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The Ripple Effect: Small Steps Lead to Big Results

By Kathy Paauw

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle

Procrastination is the single habit at the root of so many problems that plague all of us at one time or another - challenges with managing our time, relationships, projects, and information.

Procrastination is doing low-priority tasks and activities instead of the high-priority ones which so often contribute the most to our success. For some, procrastination becomes a harmful habit which impedes personal and professional development.

If procrastination is so harmful, why do we do it? We tend to put off doing things for the following reasons:

**They are unpleasant to do.

**They are difficult or complex to do.

**They involve making tough decisions that can be overwhelming.

When we don't want to do something that is unpleasant or difficult, we find less important things to do that will keep us "busy" so we have an excuse for why we didn't get around to it. But putting something off does not make it go away, and postponing it often just makes it worse. As someone once said, "Killing time murders opportunities."

I'll share a key to success that I've learned from my own life experiences...

If you want to make big changes in your life, start by making small ones.

What small change have you made recently that yielded positive results for you? By thinking about what is working, you are focusing on the positive. Remember that we attract whatever we choose to give our attention to -- whether wanted or unwanted. When we focus on what we want, we are more likely to attract it into our lives.

Unlike a long list of unrealistic New Year's resolutions that usually get broken before the end of January, small changes can create a ripple effect of another small change, followed by another. In other words, small changes can lead to other related changes. Next thing you know, you've generated an unstoppable tidal wave!

Ask yourself this question: What's one thing that, if you did consistently, would make the greatest positive difference in your life?

I asked a client (I'll call her Kate) this question a couple of years ago during a coaching call. Her initial response was that she wanted to start taking the train to work instead of driving her car in horrible rush-hour traffic. But Kate said she could not do that because she often needed the car to get to meetings during her workday. I asked her if there were other means of transportation available to her (subway, taxi, etc.) on days she had appointments that were not walking distance from her office.

Kate was not sure how it would work, but she was willing to commit to a one-month trial period. I spoke with her at the end of her first week. She recognized how this one change was already having a tremendous positive impact on her life. Over time, the impact grew larger. The ripple effect was doing its thing!

Here are some of the benefits Kate has experienced:

* Kate is able to sleep 30 minutes later each workday, since she actually gets to work quicker by taking the train.

* Kate has saved enough money in gas and parking fees to pay for her coaching sessions with me.

* Kate has time for her professional reading, which she does in the mornings on her way to work.

* Kate has time for pleasure reading on the way home. (She had not read a novel in years!)

* Because she has to catch the train home at a specific time, Kate leaves the office at a set time instead of staying for "just a few more minutes" (which was never just a few minutes!) to get caught up.

* Kate is conducting more business using technology (teleconference calls and webinars), which saves her a lot of time that she used to spend getting to and from meetings. Others appreciate this time savings, too!

* By leaving the driving to someone else, Kate's stress level is much lower when she gets home.

* Kate's reduced stress levels gives her added energy, and she now works out at a nearby health club a few times a week. (Before, she barely had the energy to crawl in the door of her home. Once she got there, she rarely ventured out at night.)

* Kate met a wonderful man at her train stop near her home, and they started dating last year. (They're still dating, and the future looks promising!)

I could keep listing the effects this one change has had on Kate's life. It's a perfect example of the ripple effect in action -- all of this by making one change, which led to another, and another.

For more articles about overcoming procrastination, visit these newsletter articles at

* Fear Not! - The Perfectionist's Credo

* March 4th.Time to March Forth

* To do or not to do.that is the question.

* The Time Has Come.Just DO IT!

* First Things First

* Get Productive!

Copyright 2005 Kathy Paauw

About The Author

Kathy Paauw

Wouldn't you love to stumble upon a secret library of ideas to help you de-clutter your life so you can focus on what's most important? Kathy Paauw offers simple, yet powerful ideas, on how to manage your time, space, and thoughts for a more productive and fulfilling life. Visit


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