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Micro Improvements, An Update — Losing My Way

by David Brock on June 30th, 2020

Long time followers of this blog know that I’m a tremendous fan of the concept of micro improvements. The underlying concept is “how do I get 1% better each day.” Cumulatively, if I improve 1% every day, I will be over 37 times better at the end of the year.

I’m a huge fan of Marshall Goldsmith’s approach, and have adapted some of his principles to my continuous learning/improvement process. I score myself on 20 criteria everyday. Some as simple as, “Did I do my best to exercise? Did I take the time to meditate” Some more abstract, “Did I do best to find meaning in what I do?, Did I find ways to create value for my clients today?”

Every evening, I scored myself on how I did every day, reflecting on the answers and thinking about how I do better tomorrow. I coupled that practice with journalling, good calendaring, and a few other things. Over the past several years I have seen great improvement, I have become more purposeful, more focused, I have achieved much more than I expected, and have found myself increasingly satisfied, happy, purposeful, and fulfilled.

But a little over 8 months ago, I stopped this process. My last entry was on September 27, 2019. I completely abandoned my daily scoring and writing things down. While I was doing everything else, I fooled myself that “thinking” about many of the issues was good enough. I didn’t have to write it down. But my thinking became increasingly sporadic, and my focus/attention slowly disappeared.

Several things caused me to be distracted, to abandon what had served me so well. There were some things happening in my personal life, then later, the disruption of the Pandemic, the economic collapse, and many of the social justice issues we face. Each had a cumulative effect.

Each of these disruptions, took me further from what had served me so well. As I mentioned, gradually, I completely forgot about my worksheet, the discipline of completing it and reflecting on how I could improve. I got sloppy on my journalling, and it was hit or miss in some other aspects of the “systems” that had supported me so well.

I was no less busy. At a nominal level, I was doing very well, my business has grown substantially, largely driven by organizations trying to deal with the current health, societal, economic disruptions we see every day.

But I have found myself less happy, less fulfilled, less purposeful and more distracted. While some elements of my life are improving, I have felt I have lacked purpose, feelings of being disconnected, and wandering. As I speak to others, I’ve learned many are experiencing the same kind of disorientation.

A simple example, learning is really important to me. One aspect of learning that I scored myself on was my reading. I normally about 1.7 books a week—on all sorts of topics. In the past 5 months, I’ve started a number of books, I haven’t finished a single one, those that I am reading, I’m not more than 30% through. I’m reading a lot, but it’s primarily news (which is a problem in itself). My exercise has fallen substantially, where I religiously did something every day, I found myself being too busy/distracted to exercise, going days with doing nothing. My meditation practice has lapsed. I did it religiously up until about 6 months ago, but stopped. Everyday, I see the “reminder” on my phone, but had been ignoring it.

A few days ago, I’m not sure why, I went back to my 20 questions. I’ve reworked a few of them, recognizing current realities. I have restarted the process of scoring them, reflecting on them, using them to help re-establish my purpose, and focus my priorities and activities each day.

I’m scoring terribly on most of them, but I’m doing a few now and I’m doing more each day. I can already see some improvement, mostly in my mindset and attitude. Rather than being busy, but lost, I’m seeing myself more focused. I’m rediscovering my purpose, I’m feeling more fulfilled.

I’m still struggling, I get easily distracted–though I am very busy. There are so many things happening in our world, now, that amplify those distractions.

But every day, I’m doing a little more, with each one of the items I’ve highlighted in my 20 questions. My scores on each item are low, some are improving. More importantly, I’m, slowly, more purposeful, focused and fulfilled.

In some way, it’s good this happened, though perhaps not doing anything about it for such a long time, is a problem. I suspect, I began taking my process for granted. I didn’t realize how important it was to me in maintaining my focus and purposefulness.

But, this is also something amazing about the process. Regardless how long one might be distracted, once you get started again, you start seeing improvements.

1% each day, it mounts up.

From → Performance

  1. That’s interesting.

    Several years ago, I began a daily journal of ideas” I found it focussed my attention.

    I set aside 1.5 hours a day in the morning to write up 3-4 ideas worth pursuing. Complete with follow ups, reminders, all of which formed the beginnings of a database for ideas. I used different colours to mark what the fields in the database were going to be.

    But, as soon as I had several morning meetings scheduled, I dropped the practice. And once dropped, I didn’t return to the practice –even when I stopped having morning meetings.

    Good luck with your return to the 20 questions!

    • Thanks Mike, I find the practice really helps me stay focused. Regards, Dave

      • I am just putting into practice some of the ideas in BJ Fogg’s book: Tiny Habits. It sounds like the type of information you might be interested in.

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