What Do Successful People Know? Laura Vanderkam Says: Small Things Equals Great Power.

what the most successful people knowI’m a big fan of Laura Vanderkam, and her latest book, What the Most Successful People Do at Work, continues to nudge me (in totally supportive ways) that I can get more tick for my tock. That’s the equivalent of more bang for my buck, which was a theme she emphasized in All the Money in the World. (See my interview with Vanderkam here.) In her newest book, Vanderkam offers practical suggestions on how to recast the way I think of my work week, reframing my sense of time. Here’s one solid idea:

“Even if you think you lack complete control of your time, and even if you feel battered by the gales of creative destruction swirling through the economy, you can look at your calendar and see the possibilities inherent in minutes rather than seeing them as sands sifting through an hourglass.”

I like the way Vanderkam shares her own To Do Lists, focusing less on general ideas and more on specifics. For example, she makes it a priority every Sunday night to make a priority list of what she plans to accomplish in the next week.

She also emphasizes one of my favorite suggestions about how to make this chapter the best chapter: Take little steps to achieve great goals. She cites Charlene Johnson, the celebrity fitness trainer, who says that she does three things per day in pursuit of a bigger goal.

As Vanderkam puts it, “Doing three things every work day without fail could put you 750 steps closer to your goal in a year.” If your goal is to write a novel approximately 50,000 words (which is the end goal of NaNoWriMo) then you just have to choose a deadline (one month or one year) and break down your daily workload to reach that amount.

The goal of a 10,000 mile journey begins with a single step. And each step done repeatedly adds up before you know it. That concept ties in with Vanderkam’s idea to keep practicing—and to be held accountable. Find a buddy and make a commitment. My friend Lily sometimes calls me in the morning and says, “Today I plan to…” and I share what I plan to do. That way, we’re in it together. Some of my other friends started a running group to get into shape. Before members go out for a run on their own, they contact the group to say they’re tying their sneakers and heading out. Then there are no excuses.

Thought of the Day via Laura Vanderkam: Successful people know that small things done repeatedly have great power.

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About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is a writer living in northern Israel whose novel, A Remarkable Kindness, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in August. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, and other publications. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker) was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.
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6 Responses to What Do Successful People Know? Laura Vanderkam Says: Small Things Equals Great Power.

  1. Melody Kimmel says:

    I’ve always been a master of lists and efficiency, at wringing productivity from each minute of my day. But I discovered something this year, as I struggle to write a book on a spiritual topic: I cannot just crank out my 3 page goal in a found 20 or 30 minutes, as I might bang out a work product or prepare part if dinner. Creative time needs to be gentler, less constricted. Very humbling (and problematic).

    • dianabletter says:

      Melody, you are one of my heroes when it comes to super-efficiency! Yes, creativity can’t just be churned out like macaroni and cheese.I find that keeping to a schedule and forcing myself to write something–anything!–really helps. Can’t wait to read your material!

  2. Terrific things to consider here, Diana. I’m like Melody, the goals vary with my writing, depending on the topic and depth. But I’ve learned to resort to the best fall-back plan. I tie on walking shoes and dress for whatever the weather holds, and start off on a long walk. You get a lot of thinking and deep breathing done, and in turn, amazing ideas nudge their way to the forefront.

  3. I try to follow the tips outlined. One I always do is write up my list on Sunday’s for the week. I’ve learned not to beat myself up when I don’t accomplish them all. I just move it to the following week. I actually took one of my art pieces and used that as a cover on a coil book with lined paper. I smile whenever I see my note books. 🙂

    • dianabletter says:

      Tracy, that’s a good suggestion to roll over one “To Do” list into the next. And to remember not to beat ourselves up for falling short of our goals!

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