An Amazing Mind Hack For Making Progress

Do Something-Productivity

Progress is essential if you want to move forward in key areas of your life or are attempting to successfully reach goals. Sometimes in that process you get stuck. You procrastinate. Where you want to end up seems lofty and out of reach so you do…nothing!

Maybe you are in this boat right now and you are telling yourself…

  • It is so BIG – I can’t get it ALL done now so I will put it on the back burner.
  • It’s too complex – I can’t get my head around it so I will tackle it later.
  • I can’t do it perfectly – I don’t want to do it wrong or fail so I will do nothing.
  • I’ve got no idea where or how to start – I will figure it out later.
  • It will take too much time – I will tackle it tomorrow.

The more you put something off, the more difficult it feels and the more unlikely you are to make progress.

Stuck – that’s ultimately where you find yourself!


“Procrastinare” is the Latin word that procrastination is derived from. The prefix “pro” means forward and the suffix “crastinus” means “till next day” so the etymology of the word procrastination literally means “moving forward tomorrow.”

Guess what, tomorrow never comes!

Another Way of Thinking

You’ve heard the saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” which highlights that grand accomplishments don’t happen overnight! Such achievements require planning, continuous efforts, and a whole lot of patience!

Rather than dwelling on how big, complex, or time consuming a task, goal, or habit is, a mind hack that has served me well is to tell myself that…

It’s wild how a simple shift in your thinking has the power to propel you forward and that’s exactly what this little phrase does for me! No more procrastinating!

Little efforts do add up! Over time, consistent small efforts become something significant.

And here’s the kicker: I’ve found that nine times out of ten, diving in and just doing a little something reveals that whatever felt daunting really wasn’t so hard after all. And the rare occasions when the task is particularly challenging, chipping away at it in tolerable chunks eventually gets that tough task done. Afterwards, I feel an amazing sense of accomplishment which motivates me to take on other challenges!

So, what have you been putting off?

  • Successfully reaching a goal?
  • Cultivating helpful and healthy habits?
  • Gaining clarity around your purpose or ideal career path?
  • Learning new leadership skills?
  • Tackling a frustrating or difficult task?
  • Communicating more effectively?
  • Getting your day-to-day tasks completed?

This list could go on and on! What is the small step that would inch you forward today? Even a single wee baby step – it counts!

A Real Life Example

This past week I’ve had a full client load along with several significant tasks that needed to be done. Rather than letting the tasks fall by the wayside, I’ve made an effort to “do something rather than nothing” on each of those tasks. While I have yet to complete any of these items, they are all in motion and moving forward. And what’s interesting is that by investing small bits of time into these important tasks here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • I feel energized by the forward movement I am making in spite of the tasks remaining incomplete.
  • In the in-between, when I’m not focused on the tasks, my mind is freed to come up creative ideas that make the tasks easier when I get back to them.
  • The tasks feel more manageable and I feel more on top of what needs to be done even though I haven’t been able to fully check them off.
  • I feel empowered to get those tasks done!

Wondering how you might apply “do something is always better than nothing” way of thinking to your life and work? Here are some practical tips to increase the power of this mind hack in your life:

1. Planning

In spite of the unexpected twists and turns that my days often take, I still find planning quite valuable. Having a plan doesn’t mean I am locked into that plan, but rather I have a solid starting point from which to pivot if I need to.

When planning, I must take into consideration the appointments I have as well as the tasks that need to be completed. The more appointments I have scheduled, the fewer tasks I know I am able to complete. It’s important for me to be realistic about what I am able to accomplish in any given day.

For me, I find planning works best when I do it first thing in the morning as a part of my time with God, but if you plan more effectively the night before, or just before you begin working, or some other time, do what works for you – just plan!

2. Prioritizing

An essential part of my daily planning process is prioritizing the “top three” tasks that are critical for me to accomplish that day. These are the tasks that I make a deliberate effort to complete, but when that’s just not feasible, I do “something rather than nothing” on those tasks before the day is over.

All other tasks are listed below my top three in priority order. Knowing your priorities is key! Knowing which tasks are most worthy of your time and effort allows you to be more intentional about what you getting done.

Prioritizing doesn’t end after choosing my “top three” tasks for the day. It’s something that I continue to do throughout the day. Each time I complete a task on my list, I consider what’s left to be done and determine the next most important task that needs to be accomplished in the time I have remaining.

In keeping with the “something is better than nothing” thinking, here’s a little tip that works for me. If I’m able to do something around one of the items on my “top three” or an item listed below my “top three” I cross it off, but circle it like this:

Top 3 - Priorities

This indicates to me that I have done something, but I have yet to complete that task. While this may seem silly, it does enable me to keep things moving forward even if they are not 100% done! That small step translates into feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of a day rather than a sense of failure to get it all done!

The goal is forward, rather than slipping into all-or-nothing-thinking, acknowledging my small efforts rather than discounting them.

3. Persisting

Dwelling on what didn’t get done definitely doesn’t propel me forward. However, focusing on what I was able to get done, even if it wasn’t much, does.

Some days or weeks it feels like I’m swimming in a pool of molasses because very little gets done. I don’t enjoy that feeling, but on those days, I have to trust that God is up to something good, trust His timing, and keep on keeping on. Persist – no giving up, striving, working harder, or beating myself up. Just persisting and taking small steps forward.

4. Flexing

When my granddaughter was six months old, and sitting up proudly, she was able to fold over and nibble her toes. The closest I’ve come to doing that recently is when I’ve embarrassed myself by putting my foot in my mouth.

For you and I, flexibility comes with practice – both physical flexibility and the flexibility we need in life. Each day is an opportunity to practice flexing – surrendering to what God has in mind for the day. After all, each day ultimately belongs to Him!

What does that look like in the course of a day? Remember, “something is better than nothing” so I…

      • Do what I can with the time I have, even if I can’t do it all or I can’t do it perfectly.
      • Adjust the amount of time I devote to a task. Rather than spending an hour on a specific task I invest 30 minutes or 15 minutes – the time I do have because every little bit counts!
      • Let go of my expectations – release what I think needs to get done or how things must look. Surrendering!
      • Celebrate baby steps!

The Roman empire didn’t reach magnificent heights in a happy bubble of ease. Rome faced many obstacles in the process of being built including internal and external conflicts, economic instability, changes in leadership, and multiple plagues. It was the steady, consistent baby steps over time that contributed to it becoming a powerful city.

You have powerful potential too! Where might you apply “something is better than nothing” to your life or work?

Originally posted on 9/12/17, this post has been updated and revised just for you!

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.


  1. April on September 14, 2017 at 9:14 am

    As a fellow love-lists-and-crossing-things-off person, I like this moderate approach to getting things done. “Doing something is better than doing nothing” is a great mantra to help temper the perfectionist, black-and-white part of me. I also like your suggestion to shift gears in between scheduled blocks of time. I tend to move directly from one task to the next instead of catching my breath in between. The older I get, the more I’ve understood the good in slowing down and truly enjoying the life God has given me. He designed me for fellowship, not for getting a job done. 🙂

    • Marvae on September 14, 2017 at 10:07 am

      It is a beautiful thing to slow down and truly enjoy the life God has given you! We are designed for fellowship/relationship, yet for some, focusing on tasks overshadows this blessing!

      Like you, I also went from task to task in an effort to be more productive. I actually find taking breaks not only helps me get more done and it enables me to do it with increased creativity!

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