As everyone is aware, we’re crossing the threshold into a new year. Cue the resolutions, the optimism, and the initial energy that January 1st brings! I am no exception to this and have my own goals to reach by the time the next New Year rolls around.
But this year I’m doing it a little bit different. I’ve been thinking about what I want to accomplish and how I want to do it for MONTHS. And what I’m going to be focusing on is the “aggregation of marginal gains.”
What is it?
The aggregation of marginal gains is improving on as many areas as possible by just 1%. I’ve heard this concept phrased many different ways and applied in many different contexts; allegedly it was made famous by a British cycling coach, but I believe it’s much more ubiquitous than a quick Google search would have you think. I think back to Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues to assist with improving his character, or to Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project where she keeps track of focusing on improving one thing each month to make herself a just a little bit happier. I’ve also heard it extensively in the context of the FIRE movement: making small changes to your finances that add up to big savings (cutting expenses, increasing income, investing early and often to get the benefits of compound interest, etc.). Doing a little bit better in various and specific areas will result in a relatively sizable overall improvement. It also can be much easier than trying to make sweeping changes very quickly.
What does this mean in practice?
Instead of brazenly declaring at the beginning of the year that you’re going to go to the gym every single day and work out for an hour each time, which we all know will likely happen for only a few weeks at best before something comes up to throw you off track, you instead resolve to add 5 minutes of yoga or a walk around the block on Monday mornings. It’s small, but you notice over time that you feel a little less tense and a little more alert throughout the day. From there, you can add more time to each session or add more sessions and continuously build on that.
Or perhaps you’re interested in improving your savings but everything seems really tight. Looking over your bank account, you find that you tend to get coffee or fast food every day while you’re at work. Maybe you start by bringing coffee/lunch from home once a week and putting the money you would have spent on Starbucks or McDonald’s into your savings account. $5 per week adds up to $260 per year– not a life-changing amount of money, but better than the $0 you had in there before; and when you get into it, maybe you’ll decide to bring your coffee/lunch twice a week– saving $520 over a year. Small steps add up.
So what are my goals?
- Posting here once a week on Tuesdays (for real)
- Waking up just a little earlier each day– 10-15 minutes– until I make it to 5:00 am
- adding in an extra day at the gym each week
- At least 5 minutes of yoga and/or meditation each day– either first thing in the morning or right before bed
- Decreasing my debt at a slightly faster pace and increasing my savings by about $50 per month
- Keeping my inbox and task list under control with time dedicated each day to clear the different areas
What are your goals for 2019? What small steps can you take to make big changes?