Slow and Steady Wins the Race

posted by Andrea | 05/27/2014

slow and steady

A few weeks ago, I blogged about our super overwhelming yard project — pulling THOUSANDS of tiny maple tree seedlings out of our planting beds and other various location around our 1-acre yard.

It took Dave and I a couple weeks of working at it every day (sometimes multiple times a day) to get the majority of them — and I’m still finding more every time I go outside!

At the time, we both felt like it was a huge, massive, daunting task that we really weren’t looking forward to doing. But of course, now that I look back on the project, it really wasn’t THAT bad. Our mini 5 and 10-minute “weeding sessions” paid off after a couple weeks… and now we have a lovely maple-tree-seedling-free yard!

May 2014

After that post went live, several people commented that my “any progress is still progress” philosophy could actually be applied to almost anything in life. And I totally agree! 

In fact, I think that in MOST real-life situations, it’s preferable to work at a slow and steady pace versus rushing to accomplish something in record time.

Here are just a few examples:

House Cleaning / Projects:

House projects are much less overwhelming when you do one project at a time — and although it would be nice to just hire someone to do everything all at once, we’ve saved so much money by going at a slow and steady pace. Plus, we’ve been able to live in our house throughout the entire process.

Cleaning is MUCH less overwhelming when you do it in bite-size chunks. I often wish my entire house could be clean at one time — but I know that’s just not doable for my stage of life. As a compromise, I clean each area or room as I have time… and enjoy the fact that everything stays relatively clean without a major all-week cleaning marathon.

Organization:

Based on the nature of my work, it’s not surprising that I get lots of “how should I organize ______” questions emailed to me on a very regular basis. And believe it or not, the two most common questions I get are about organizing clothing and organizing photos.

The reason so many people have questions about those 2 specific areas is because most of us have so many photos and so many clothes that we just don’t know where to start. The process of organizing those things often seems extremely overwhelming — so we just keep putting it off until we have a whole day to work on it (which never happens!)

My suggestion is always to simply “just get started”. Do 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there, 20 minutes when your kids are napping, 15 minutes right when you wake up (or before you go to bed). You do NOT need a whole day to get organized, you just need multiple short periods of time

Diet and Exercise:

I think moderation is key when trying to change our diet to either lose weight or maintain our current weight. We’re much more likely to lose weight trying to steadily lose a little weight each month for several months instead of trying some fad diet to drop 10 pounds in a week.

And I’m sure that if you’ve never run a mile before, you would be in pretty rough shape if you suddenly decided to run a marathon (or even a 5K race!)

Of course it would be fabulous to be able to drop 5 or 10 pounds in just a few days (and keep it off), but unfortunately that’s not how it works — at least not for me. It takes slow and steady progress to see any sort of difference, but every healthier choice and every small amount of exercise really will pay off in the long run.

Finances:

Paying off debt ranks pretty high up there on so many people’s “huge overwhelming task list”. Large amounts of credit card debt, medical bills, mortgages, or car loans can be very overwhelming when we just look at the one huge number. But by breaking it down into smaller monthly payments, it’s not nearly as bad (and that’s why banks and other lending agencies offer monthly payments on so many things).

However, one thing many people don’t realize is the effect of even a very small amount of extra money applied toward the principal balance. Even just $5 or $10 extra per month will drastically reduce the amount of interest you could end up paying over the course of your loan. I realize it doesn’t seem like a lot right now, but that small extra payment will definitely add up over time.

Also, when it comes to saving for retirement, an emergency fund, a vacation, a new car, or even just for a rainy day, small amounts really DO add up. This post from MoneySavingMom.com talks about how saving all the $5 bills they got added up to allow them to pay for something they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford.

 

I think you get the idea!

The point of this post is simply to encourage you as you face big projects that might feel overwhelming. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, tackle a huge house or yard project, save up for a new car, whip your home into shape, crawl your way out of debt, learn a new hobby, or organize that bin of photos you’ve been staring at for 15 years… you will eventually accomplish all of those things if you continually make slow and steady progress.

However, if you keep sitting around waiting for the perfect opportunity, or an entire day of free time, or a big chunk of extra cash, you’ll probably just keep waiting.

