About the first Small Steps Writing Guide

All about how I came up with the Small Steps Method, why and how I wrote the book, and how to download the first chapter for free.

Photo of Lou outside her writing shed with Small Steps Guide to Goal Setting and Time Management

Watching other people buy nice houses

Rewind to 2011, I had a small baby at home, we were living in rented accommodation in London, and wondering if we would ever be able to afford to buy a house. It seemed impossible, out of reach, and out of our league. We watched other people – who had, by design or accident, bought at the right time before prices in London went crazy – buying gorgeous houses at high prices and it was easy to feel gloomy, especially as we didn't know what the future would hold.

The birth of the Small Steps Method, in a lounge with the funky wallpaper

We were talking about this in our lounge one day – our landlords had a thing for crazy wallpaper, so imagine bright blue walls and one flowery brown one – and it suddenly occurred to me that if we could let go of the outcome but at the same time take tiny steps towards our goal, we might one day get what we wanted.

The opposite, doing nothing because it was too overwhelming and it seemed impossible, definitely wouldn't get us our dream, whereas taking small steps might. I don't mean the linear steps towards buying a house that you can read all over the internet, and in guide books and brochures produced by the banks. These steps also had to tackle our attitude towards the whole thing, what Carol Dweck calls 'mindset'.

The first Small Steps Guide

So I did what I always do when presented with something I need to learn: I wrote about it. Every Friday afternoon when my wife took our son swimming, I gathered together everything I had on time management, did lots of reading and research, and wrote about what I called the Small Steps Method. I had been teaching time management to my first year undergraduate students so I already had some material and it was with them in mind that I started writing.

This project became a book – The Small Steps Guide to Goal Setting and Time Management and the first Small Steps Guide – that was published by Emerald Press in Brighton in 2012. (Synchronicity: we ended up moving to the area a year after that!) I even used the Small Steps Method to write the book: I broke it down into subheadings and mini-subheadings that eventually became chapters and parts of chapters, a document I also used to successfully pitch to my editor. I call this the Subheadings Method and you can learn about it in any of the Plan Your Book in a Weekend online courses.

If you want to learn the basics of the Small Steps Method, you can download the first chapter for free by clicking here. It should appear as a PDF in your inbox.

Fast forward to February 2019, and I'm writing this in my writing shed at the bottom of the garden. We've been living in our own house near Brighton since 2013. Taking small steps worked for us. It wasn't a magic wand and letting go of the outcome was key – we took the small steps anyway – but we did it.

Breaking it down into small steps

Here's what the the Small Steps Method is all about. You can take any task, goal, ambition, dream – whatever it is – and break it down into small, specific, concrete and manageable steps, until you get to something that you could do today.

Breaking your thing down into small steps will help you to take action rather than simply thinking 'what if?' or 'if only I could'. In the Small Steps Guides, I take into account that you have a life (a job, partner, kids, disability, caring responsibilities, or whatever it is for you) that sometimes gets in the way of the things you really want to do. In fact, why would anyone want to pretend that people don't have busy, interesting, enjoyable, and sometimes frustrating, lives to lead?

Breaking stuff down into small steps has got three main advantages:

  1. You get to know whether you really want to write the book, start learning photography, take a fashion course, run the marathon, climb Kilimanjaro, start your own business or whatever your dream or goal is. You get to look at the reality of what you'd have to do to get there.
  2. You find out about the gaps in your knowledge. What will you have to learn, find out, or research in order to do your thing? This might surprise you!
  3. The steps start to become manageable. They seem doable. The goal isn't so daunting or elusive anymore.

Nowadays, as well as writing and teaching, I make courses about finding time to write and taking small steps towards a more creative life.

So now you know. It's an ongoing story. I'm sharing it because deliberately breaking your goals into small steps actually works. 

Good luck,


(February 2019)

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