Many projects need continued work and commitment over time without providing the kind of feeback that tells us that we are on the right track.
Managing a project, writing a book, doing sales calls, managing accounts, reading papers, writing code – all these require us to do something, day after day.
It’s easy to think that we aren’t making progress on the big goals just because all the small bits of work we do aren’t amounting to anything more than half finished drafts and work in progress.
Part of the the solution, according to James Clear, is to create visual cues that help you measure your progress.
He uses the example of Trent Dyrsmid, now a serial entrepreneur. In his first job, Trent had to make sales calls – and the method he used helped him launch his career.
He had two jars on his desk and filled one with 120 paperclips. Even day, he’d start making calls and after each one move a paperclip from one jar to the other.
He was done when he had moved all the paperclips.
He credits this with helping him develop a large book of business and his subsequent success.
It’s hard to visualize progress on a big goal or objective.
When we can break it into small, manageable chunks then we can make meaningful progress quickly on each small chunk.
If we can also make that progress visible, it also helps motivate us to keep going.
The idea of a visual cue, like a Kanban board, is that it takes things out of our heads and puts them in front of us.
The question to then ask is – what are the things we most want to do, and so what activity should each paperclip represent and how many do we need to know that we have made real progress that day?
And, because we have limited space, we should have the fewest number of visual cues necessary to monitor only the most important things we need to do.