  runners on base, pitch count, ground ball outs all matter.  Basketball – free throw percentage, turnovers, points in the paint.  Each and every little win has a goal and each is part of a greater game plan that when accomplished increases the odds of success achieving the ultimate objective.

The trick is the game plan and figuring out the little wins that matter.  Each leader then takes accountability and responsibility for their little wins: offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, special teams coach, 1st base coach, 3rd base coach, hitting coach, bench coach, etc.  The players may have all of the talent in the world, but if we aren’t providing a clear game plan around the little wins, we are all going to continue wasting our time and ending each week feeling like we got nothing done.