Rewind five months ago to the early days of the pandemic, when courts shut down, work moved home and you were content to turn your kids over to ten hours of screen time each day because you thought it would be temporary. Back then, you had big plans: to add a new practice area, to dig into that idea for a legal tech product lurking in the back or your mind, or to automate every document in your law firm. But now, here you are nearly a half year later, and the weight of the pandemic combined with financial stress and the claustrophobia of never leaving the house has ground you down. These days, you’re lucky if you have the energy to make a court filing, or post a picture on Facebook let alone take on a new project.
Look – there’s something to be said about big, bold action. Trouble is, it doesn’t feel very good to “go big or go home” when you’ve already been stuck home for months. And when you’re being pummeled every day on Facebook with ads from marketers offering to share the secrets of how they crushed it during the worst economic downturn in memory, you can feel even more discouraged.
But there’s a solution – and, spoiler alert: it doesn’t cost $99.99 or $999.00! It’s the “small win.” What’s a small win? According to Small Wins Innovations, a small win is
A small win is a concrete, complete, implemented outcome of moderate importance.
Small wins work because they’re easier to achieve, but nevertheless give us the same sense of accomplishment that “activates the reward circuitry in our brain” and makes us feel like we’re getting something done.
Although many articles about “small wins” view them as baby steps that incrementally a larger goal, if you’re really feeling down, I wouldn’t even vest the small win with that much significance. For example, if you set a goal of posting three tweets a day as a “small win” and give up after a week, you aren’t going to feel any better about yourself. Instead, make a small win just that: a completely stand-alone accomplishment.
Here are some examples of small wins that have always put me in a better mood:
- Implement a cool easy piece of technology. It could be a self-scheduling tool or a little online survey or quiz to your website or social posts (many more options today than even three years ago) or create an explainer video. You’re certain to get some positive feedback which can boost your spirits, and maybe even lure a new client or two as well.
- Hire on Fiverr. If you’re had video recordings laying around that you haven’t posted because you need to edit them, or you’ve been trying to up your Instagram game or set up a new website, Hire on Fiverr. In most cases, you’ll find someone who can do the work for under a hundred bucks and you’ll feel a sense of relief to offload the project.
- Check in and catch up. Why not call or send a few Zoom invites to colleagues, former employer or clients who put you in a good mood. Believe it or not, some folks still haven’t even used Zoom at this point and would be grateful for a chance to give it a test drive in a casual setting. Even if you don’t come out with a client referral, you’ll probably leave with a nice compliment which can improve your mood;
- Set up a Coffee + Court Back in April, I set up a Zoom call to listen to an important en banc oral argument with a group of colleagues. It was great fun until the call was hacked by an interloper who drew male genitalia on the screen. But even though the call was aborted sooner than expected, it gave me ideas for other ways to reconnect.
- Sunset Your Goal . If you decide to pick a cumulative goal – like a daily blog post, or three tweets a day, set a reasonable end to the project to improve success. So don’t decide to blog once a day forever, but just for a week.
- Try a Sprint If you’re up for something a bit bigger, you could try a sprint – launching a small or medium sized project ih a confined time frame. That’s what I’m doing with the Lawyer Mom Owner Summit where I’ve set a goal of 1000 attendees (please sign up at the link, or register for more information) I know that for a month, I have the stamina to blast news of the conference to all my channels to reach those numbers – whereas, if I hadn’t given myself a tight timeline, I would have put the work off. I’ve found that the time pressure and crazy goal has spurred me out of my own pandemic funk.
- Take a Moment Back when my girls were little, all I could get done was return a phone call, get them washed, toss a burnt meal on the table and clean them up for bed (and that was pre-pandemic!). Yet after I’d read them the nightly book and gotten them to sleep, I’d sigh and take a moment to enjoy the sense of accomplishment even though it was nothing more than getting through the day.
As educator Mehrnaz Bassiri observes:
The internet has inflated people’s expectations about what success looks like — any achievement that doesn’t go viral can seem skimpy
And that’s okay. Because if we can appreciate and celebrate “human-size, human-scale achievements,” we can get the recharge we need to blast off down the line.