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Turn your dreams into small steps

Great Things Start with Small Steps

This post is based on the first book I wrote on the small steps method. You can find out more about it here and see a nice picture of me holding the book outside my writing shed!

Turn your dreams into small steps

The small steps method involves taking any dream, goal or task and breaking it down into small steps until you get to something you could do today. The steps need to be small, specific, concrete and actionable. You should be able to tell when a step is complete. Write down something you’ve always dreamed of doing. Quick tip: it may help to imagine you are advising someone else here.

Start by breaking it down into small steps. Turn these into subheadings. For instance, if it’s your dream to publish a book one day, then that could break down into: finding time to write it, researching the book, finding a publisher. Once you’ve got the subheadings, come up with five to ten steps for each. By the way, some of these might be about seeking out information and advice on how to do it. You don’t need all the answers.

If you get stuck here, deliberately pick something you don’t want to do and don’t know how to do (mine would be learn how to fly) and use your imagination to come up with the steps. Doing that first teaches you how to make the approach fairly objective.

Check in with yourself

Then check in with yourself: do I still want to hold onto this dream? You might realise at this stage that the dream has gone stale and although you’ve been carrying it round with you (and possibly telling people about it) you no longer want to do it. If so, there’s no need to carry it around any more. Otherwise, keep going!

Are the steps small enough?

Right, you’ve established that you do want to keep holding this dream close. And you know – roughly at least – what the steps might be. Check in again – are your steps small, specific, concrete, actionable and something you could do today? (I mean: possible to do today, not that you’re committing to doing them today.) If not, you need to make them smaller.

Mind map your dreams

Get a large piece of paper, draw something in the middle to represent your dream and create branches radiating from that central image, showing the steps you need to take to focus on your dream. I love mind mapping and was once a qualified iMindMap instructor. So if you’d like to learn more about mind mapping, check out this page.

Most people don’t do this

Most people don’t do this: they don’t turn their dreams into actionable steps, because they want to keep them as, well, dreams – out there somewhere, unobtainable, undefined. Perhaps we’re frightened that if we work out the actual steps it would take, we won’t have the dream any more, it will be come rather mundane. That won’t happen if you truly want to pursue your dream.

 What’s the most important step you could take?

What’s the most important thing you could do? What will make the most difference? Find ways to do those things first, breaking them down into small steps as you see fit.

How do you do?

How and where do you keep your to do list? In a shareable list on Evernote, on the back of an envelope, in your diary, in a quick note on your phone, in a spreadsheet? Which will work best for you? Be specific, so write “Phone Ned and order posters at 1pm” rather than “Ned” or “posters”.

Actionable and measurable

Now take the first few steps from each goal, and turn them into actionable measurable items that you can put on your to do list. Add the small steps to your to do list with space for notes, and add in a deadline for each. Now pick something you could do today: pick up a book on house building from the library, look into the price of round the world tickets, sign up for a half-day Creative Writing class, make a list of guitar teachers in my area. See how it works? Over to you! Let me know how you get on in the comments.

Good luck with your small steps. Until next time,



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