What if fast-tracking your career is a game of inches?

It’s the small things done consistently well that make the difference and have the greatest effect says Nigel Collin.

There’s a myth out there that in order to grow your career quickly and get to the next level, you somehow have to reinvent everything you do or change everything at once. But that’s simply not true. When you look at successful individuals, they have achieved their goals one step at a time.

I’ve had the opportunity of interviewing hundreds of successful individuals ranging from business owners, community leaders, to sports professionals and one thing stands out again and again. Success and career development is a game of inches and not a one-off moment. Ironically doing things step by step, inch by inch is the fastest way to achieve them.

Let’s look at two key things successful people do when building careers and how you as an EA can apply them.

Find gaps

One of the things successful individuals are good at is finding gaps. Gaps are simply problems or opportunities that if addressed have massive benefits. Most people chase ideas. ‘How can I do this better?’ or ‘how can I do that better?’ But an idea that doesn’t solve a problem isn’t very useful.

Gaps are simply those little things that if you did them better have great impact. Or those little things that if you started doing, or perhaps stopped doing, create better outcomes. And gaps can appear in what we do and how we do them. They appear in your professional world in such things as the processes you have in place like time management or communication. They also appear in your own personal life such as your health and well-being.

An example of a gap in my own world is that I get easily distracted and as a result my productivity suffers. Knowing this, I have put simple systems in place to keep me focused and as a result I get more done (check out Pomodoro time).

The trick with finding gaps is to make sure they are small and achievable. This way they don’t interfere with your day to day work and they are easy to act on. Most people ignore the small things because they seem insignificant, but they add up and more often than not they have the biggest payoff.

Take my distraction example. If I could save just 24 minutes a day being more focused (which is not a hard fix) that’s two hours a week, eight hours a month or 88 hours a year. Now imagine if each week I focused on just one small, doable gap in that time.

All of us, not matter how busy we are, can find one small gap a week. As an EA, imagine the impact that would have on your workload, your boss, your organisation and your career?

Shift your mindset to small consistent steps

If you want to move your career to the next level changing everything at once just becomes overwhelming and takes too much time. The way to take the angst out of change and career development is to break it down into small steps. That requires a shift in mindset from ‘big and instant’ to one of ‘small and consistent’.

It doesn’t mean you dilute your goals or don’t aim high, it means you understand the way to make big happen is one step at a time. Otherwise you’ll just drive yourself crazy.

Start with one thing

Once you finish reading this, think about one small thing that you can do to address a gap that if you did it, would move your career forward. Don’t make it big or outrageous because it will never get done, just make it doable. Then do that one thing.

Then once you’ve done that one thing, do the next one thing. Before you know it, your career will have moved forward in a way you never could imagined. One small step at a time.

The author:
Nigel Collin is a change and leadership expert helping people and organisations make change happen through small consistent steps. He is author of ‘Game of Inches’, an internationally recognised keynote speaker and executive coach.