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Small but Mighty: The 8FD approach to Progress


noun prog·ress \ˈprä-grəs, -ˌgres
1 : movement forward or toward a place
2 : the process of improving or developing something over a period of time
(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Although so easily defined by Merriam-Webster, progress can be tough. The concept often emerges into a tangled mess of not knowing where to start and not planning where to go. We harbor the victorious feeling from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel or breaking the ribbon at the finish line but too soon forget the tunnel’s dark path and the race’s endurance. Our eyes become fixed on the prize, we don’t prioritize the small steps, and too often we end up in the dark. Achieving gold is great, but unfortunately, rare.   

Researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer published an article in the Harvard Business Review addressing their study of psychological experiences in relation to people’s complex work performance inside organizations.

Over the course of four months, Amabile and Kramer had members of various project teams respond individually to an email survey at the end of every workday. The projects ranged from inventing kitchen gadgets to solving complex, hotel empire IT problems. One of the survey questions addressed what work they accomplished that day (aka their progress) and their emotions and motivation levels as a result. 

Guess what?

Participants reported only minor progress in several areas, but the cool part is the majority of people still evoked positive reactions. One particular entry from an IT programmer proved the satisfaction of a small step, “I figured out why something was not working correctly. I felt relieved and happy because this was a minor milestone for me.”

The Key is Progress

8FD works as a progress report. It focuses on those often unnoticed events that are critical for the success of the goal. In our previous blog post, Joe Huber mentioned 8FD works as his reference point that keeps the ball moving. The majority of your energy will go towards keeping that ball moving (aka the progress of your goal). Let's envision running a marathon. 

Goal = Run a Marathon 

Approximate time running marathon: 4-6 hours 

Progress = Daily training for a Marathon 

Approximate time training for a marathon: 50-100 hours

Time spent running the marathon didn't even touch 10 percent of the time spent training. Invest in your progress. Use your notebook as a daily habit for the small steps. Don’t add “Pay off school loans” to your list the day after you graduate college. Be realistic. Take your long term goals and hone in your 8FD tasks on the details of those goals. So if a long term goal is paying off your loans, start at the beginning of the black tunnel. An 8FD goal may sound more like “Call loan officer to set up payment plan”. This task is easily attainable and will kickstart the debt-free journey.

See how you can apply the power of small changes in this Entrepreneur.com article