The challenges we face at work (and beyond) can be daunting, and we can start to feel overwhelmed. In cases like these, we often freeze up and do nothing because we think nothing we can do will help. The difficulties are just too great.
Other times, we focus on looking for an “instant success” solution, one that will take us from being overwhelmed to on top of the world. We like being in an “instant society” where everything comes quickly. We have no patience.
Can you relate? If we’re honest, we all can. But good news! This is where focusing on making “marginal gains” will serve us well.
What are “marginal gains?”
This concept comes through the story of Sir David Brailsford, who took over the British Cycling team in 2002.
Before his arrival, the team had minimal success—only one gold medal in seventy-six years. Sir David knew turning the British Cycling team into world-class performers would not happen overnight.
Instead, he focused on making small improvements in every step of their process: He only asked his team to continually make a 1% gain in every aspect.
After six years of making 1% gains consistently, Sir David’s team won seven of ten available cycling medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
They repeated their success at the 2012 London Olympics.
Your reaction might be, “Nice story, but I don’t have the time. At 1%, I’ll never achieve what I need to get done right now!” That’s because most of us face two challenges: (1) high expectations and (2) impatience.
Remember, most of us want things to come to us right now.
But let’s consider another sport: Softball. If your team is down by five runs in the last inning, you need runners on base to have a chance at winning. Success starts with one hit, followed by another (and on and on) if you’re going to score enough runs to win the game.
So, to tackle what you are facing—the thing that has you feeling overwhelmed—you need to do three things.
Start with prayer, asking for God’s wisdom and guidance for what you face. Accept that you cannot do it on your own. We need God’s guidance, support, and power to be successful.
2. Take smaller steps and shorten your time horizon
Focus on small steps, and only concern yourself with what’s within your control. Get some accomplishments and build some momentum. Remember, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
It’s also crucial to reduce your time frame.
- Consider what you can get done in the next day or week.
- At the end of the day or week, celebrate what you accomplished.
- Finally, ask, “What can I accomplish in the next day or week?”
Looking too far down the road won’t help you. It’ll only scare you.
Too often, we don’t trust others and try to do everything all by ourselves. That’s a recipe for failure. We need to swallow our pride and enlist others to help us get things done.
That’s delegation. Give others things they can help you do. Only keep for yourself what you need to do. In Scripture, Moses’s father–in–law let him have it for trying to do it all himself, then he taught him about delegation.
“Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening? What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” (Exodus 18:14b, 17b-18)
When you’re overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Remember these three simple steps, then move forward.