My challenge for you is to pick one overwhelming thing you want to cross of your list and spend 5-10 minutes doing something to move in the right direction. Then do the same thing tomorrow. Before you know it, you’ll be making progress towards your goal!

photo source

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16 comments

  1. Kelly

    05/27/2014

    I think you are totally right in this theory. We brought our first home a year ago, and with both of our families living out of town we always use to panic when we knew that they were coming to stay as the box’s that we “never had time” to sort were always stacked up in the spare bedroom. About a month ago I started to get stuck in to all the boxes when I had a spare moment and now I’m 4 or 5boxes less. There’s still a lot to do but I’m getting there!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Kelly. I know it might seem like the boxes will take you FOREVER to go through — but before you know it, you’ll be sorting through the last one and wondering why you didn’t get started sooner!

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  2. Angie

    05/27/2014

    You inspire me everyday. We have gazillions of little oak tree seedlings that come up in yard all the time. We work on them little by little every few days and we are making progress. I find them in the most unlikely places. Being old and very arthritic makes it difficult to spend long amounts of time out there, but I will persevere. You make me feel so positive!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Angie!

    And seriously, good for you for even doing yardwork when your already struggling with arthritis, WOW! Just keep pulling a handful every time you’re outside :)

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  3. Chris

    05/27/2014

    RE: Paying off debt. What was so fun to me, was printing an amortization. You can find calculators on the internet and put your mortgage information. You can punch in a monthly amount you wan to pre-pay or even a big one time payment. So if someone put in $10 a month extra, it tells you how much interest you save. Awesome! We saved over $140,000 by paying our current
    house off early and I think over $12,000 on our first (very small starter) home.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, it IS amazing how much those small extra payments will add up. Dave and I are 100% on-track to pay off our house in less than 7 years and I think we’ll be saving close to your $140,000 over the course of a traditional 30 year mortgage! It’s crazy to think that a few financial sacrifices now will pay off so heavily in down the road!

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  4. Debbie

    05/27/2014

    Thanks! I needed this to get back on exercising again. Yesterday was my first day to start on it since it was a holiday and just the best weather to go for a little jog. It felt so good to be outside and I actually enjoyed it and didn’t die from it.

    The other thing that this post reminds me of is those weeds and mushrooms that pop up in our yard. Sometimes, I only have time to pull them when I’m “relaxing” out in the yard. I can’t really relax if I see a weed so I just get up and pull it out. Then those mushrooms pop up almost everyday. I just do it when I see them and before you know it they’re all gone….at least for another 2 days.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes yes! I think another thing to realize is even if you “fall off the wagon” for a day or so and skip exercising or over-eat, you don’t need to go crazy trying to make up for that or quite working towards your goals all together. Just start back up the next day and pick up where you left off!

    Good luck!

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  5. Leanne

    05/27/2014

    this was a great post… I make a to do list every day… my goal is “get 3 things done”…and transfer the other “to do”s to the next day…. every day is a little different, so there will be time to get things finished different days! and sometimes… if I’ve had something on there for a long time…I “drop” it off the list…and figure it’s not as huge a priority as I thought it was…
    the important stuff gets done! that’s good enough for me!! it helps me let go of the perfectionist tendencies that I tend to gravitate towards!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow — we are VERY much alike Leanne!

    I basically do everything you mentioned, and have done several blog posts about your various points. I’m SOOO glad that you’ve realized the importance of “dropping a task” if it’s been on your list for too long. That’s key to increased productivity, better time management, and over-all happiness.

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  6. Sam

    05/27/2014

    Kelly

    If it has been a year….it might be a sign that you can purge e

    [Reply]

  7. Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings

    05/27/2014

    Loved this post! You are so right – I’m constantly waiting for the right time to do things, and it never comes. I’ve been waiting for a full day to work on my wedding scrapbook album, and 7 years later, it still only has a few pages done! Going to start working on it a little bit every week. :)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — my sister just finished her wedding album from last year too :)

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  8. Brenda

    05/27/2014

    I hate to tell you, but today I watched (in horror) as all the little helicopters fell out of our maple trees. I hope you get pretty fast at pulling out those seedlings! Haha

    btw, too cool to find a blog/blogger I like who lives just 1hour north of me.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I know! such a bummer — they just keep coming. We have lots of Preen down on our beds right now and we’ll just keep pulling them for the next few weeks!

    And YAY for another “local” reader!

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  9. Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

    05/27/2014

    Thank you for yet another encouraging post! You are so right. I’m not sure why it is so easy for us to get bogged down looking at the big picture. Setting, working towards, and meeting bite sized goals makes an insurmountable one feel possible. Thank you for this great reminder. Like your commenters Chris and Debbie, I am trying to pay off a mortgage and need to get back into the habit of exercising. Like Leanne, I too, focus on the 3 most important things to do each day. If I get those done, my day was a success. If I get more done, then I’m a happy girl! Thanks for sharing.

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