Ask Dr g Power of a small act
Written by Doctor G

The power of one small act


How are you doing today? For most adults, the beginning of May comes with a little hope and a lot of things on the to do list. Whether you run a summer-focused business or live with young people for whom June always means transition, or have just been putting off a lot of things until it was even reasonable to go outside… there are likely a bunch of things you feel pressure to do right now. 

That feeling of a long to-do list can be overwhelming(35%), fatiguing(45%) or invigorating(7%). But since only 7% of people endorse “invigorating” it’s fair to say that most people don’t love it. {For people stuck on the math, this study has a 13% “other”}

One of the reasons that just having lots of things to do is tiring – before you even do them – is that each task represents navigating change. Maybe just change from getting up off the couch, maybe change in how much human interaction you’ll have, maybe change in how you allocate your space or resources… but change. And since the brain is supposed to be suspicious of change, that long list of tasks feels risky, and like something to avoid. Your brain gets a little stuck in its reflex reactions to change: 

  • Loss: “but if I do those I won’t have time for this!”
  • Distrust: “do I really have to be the one to do these? Is it necessary? Will I do them well?”
  • Discomfort: “I don’t waaaaannnnaaaa”

The quickest way to turn down all these objections (not turn off – these reactions help keep us safe, we can’t turn them all the way off) is to remind ourselves of our own strength and agency. 

So, if you’re in the vast majority, and feeling kind of “meh” about all the work you have to do, try this one counterintuitive hack for your brain. 

Right now, look around the space you’re in. Chances are there is something small you’ve been meaning to do that is right there:

  • straighten up a pile of things
  • wipe down a counter
  • return something sitting out to where it belongs
  • take a moment to tell a person there about something they did well or something you appreciate about them
  • set your phone to silent for 15 minutes so you can focus
  • return one phone call or text
  • something else

Now, pick one thing and do it. Right now. Don’t even finish this email. 


Doing that one small thing all the way through, scratching it off your mental list, reduces your brain’s objections to getting other things done because you prove your agency. That builds confidence and efficacy.

Did you do something? Comment and brag about it!

All my best,

Dr. G

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