Friday, September 26, 2014

The 1% Solution

Image from  Oh to have this office!

I came across an online newspaper article recently explaining something called The 1% Solution.  It piqued my interest and had some great information in it.  Unfortunately I cannot find the article again to reference but I’m pretty sure it’s tied up with a book of the same name by Tom Connellan (which I haven’t read yet but plan to).

I’ve used the 1% Solution with success at work so far.  The basic premise as I understand it is that so often we either do all, or if we can’t do all, we do nothing.  There is no in-between.  The 1% Solution proposes that it’s actually more beneficial to make tiny changes. 

If you’ve been staying up until midnight every night, rather than make a grand statement that you are going to be in bed by 10pm every night, just aim for half an hour earlier – 11.30pm.  Or instead of saying you’re going to get up at 6am every morning rather than your usual 7.30am, set the alarm clock for 7.15am instead.  It’s more do-able and you’re more likely to do it.

At work I feel constantly behind.  I know I don’t help myself sometimes by dithering around or looking up non-work-related things on the internet which little by little chop into your work time.  But I often think, ‘I haven’t got time to complete that entire job today, I’ll start it another day’.  Well you know that day never comes, as the only day you have is today.

The 1% Solution also helps me with my ever-increasing filing.  I pay all the bills, so my in-tray is constantly receiving invoices and statements.  My goal is to have them hole-punched and put in the right folder every day so the in-tray is clear, but that doesn’t seem to happen. 

But even if I don’t have them time to do them all, I can do some.  It’s a far better idea than my previous method of operation which involved putting it off until the 20th rolls around when I have to pay our suppliers.  It’s a big squeeze once a month which is rather stressful.  Plus if there are queries on anything I have to sort that on the day too.

At home the 1% Solution can be used with housework.  Rather than save it all up for a once a week gut-buster (sorry, horrible word!), why not do a little bit each day.  I want to clean the windows in our living area but then I think to myself, the entire house needs its windows done.  Is that a helpful thought?  Non.  I will do the living room windows and that will be a start.

When it comes to any self-improvement project you’d like to do, aim for small changes.  They will be easier to motivate yourself to do, you’re more likely to stick to them, and over time the small changes add up to bigger changes.  Our life is made up of small moments, small changes and small habits which all add up.

We are setting ourselves up to fail (or never even start) if we wait for that perfect time when we are geared up to make that giant change.

The reviews on Amazon for Tom Connellan’s book are great and contain some really useful tips from the book.  Here are a few quotes on one of the reviews.

'1. The difference between exceptional and EXCEPTIONALLY exceptional = 1 percent.

2. You can't be 100 percent better than everyone else, but you can be 1 percent better at hundreds of things.

3. You may not win all the time, but you can have a winner's heart if you do something better today than you did it yesterday.

4. Not everyone can be great, but everyone can be better than they are right now.

5. Aim to be swifter, higher, stronger - not swiftest, highest, strongest.'

I admit I am a person with all-or-nothing and perfectionist tendencies, that if I can’t do something perfectly and all at once I abandon the idea altogether.  This does nothing for the stress levels in my life.  So The 1% Solution is good for me to remember.  Just do 1%.  So simple!

Update 9 May 2015:  Incredibly enough, it seems that two men named Tom have written a book about the 1% idea.  I have just borrowed a book from our library called The 1% Principle by Tom O'Neil and it sounds much more like the article I initially read.   I borrowed the Tom Connellan one when I first wrote this post and... it was really dry and wordy.  But if dry and wordy is your thing, go read it.  For the rest of us with short attention spans and who are looking for quick and fun ways to implement the 1% idea, see if you can find Tom O'Neil's book.


  1. So true, Fiona, and such a timely reminder! I tend to put things off also. Time to remedy that and make little improvements.

  2. Fiona,
    Thank you for this motivational post. Every time I read your blog it feels like you speak for myself.
    Have a lovely weekend,

  3. Oh Fiona, get out of my head! I have been thinking about the living room windows and putting it off because I feel I should do the entire house! Don't worry I get the point of the post, it's just that it's so funny that you picked the exact thing I've been dithering over.

    Thank you.

  4. It is never to late to make a decision, even small rating 1%, to improve. Not to be the best but just improve.
    I am trying to take hold of THAT decision, the right one, when I would like to help myself another portion of Italian Pasta ... it works. Moderation and the right decision.
    What I really cannot help is doing my breakfast in the middle of the night! yes , in the darkness of the night and then wake up in the morning , sipping a cup of tea with lemon and go out to work.
    Please help with good smart ideas to achieve that change into the right direction....

  5. Great post... Just shared it on FB... Some of my friends could hugely benefit from it... LOVE the pure white office too ;-)

  6. I am going to read that book and love this reminder to rethink how we approach tasks.

  7. You have me interested in this book. I really like ideas like this. My husband and I used this principle to get our garage cleaned and organized. We scheduled two hours one afternoon and did as much as we could. We weren't finished and did not get back to it for two more weeks. Finally we had another open afternoon to work until it was completed. We rewarded ourselves with dinner out later that evening. If we would have waited until it could have all been accomplished at one time, it still would be messy and dirty. It feels so satisfying everytime I see it now, all orderly and neat.

  8. It works well for me at work and home, whether it is a small task or a big project. I try to get ready 10 mins before I need to leave and use the time to tackle one of those irritation necessary tasks. Waiting for the kettle to boil is another great opportunity. I often find a few small chunks of time more productive than a long stretch. I always try to take a step towards completing a job immediately (even if it is to put it onto a to do list) as once I've started I'm more likely to finish. Writing it down also helps me to break it down into manageable chunks, and to see what information I need and what I can delegate. 100% is inhibiting, and a subjective view. If you aim for 90% then review often the last 10% is not necessary or required, and if it is you have a smaller task to complete.

  9. The 1% solution can be applied any of those tasks that we can't bring ourselves to start. I've been doing Weight Watchers for a couple of months and I am working for 5% weight loss. That seems a lot more doable than 40 pounds. I am now scheduling one half hour a day to work on editing my belongings. It works! I'm going to borrow that book from the library. Thank you Fiona.

  10. It's a great strategy to implement and before long you get to the point where you are able to tackle the big ticket items.
    Starting out small and manageable does have merit.
    I learned this strategy in a workshop a few years ago when I was is a powerful tool and coupled with the visualization of an empty inbox you might be looking around for more work to tackle!
    Enjoy your posts as always Fiona.

  11. I recently applied something similar to weeding a flower bed near my back door. Every time I passed it I would reach down and grab a few. I pass it at least six times a day, sometimes more and within 2 days it was completed. I really like this method for those chores I'm not too fond of, it makes them seem so much easier. Great post!

  12. I needed this post today. Thank you! Miss Dishywoo's comment also reminded me of something I did when my kids were little. In the late afternoon we would set an alarm for 15 minutes and all rush around picking up toys and putting away things. It was always amazing what we could accomplish in 15 minutes. My daughter says she still does this at her own house. Charlene

  13. Thanks Fiona it is a very helpful way of tackling things, especially tasks that you procrastinate over. I love Stephanie's approach to the weeding too.
    I think this is the reason why I have been having such success on the 5:2 diet. I have now lost 15 kg in 6 months, and I think it is easy and effective because you are not on a diet 100% of the time, on 2/5th of the time. It is very easy to stick to the regime 2 days a week if you can eat what you want on the other 5!

  14. Hey Fiona!!! You're back. When did you resurrect your blog? So lovely to see you back Sweets xx


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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