Small Steps Lead to Big Results

Calender Planner Organization Management Remind Concept

Studio owners want to get as much done as possible. We’re constantly moving, but movement does not always equal productivity.

It’s often overwhelming to think of ways to become more productive. Where to start? How about starting with one percent?

The One Percent Better philosophy says that future success hinges not on life – altering transformations but on simple gains made through small changes in habits.

I recently lost 70 pounds after using this system to improve my health and fitness. I started with small incremental changes to my workout habit. On the elliptical, I would set a goal for two minutes longer than the day before or increase the intensity by 30 seconds. It took time and perseverance to keep going, but now I am healthier than ever.

The same can be done with productivity: if you make a change today, keep it, and add another tomorrow, those small steps will move you toward your goal. Looking back, you might be amazed at what those small steps accomplished.

Personally, my journey-to-better-productivity began by establishing a Sunday planning session. On my calendar I wrote down and prioritized all of the tasks I wanted to accomplish, designated an amount of time I would spend on each task, and blocked out the time I needed for the top priority tasks. It took practice to build the habit, but this one small Sunday planning session moved the needle quite a bit on my productivity.

Does this sound intriguing? Or at least doable? Let’s consider how to use the One Percent Better system to attack some common studio owner productivity pitfalls.

Productivity Pitfall #1

Not maximizing calendars/planners

An effective productivity goal is to put all events, meetings, and appointments into your Google calendar or physical planner every Sunday. To improve your planning productivity by one percent, try:

Deciding on your top three priorities for the week and scheduling the time you need to work on them each day in your planner.

  • Adding birthdays and setting reminders.
  • Adding planning time for meetings.
  • Highlighting tasks as you complete them for an easy visual.
  • Reviewing your planner at the end of the day. Decide if unfinished items are still a priority or not. If yes, schedule them for another day.
  • Assessing your planner weekly. Evaluate each day: did you plan too many things that had to get moved?
  • Listing wins and losses for the week. (I keep track with the help of Darren Hardy’s goal-setting guide, Living Your Best Year Ever.)

Productivity Pitfall #2

Work time that doesn’t “work”

Think about how to best schedule your day according to your own personal or circadian rhythm. Set up daily time frames where you can work uninterrupted. Start with 60 minutes. Be sure to schedule “big brain” work for when your mind is the clearest. (I like to do “big brain” work first thing in the morning when there are fewer distractions.) For improved productivity, try:
  • Turning off your phone and putting it away.
  • Putting a “do not disturb” sign on your office door.
  • Closing the extra tabs on your computer.
  • Turning off email notification.
  • Scheduling something directly afterward: this deadline pressures you to get the work done



Distractions can be huge productivity killers. Pay attention to what your distractions are and tackle them one by one by using 17th century scientist Francis Bacon’s “scientific method”: observe, ask questions, make a hypothesis, experiment, analyze data, and communicate results. Here’s an example:

Observe. You are working in blocks of time but still don’t get your project done.

Research. Stop and consider whether those 20 text messages you received in your hour block distracted you from your work.

Change a variable. For the next block of time, put your turned-off phone in your desk drawer.

Result. At the end of this block you realize that you were much more focused—not only did you complete the project, but it is some of your best work. 

Most important: don’t get discouraged if you get off track. When that happens to me, I take time to reflect on my week. In my planner, completed tasks are marked in green; orange highlights tasks moved to another day. For weeks when I see too much orange, I will tally those uncompleted tasks and write the number on my planner. That next Sunday when I set out to plan the week, I look at the number: it motivates me to work one percent better—to achieve more “green” and less “orange.”

Even when everything is clicking and going smoothly, you want to ask yourself: “What would 1 percent better be?” Focusing on that next small step helps you make more intentional decisions with your work and productivity. And remember to look back on your progress! Give yourself credit for each milestone you pass on the way to your goal.


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