Starting Small In 2020

By Sarah Nagae

Happy 2020! Did you set any New Year’s resolutions? I’m a self-described gym rat and the number of people I see working out invariably spikes this time of year. That is, the treadmills are suddenly completely full, stay that way for a week or two, but then are back to normal just as quickly. Why, by mid-January, do so many of us feel like we’ve already failed to carry out the goals we made just a few short weeks ago? A big reason is because we set our goals way too high – they are unrealistic, and therefore unattainable, from the get-go.

What if, in 2020, we choose instead to start small? I’ve been thinking about this approach after hearing the personal finance guru Dave Ramsey’s advice for getting out of debt, what he calls the “Debt Snowball Method.” He tells people who have multiple debts to tackle the smallest one first, then the next smallest and so forth until they have paid them all off, the largest one last. By getting rid of the smaller ones first you build up momentum, which then motivates you to continue to keep going to the larger ones. The snowball effect is a general principle which applies outside of personal finance as well.

I think this approach transfers well to many other areas of life including both physical fitness and professional networking. Instead of vowing to workout five times a week, what if your goal for the first three months of the year is both smaller and more concrete – say, three 30 minute cardio sessions a week. The feeling of success that comes from meeting this more-realistic goal will not only inspire to only keep at it, you may well find yourself wanting to go beyond this minimum – an additional few minutes of core one day, some push ups the next day – the feeling of accomplishment naturally fuels a desire to keep going. At the end of three months you can reassess and set a new and possibly more challenging goal for the next quarter, but still keeping it modest and therefore attainable.

Networking can follow the same pattern. While setting a goal of attending a professional event each week could burn you out pretty quickly, one event per month seems doable and gives you time to thoughtfully choose events that may be the most fruitful, adequately prepare for them, and then conduct the personal follow-ups that lead to long term relationships. Or, if you are more comfortable one-on-one, think about aiming to have coffee with one potential referral source a month. Again, this approach gives you the prep and follow-up time that will help you get the most bang for your networking buck. And, like with finances and fitness, the confidence that is built by meeting your goal of attending one networking event or setting up one coffee a month may well inspire you to naturally want to push beyond what you thought you could accomplish.

If you set modest goals now, at the beginning of the year, you can easily start your snowball rolling. Once it’s in motion, enjoy the momentum and don’t be surprised if you effortlessly achieve more than you expect. Cheers to starting, and continuing to grow your snowball in 2020!