If you’re not happy with your life, is it better to make a small tweak or a big change?
The answer, of course, depends on what you’re hoping to achieve—and how much risk you’re willing to take to get there.
Time management expert Laura Vanderkam notes that the general advice is to start with easy-to-implement, low-risk adjustments:
Those of us who write time management literature tend to focus on small tweaks to people’s lives for a simple reason: these changes are doable. Most people could improve their commutes by listening to podcasts and audiobooks; some chunk of people might be able to negotiate to work from home 1-2 days per week. Someone dealing with a spouse’s job, children’s schools, and an uncertain home-selling market, on the other hand, would find it more challenging to move 30 minutes closer to work, even though that would save an hour a day. So that’s not generally the solution we’d focus on.
The other reason it’s smarter to start with a small tweak is because you want to make sure you like the goal you’re working towards before you uproot your life to get there.
In other words: try writing for 30 minutes every day before you quit your job to draft your novel.
Make sure you can do Couch to 5K before you decide to run a marathon.
If you’re thinking about moving to a new town or city, see if you can spend some time there before making the decision to relocate. A long weekend is good. A week is better, if you can swing it. (I spent a full week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa before deciding to move; a few years prior, I spent several days in Portland, Oregon before deciding not to move.)
What you’ll discover, as you make these small tweaks, is whether they’re enough to give you the results and/or information you need—or whether it’s time to consider a bigger life adjustment. Maybe having an occasional side hustle is enough to satisfy your creative urges while bringing in a little extra cash. Maybe your side hustle is so satisfying that you want to turn it into a small business.
The ultimate question is whether the reward you’re going after — a completed novel, a move to a lower cost-of-living area, a career that gives you more time to travel or more time to spend with your family—is worth the risk.
It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to make a big life change, and sometimes that life change doesn’t work out. (I spent a year in Los Angeles trying to make it as a musician; I left Los Angeles with $US14K in credit card debt.)
But if you’re going after a really big goal, small life tweaks might only get you so far.
Or, as Vanderkam puts it:
We only have so much time. Nibbling around the edges can do a lot. But sometimes people want more. And going for more is an option.
It’s up to you to decide when you want to go for more, and when a few small changes will make you happy where you are.