Small Steps to Big Changes: 
The Seven Minute Difference

By Allyson Lewis

We are now well into 2010. Research shows that by this point, 95% of New Year’s resolutions are distant memories, with very little change to show for them. Do you need to make some significant changes in your life?   Perhaps you have wanted to be more productive at work, receive a promotion, or simply upgrade your professional skills. You might want to organize work life or simply use better judgment in managing your time. You want to find time to do the things you believe to be most important in your life – to regain control over your health, finances, and other aspects of your life.

It doesn’t take a New Year’s Resolution and it doesn’t take months or even weeks. It can take as little as seven minutes. Studies have shown that the average corporate executive has an attention span of seven minutes. Coincidentally, the brain is limited to remembering only seven pieces of information at time, according to Harvard psychologist George Miller. Therefore, if you want your life to change, you must work within your own mental capabilities. There are literally hundreds of things you could accomplish within a seven-minute window of time. Each day holds tiny opportunities to make life better. Once you recognize that fact, it’s a fairly easy decision not to let these opportunities pass you by.

One of the greatest gifts each of us has been given is the ability to choose. Change happens in an instant. It happens the moment you decide to change. Now is the time to decide to be different. Haven’t you wanted more out of life? More results? More fulfillment? More leverage? Even, more fun?

Too often, we think of change as being complex, unmanageable, and beyond our grasp. When we think that way, we ignore the fact that the biggest, most meaningful changes are really the result of a series of small seemingly insignificant changesThese simple micro-actions are the tiny choices corporate executives and sales people can use every moment of every day that can make the difference between mediocrity and excellence.

Here are seven simple micro-actions that could impact you or your company almost overnight. Of course, just because an action seems easy doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right one to commit to doing. As you read this list, choose one or two of these micro-actions that would make the most difference in your life and try to focus on adding them into your day. If you will truly make a commitment to be different, at the end of a month or so, you may be amazed at how these tiny efforts can positively impact your future.

1. Drink more water. Almost all of us want to improve our physical health. We set these big goals to lose weight and get in shape, only to find ourselves with a drive-through cheeseburger in our hands eating lunch at 2:30 because we are overwhelmed at work. Big goals are wonderful, but small goals are often more successful. By swapping soda pop for water, improving health and loosing weight is easy. Those liquid calories can really add up.

2. Handwrite two thank you notes per day. We live in an email world and there is very little personal correspondence any more.   In less than seven minutes, you can thank a customer for their recent order – write a note to an employee for a job well done – or send a card to a supplier. You will be shocked at the impact your effort will make on your customers, employees and suppliers. They will remember this gesture for months. When was the last time you received a personal thank you note? How did it make you feel?   

3. Read ten pages of a non-fiction book every day. According to the American Booksellers Association, 58% of American adults never read a book after high school. If you truly want to be different tomorrow than you are today, choose to be more knowledgeable. Knowledge truly is power and it allows you to grow and change in amazing ways. By reading only ten pages of a book every day, you could read a 300-page book every month!  That means you could read twelve life-changing books a year.

4. Outline a daily plan of action. Every day, before you leave work, spend seven minutes writing down the top four to seven tasks you need to accomplish during the next work day. Prioritize the list, so that you tackle them in their order of importance. When you arrive at work the next morning, the list is there to guide you to do the vital tasks first.

5. Review your current skills. Take seven minutes to answer the question, “Are there any new skills I need to develop that would help our company move forward or that would help me personally be more competent in my current position?”  Is there new technology that could streamline your processes and systems to save time and money? If you want to be more competent tomorrow, then you must constantly ask yourself what knowledge and skill sets you must acquire to be a more valuable asset to your company.

6. Create the story. Strategies may create great company structures, but stories create customer loyalty. Does your company have a compelling story that differentiates you from your competition? Spend seven minutes listing your company’s strategic advantages and differences and then focus on those strengths. Make sure your customers understand your strengths. Begin to tell your story. Tell your employees, tell your customers, tell everyone. Strategies look good on spreadsheets, but stories create breakthrough growth.

7. Recognize and pursue the things that matter most to you in life. It is important to prioritize how you will spend your workday. If I offered you $86,400 every day with the one restriction that you must spend it wisely that day or lose it, what would you do? Of course, you would spend it wisely. Yet, each one of us is given 86,400 seconds everyday and the same proposition challenges us: spend them wisely or lose them. Take seven minutes to determine what is most important to you at work and at home and then pursue those things with vigor.

What holds you back from becoming the person you want to become? What if that obstacle could begin to crumble in only seven minutes? Today is the day to stand on the edge of life with a new sense of determination and hope. Change really does happen in an instant. It happens the moment you decide to change. Now that decision is yours to make – either you are In or you are Out. It is that simple. Draw a line in the sand and say, “I’m in.”  Then, begin to discover how the smallest decisions can have a huge impact on your life – seven minutes at a time.

Read other articles and learn more about Allyson Lewis.

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