The run should have been perfect.
It was a short one (at least, short by half-marathon training standards) at 50 minutes, and the weather my favorite kind to run in. Cold, crisp, sunny, with just enough breeze coming off the lake to ward off any sweaty, “this sucks” moments.
It started out great.
Too great, as it would turn out.
So confident was I in the greatness of this run, that I didn’t bother to pace myself. Didn’t check the urge to run, and run fast. I passed a handful of other runners, and trust me when I say that passing is not a common occurrence for me.
And then, as I was nearly to the halfway “turn back” spot, it happened.
If you’re a beginning or intermediate runner, I bet you know what I’m talking about, even if you’ve never before seen my just-now-made-up acronym.
TUTW = The Urge To Walk
It used to happen frequently on runs.
Heck, in my early days, TUTW happened about two minutes in. And then eventually, I could make it to a half mile … and then a mile. I still remember the first time I ran a 5k without TUTW hitting once.
But TUTW hasn’t happened in long while for me.
And experiencing it today, just as I was starting to ponder where the next Summer Olympics were, and could I clear my schedule to compete, was a serious bummer.
I mean, sure, it happens. You burn too fast, too early, and don’t save enough for the end. Whoops.
I told myself it was okay to walk.
But first …
First, I told myself I had to make it two more minutes. Two more minutes, and then I could walk.
So I did it it. I ran two more minutes.
It was easy enough. I was jogging now. No more passing people, but I didn't walk.
So, I decided since that was easy enough, maybe I could do it one more time. Two more minutes, and then I could walk.
I did that too.
So I did two more.
You get where I’m going with this, right?
I ran (jogged) the entire way back home.
TUTW never completely dissipated, but it did fade into the background.
Now, the last half of my run wasn’t as glorious as the first—it was a hobbled-together string of 2-minute just-a-little-bit-longers.
But when I got back to my apartment building (panting), I had a simple, strange little realization:
Maybe it doesn’t matter how you do it. It only matters that you did it. Period.
And what a bit of funny timing, because literally, right before my run, I’d been having an iMessage chat with the lovely Jessica Lemmon.
We were discussing writer’s block, and the continual conundrum of why some books are SO MUCH HARDER THAN OTHERS.
And I made the off-hand comment about how when I get to one of the Hard Books, I pull back on my daily word count.
Now, my daily word-count varies, but it tends to be around 5k average.
If I’ve got a busy day with a bunch of business or personal obligations, it’s more like 2k. If I’m on a roll, it’s upwards of 10k. I even hit 18k (once).
But when I’m struggling?
On those days when I’d rather do anything other than write, when I’m torn between hurling my laptop against the wall and desperately needing said laptop to research alteranative career paths …
Those days, I do make myself write.
But not much.
On the really terrible, can't-possible-do-it days, I write 200 words. That’s all. A few paragraphs. A few minutes.
In the grand scheme of a book, it’s next to nothing.
But guys? It’s something.
And, um, are we noticing a parallel here? TWO MINUTES running. TWO HUNDRED WORDS writing.
Wait, I’m not done! I have one more example.
So, CRUSHED is out in a couple weeks. For the past two months I’ve been meaning to put awesome excerpts of the book onto cute little images to share with the world.
Yesterday, I told myself I would do it. No more procrastinating.
But then I started thinking about how much time it would take.
I had go through an entire book for quotes that could be pulled out of context. And then designing the image. And then pasting the text onto the image, and making sure it was readable. And then ensuring the formatting was right. And then you need to name the image. Export the image as something that’s friendly for Social Media. But wait, don’t forget to create the folder on Dropbox to house them all in case your publicist will want them later.
The “to do” list task of “create quotes for CRUSHED” wasn’t one task; it was a million.
And I was about to put it off for a day when I had more time, when I realized …
I didn’t have to do it all right then.
I could just do a tiny part.
And then the day after that I could do one more tiny part.
So I opened the manuscript. Told myself to find two quotes. That’s all. Just two quotes. And then copy/paste into Evernote for future use.
It took me five minutes. Probably less.
I did it again today. Set my timer for five minutes, and came up with four quotes.
Suddenly this Herculean task feels, well … manageable.
Easy, just like the two minute run. Just like the 200 word a day.
And it’s got me thinking:
How many other tasks that I’ve built up in my mind as big old mountains to climb on some other day can be broken down into smaller, more manageable chunks?
Whether it be like my running example, where I ran the same amount as originally planned, but tricked my brain into breaking it up, or as with the writing, where I simply did less overall…
What if that’s how shit gets done?
Not in glorious, uninterrupted marathons, but in small, scrappy spurts.
What if the best parts of life—the important parts—are lived, not in a year, or a month, or even a day, but in the moment.
One moment (or 2 minutes, whatever, work with me here), is all it takes to move forward. To make progress towards your dream life.
So here’s my challenge:
Pick a task. A project. A dream.
Pick that thing you’ve been putting off.
That thing that your heart wants to do, but your brain is always like, “no thanks, that’s hard” so instead you just watch The Food Network reruns.
Maybe it’s starting your own business. Writing that screenplay. Putting together that recipe binder or photo album. Maybe it’s fitting in regular exercise or starting a food blog.
Chances are you have something buried in your heart — something that’s dear, but also hard because it’s BIG and IMPORTANT. Dig deep. Find it.
Okay, now you’re going to set aside 20 minutes today, and do something towards that goal. Don’t have 20 minutes? Do 5 minutes.
Even if it’s just brainstorming in a notebook, or hell, on a paper napkin. Even if it’s just writing TWO SENTENCES in your novel. Maybe it’s buying a domain name for your business.
And don’t you dare go down the path of, “ugh, that’s not even real progress, why bother?”
Because listen here … Those five minutes you put in, those ten words you write, or the brainstorm of business names you came up with, or the new recipe folder you created on your computer …
That’s more than you had this morning.
You’ll pardon me for dropping the the mother of all cliches here, but …
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Same goes for present-day examples.
All of those published authors you’re jealous of, the entrepreneurs you wish you could be, the organized supermom with the book club, Junior League, homemade cookies and clean house …
None of them are better than you. Most of them probably don’t even have more time than you.
They didn’t likely make one big change overnight that enabled them to do All The Things.
They, like you, are busy. Tired. Stressed.
But … like you, they also dreamed big.
Did they also act big?
Yes. Because they took action.
And guess what?
Little actions count in big-ass ways. It sounds obvious, but sometimes we need the reminder that,
Little action is always better than no action.
So take twenty minutes tonight (or 5! 5 minutes!), and do that thing.
Then do it again tomorrow.
Because your future starts with today.