Friday, January 04, 2008

The Best Book I've Ever Read About Making Changes Stick

When I put together a list of books that have meant a lot to me, Small Change* by Susan & Larry Terkel will be on my list of money-saving, life-altering books. The Small Change formula is really excellent and the minor changes suggested --personal, financial, health, professional--are meaningful and practical.

For instance, the authors suggest substituting one glass of water for a soft drink at each meal. Projected savings: 50,000 calories and $500 annually. Another easy change: walk to a further bus stop rather than the stop closest to my home. Projected benefit: I could walk an additional 150 miles in one year with a small adjusment in my route.



Here's the formula recommended in Small Change*

1. Study your daily habits: "Change something in your daily life and you will see the benefits steadily accumulate."--(p. 9) Face it: Our little bad habits cause more grief than the occasional huge error. Here's a menu of petty little things that cost us time and money every day: misplaced keys, the extra serving of junk food, the forgotten lunch, etc.


Consider my kitchen counter tops. When I cook, the kitchen looks like the aftermath of a tropical storm through Miami. My kitchen surfaces become overdone with spices, oils and garnishes. As such, clean-up takes longer, which cuts into my income and I'm less likely to cook the next meal because a) I have to find the kitchen counter tops before I can use the kitchen again and b) cleaning up from the previous meal was such a nightmare, why would I want to cook again? Let's order pizza instead!


This bad habit makes it more likely for me to order an expensive take-out meal or to just zap up an easy-to-fix microwave meal, which is usually more expensive and less healthy.


The small-step solution: I'll put away each ingredient and utensil as I use it. The proposed change is based on my review of a poor daily habit.


2. "Make only one change at a time:" (p. 12) This is such a great piece of advice. I learned the value of focus while deep cleaning my bedroom. When I tackle the entire room, I just waltz around in clutter. I call it the Clutter Shuffle in which I move piles from one location to the next. But when I target one section of the room at a time, that level of focus and attention delivers real results. I deeply clean and put things where they really belong. It's a mindful process, with a big payback. "Self improvement is easiest when taken one step at a time."--(p.14)


By the way, once the change becomes a permanent part of my routine, then it's safe to move on to the next target. The Terkels recommend making a minor change every few weeks. I've tried a one-change-a-month schedule and that seems to work for me.


3. Constantly make small change: It's important to keep moving. Professional athletes, for example, practice and run drills. The same process applies for other professions and crafts. "Instruments tuned on a regular basis are easier to tune," the Terkels state on page 17.

4. Keep the faith and recognize the power in small accumulations. This step requires discipline, delayed-gratification and confidence. When I was in my 20s, I sat down to write a novel and not just any novel: I wanted to write the Great American Novel, an epic piece. I wanted immediate blockbuster success. Years later, one draft of that great effort is in a box and other drafts have been fed to the dust bunnies under my bed.

This past summer, however, I completed writing a small book, which will be published this spring. I wrote it chapter by chapter, with small goals. That step-by-step process worked for me. Likewise, I have started writing a short-story collection. Maybe it could be a novel, but each little story has its own destination. And that small target is enough for me.


"Trust the power of small change, and remember it will add up."--p. 22

5. Have fun: If I enjoy the process, I'll be more likely to stick with the program. Consider my penny hunt. As I purge through the assorted piles in my home, I've made it a point to look for pennies and loose change. A bit of spare change is not going to make me richer, but the Treasure Hunt mentality brings a little joy to my clean-up efforts. It's fun to look under a couch pillow if I think I'm going to find a few silver or copper coins.


Additionally, if I can laugh about myself: the messy piles, the comic cooking or the crazy shopping trips, it becomes easier to let go of bad habits and memories of poor choices. It's just another adventure.

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Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of The Frugal Duchess of South Beach:How to Live Well and Save Money... Anywhere!, which will be published in the Spring of 2008 by DPL Press.
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Previous Posts:
I Found 7 Pennies & One Umbrella Under My Bed: Feng Shui Report
Salad Plate Lessons: Eating Green; Saving Green
Happy 2008! Famous Quotes for the New Year
Finding Hidden Profits in Mistakes: a 10-Step Program


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1 comment:

Dedicated said...

Wow thanks! I'm saving this post - I definitely want to read this book.