Today I installed a new faucet.

Not a big deal – I’ve done it before and it’s not that difficult, just a bit of a pain (and hard on my back). But I’m still counting it as my accomplishment for the day.

When I was a kid, I always planned to get stuff done over the summer – learn Java or whatever – but more often than not it didn’t happen. When your primary focus is on big projects, it’s easy to have days when you’re not seeing any progress, or worse, actually not making any progress. I had that problem with my dissertation – it was so involved that it was difficult to sit down and write out the next lemma. I have that problem still; I’m working on a new book, but it’s such a large project that it’s difficult to just work on a small part of it.

It’s no secret that the way to get a big thing done is to break it into a lot of little things; sometimes it’s just hard to work up the motivation to do the little things. What I’m trying this year is simple: at the end of every day, I want to be able to look back and say that I accomplished at least one thing. If it’s getting towards the end of the day and there’s no sense of accomplishment yet, well, that should be my kick to keep going until I have something.

Thursday it was finishing off a decent-sized piece of functionality I’ve been working on. Today it was replacing a faucet and writing a blog post. I don’t even remember what it was the other days, but I do remember that there was something – even if small – each day of the year thus far that made me feel that, that day, I had accomplished SOMETHING.

And when you keep accomplishing little things? Maybe it helps you find the motivation to get the big things done.

Now, about that book…