Zing Maker II: Appreciating Small Steps

Zing Maker II: Appreciating Small Steps

Talking about this “Zing” thing yesterday, I talked mostly about the attitudinal shift I’ve made toward my old nemesis Uncertainty. Now, I’m more readily-able to move into huge clouds of the stuff and start feeling my way without the need for external motivation or committment, which is important when you’re taking on a big personal dream. However, there’s another challenge that I merely touched upon yesterday, and that’s managing the impatience I have with slow progress.

“Managing” is perhaps the wrong word, as it suggests suffering through an ordeal that is difficult. There’s no reason that I should think of any progress as difficult. Instead, progress should be celebrated! If it were anyone but me reporting on slow progress, I would be congratulating them and pointing out the significance of each little step made, because I recognize that they’re difficult. When it comes to evaluating my own progress, though, I sometimes forget to separate my understanding of “the model of goal completion” with the reality of building up toward them. There’s a tendency that people have to equate ease-of-understanding with ease-of-doing, and I fall into that trap when it comes to judging myself when I’m too tired or feeling under-the-gun of a project deadline.

As I’ve been doing this “zing” initiative this week, I’ve found myself adopting a different set of expectation. Instead of pushing to get complete projects done through epic application of focused effort, I’m moving each project just enough attention to nudge it one step farther. This doesn’t put the project into the DONE category so I can forget about it, but it does accomplish two things:

  • Most creative projects are pretty uncertain right up until the time they are done, so even a little progress will yield constructive insight. In other words, a meaningful step is like getting one more clue in an ongoing creative mystery; with this new data, can we proceed confidently forward? Or maybe we will discover a new path, and proceed that way! Before, when I just wanted things to be done so they would go away, I am now treating each incremental step as a meaningful experience. That is a big attitudinal shift.

  • Rather than strive for factory production line perfection that emphasizes process and step-by-step execution, I’m leaning more toward an approach that is like having an orchard filled with many different kinds of fruit trees all developing at their own rate. I get to walk amongs my tasks (which are maintained in Trello) and see which ones are ripening. If there’s a project that needs to move, I can pick ’em as needed. I’d tried this approach a few years ago, but I hadn’t yet developed the notion that it was really OK to do things that way.


p>Summing up, I’m learning to appreciate small steps as miniature experiences in themselves, and I’ve started to accept an opportunistic way of picking what tasks to do. It’s the slow way of doing things, allowing me the chance to savor experiences as they lazily unwind before me. It would be a terrible way to run a company, I suspect, but it may be fine for an army of one. Zing is created by the reframing of a step as not a leaden milestone but instead as a “mini-experience” with its own story. Zing is also created by the immediacy that comes from opportunistic planning. These kinds of energies apparently suit me well…

It’s too early to tell if this is a legitimate approach; I’ll have to see how I’m feeling about this two weeks from now.


1 Comment

  1. Gary 7 years ago

    Excellent insights. I battle this same impatience at times at work, where I have to run parallel strategic and tactical paths in my work. On one hand I have to do the methodical, rigorous tasks that build a solid strategic plan, on the other I have to show progress to management by accomplishing tangible things. I think this is akin to creative work where your creative soul wants to rip at things, focus until finished, that sort of thing…yet that’s not always a practical approach and sometimes creative work is an evolutionary process building on the small steps as you mentioned.

    I like your orchard analogy. As a gardener, I have to have paitence to wait for my seeds to sprout, the seedlings to grow, the plants to mature and bear fruit. And along the way there’s tending and watching, watering and waiting. I’ve learned (or rather, learning) that there’s not only value in buidling slowly, but the end results tend to be more solid if they, like my veggie plants, are allowed to mature at a pace that’s good for them.

    Good stuff! Of course, the usual caveat applies where we all can get too interested in examining the process and fiddling with it thus avoiding getting the work done! :-)