I had the honor of presenting at the Teach Better Conference in Akron, Ohio over the weekend.
Because the work does not seem to be getting any easier, when I connect with educators whether in my own school district or at conferences, I enjoy conversations around small moves that make a big impact. I think this is appealing because many of us are overwhelmed and overworked. So, when something feels small, it’s easier to be open to it. Any move where you find yourself thinking, “Well, that doesn’t sound too hard and wouldn’t take too much effort” is appealing. We give big effort in many aspects of our lives, and we can’t give 110% in everything we do.
I talk about this in my book. I’m convinced that growing up, many of us were told a lie that we must give 110% in all we do. We heard it so much that we believed it, continue to believe it, and seem to be speaking such things in our schools as well. I say “we” knowing that its not all of us, but many of us can relate.
It is not humanly possible to give 110% effort in all we do. Not to mention, not everything is worth that kind of effort. But that’s for another time.
So, yes, sometimes, things need to feel easy. Sometimes, things need to feel smaller, so we can get ourselves to simply try it. It’s why parents will say to children that they only need them to try “one little bite” of a vegetable. It’s why there are 10 minute workout videos on the market because 10 minutes feels like a more manageable place to start than 60 minutes.
Anyway, I think what can keep us from starting small is the belief that small action won’t make a big difference. This type of thinking can play out in day-to-day life. I will tell myself, “I only have 15 minutes before I leave the house and that’s not enough time to clean the entire house, so I won’t even wipe down this counters.
In his book, A Billion Hour of Good, Chris Field shares that 14 minutes is 1% of a day. We’ve all heard of the concept of becoming 1% better each day. Becoming 1% better each day could simply mean changing how we spend 14 minutes of our day. I can waste 14 minutes like it’s nothing on Instagram. So, imagine what I could do if I used 14 of those minutes to become 1% better? A year later, that’s a lot of growth in a person. You see?
So, ok, maybe it’s not about our entire day. Maybe it’s about our work day. 4.5 minutes is 1% of a 7.5 hour workday. If you made a shift in your practice or habits for 4.5 minutes a day for an entire school year, that’s immense growth.
Maybe you don’t want to think about an entire work day. Maybe you want to think about class periods. 30 seconds is 1% of a 50 minute class period. Imagine if you committed to spending 30 seconds focused on a different student in your class each day, connecting with them and talking with them, investing in that relationship. Imagine how all of your relationships with your students would grow. By simply investing in that 30 seconds each class period.
It’s easy to think, ‘It’s only 30 seconds,” but those moves accumulate over time.
Administrators, imagine if you and your team committed to spending 4.5 minutes a day having a conversation with a different staff member. Just personal conversations, learning about people as human beings. I believe it was Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis who described keeping track of those interactions in a spreadsheet, so you can see who has not had that personal conversation yet or in some time now.
Relationships will always be worth our time and energy. Without them, we have nothing.
Important moves can happen in 30 seconds.
Important moves can happen in 4.5 minutes.
Important moves can happen in 14 minutes.
What makes small moves impactful:
- Belief in yourself and what you’re doing.
- Reflection. If what you’re doing isn’t work well for you or others, change it.
It’s that simple.
So, what small moves will you commit to this week?
I already made steps toward the 1%, taking about 0.2% to read this post. The hardest part for me is getting started, despite repeated experiences of success after that “one small step”.
Often I have to lie to myself to get started, for example, “I’m just going to glance over the tests”. Or”I’ll bring my workout gear with me, but I’ll just have a shower before school”… next thing I know I’m sweating it out on the elliptical, breaking the lie that “I’ll just do a short, light spin”.
Thanks for putting it into context.
Thank you for reading! It is truly amazing how powerful 1% over time can be.