Capturing The Power In Small Moments

While in college I took part in an aptitude assessment. For two days they put problem after problem before me to see how I responded. It felt more like a game than series of tests until I reached one involving spacial awareness. The test was simple. They showed me a square block composed of several different pieces, like a puzzle. They would then have me turn around as they dissembled the block. After turning around they asked me to put it back together as they timed me. I couldn’t do it the way they wanted me to.

I kept “failing” the test because when faced with a complex problem, I broke it up into smaller ones. I made two different blocks out of the pieces and then put those two together. I couldn’t do it the other way, the “right” way, no matter how many chances they gave me.

This is how I solve complex problems, I break them up into smaller more manageable ones. I don’t try to eat a steak all in one bite, and I don’t attempt to tackle large goals or issues in one bite either. I chop them up into many smaller pieces, solve them and get to work putting them back together.

My wife and I do this as a team on a daily basis. Most divide most projects between the two of us. We split a wedding day evenly for instance. While she is capturing the bride getting ready, I’ll do the same for the guys. While she is shooting from the aisle, I am getting a different angle. While she is taking family pictures, I'm calling out names and lining up the next photo. At every moment and in every way we divide big things, like weddings, into small bite size chunks.

Chunking like this not only helps us do big projects at work, it also aids us in reaching large personal goals. No area is this more evident in my life than my reading habits. I determined to continue learning and growing the rest of my life many years ago. I read a lot as a result. I don't read with the prolific nature of Tim Challies—who reads over 100 books a year—or the determined spirit of Stephen King— who prescribes reading four to six hours a day—but, I still read more than a lot of people.

I read in the neighborhood of thirty books covering the span of the literary world each year. Some books stretch my mind, some inform my heart, and others show how stories get told. Regardless of the genre or style each page I turn helps me become whoever it is I’ll grow up to be.

The same could true for you. You don’t have to set aside hours for reading or take a speed reading course do the same feat. All you have to do is carve out small moments of focused effort.

Read in small bits here and there. I break it up into three small bite size bits. I read three pages when I wake up, three more over my lunch break, followed by three more before bed. That’s almost ten pages without breaking a sweat.

Why three pages? It’s a number so small, it’s not worth not doing. Why would I skimp on reading such a small number of pages? We look at the stack of books we want to read and chicken out before trying because it all seems too big. Three pages is a number so small in comparison, that it’s laughable not to take them on.   

The funny thing is I rarely stop at three pages per sitting. Once I’m deep in a book, there is little knowing how many pages I’ll end up turning. It varies day to day, but it’s far more than I’d read otherwise.