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Marginal Gains and the Importance of Baby Steps

"Taking baby steps is absolutely vital to making what will hopefully be lasting changes."

Mental health and wellbeingHobbies and Interests
By VoiceBox ·

Shilton Freeman

Hi! My name is Shilton Freeman, a 17 year old Londoner and a (hopefully) future writer. I enjoy music producing, researching things I’m passionate about, and connecting with people who have similar interests.

Marginal Gains and the Importance of Baby Steps

I am a procrastinator. Like, an extreme procrastinator. I leave everything last minute. I scroll on my phone instead of doing schoolwork. I sit down and eat junk food instead of going to the gym as planned, accompanied by the famous excuse: 'I have no time!'. The funny thing is that I meant to work on all of these areas of my life for my new year's resolutions, which consisted of massive goals such as 'master (insert skill) in (insert time period)'. But, let's be honest, who actually sticks to their new year's resolutions?

I gave myself too many goals to achieve in such a short amount of time. I set such high, unrealistic expectations for myself as if I was some sort of superhuman. I would be on a massive 'grind' for about two weeks, and then after that, I'd be burnt out and tired, so I would stop. Yet I thought I'd be making a whole 180 on my life. 

Fast forward to now, I've made so much progress from the start of Year 12, and yet I don't feel burnt out or overwhelmed. You may be thinking, 'wow Shilton, that's absolutely incredible! How are you so amazing?'. Well, let me inform you of something so extraordinary yet so simple. The life-changing art of marginal gains. 

You see, ‘marginal gains’ is a theory stating that 1% improvements on anything can lead to massive improvements over time. Starting small and taking baby steps is absolutely vital to making what will hopefully be lasting changes. Doing too much at once will lead to inconsistency. Doing little things at a time can do so much. Here are a few things I did that helped me stay on track and stay focused on improving my school work habits while also not being too stressed out. 

  • Make sure you have a clean room while working. Good workplace, good mindset, after all! Having a clean and organised room removes that voice in your head saying, 'wow, this is such an untidy room. I need to clean up later.’ One way I keep my room tidy is whenever I leave my room to grab a quick snack or get some water, I take out one thing that's not supposed to be there. This could be a sweet wrapper or just a plate with some food. Gradually, your room will start to look a whole lot cleaner. Less mess, less stress!
  • Actually have breakfast in the mornings. I know so many people who just say, 'yeah, I don't usually eat breakfast'. Eating breakfast lays the foundation of your energy levels for the rest of the day. You won't be thinking about how you're so hungry or so tired for the rest of the day, which will enable you to stay focused.
  • Getting 8 hours of sleep each night. Again, you won't feel as tired as you normally would the next day.
  • Wake up earlier, maybe 30 minutes earlier. Waking up early gives you enough time in the day to do what you need to do. Try waking up before 8:30 am each day, then once you get used to that, wake up earlier, and earlier, and so on. That extra hour or so can help you get more done.

These are a few things I did that made significant improvements to my overall lifestyle. So, all in all, take baby steps in whatever goal you have and remain consistent. I’d like to end this with a quick quote which widened my perspective completely: ‘It is better to be consistently good than to be occasionally great’. 

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