Think Small

Experiments with oblique strategies.

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Why Small ?

One of the biggest reasons goals tend to fail is due to their size and scope, I am not saying you shouldn’t aim for the stars or have big goals, but rather factor into your planning that a big goal will likely take big time, need big resources and carry big risk, what’s more, if you add another big goal to your list ( which feels good and easy in the moment) you are likely to end up overwhelmed and accomplish neither.

Divide and conquer.

A solution I use and propose is to split your goals into two: a single ( 1 ) critical and well defined BIG thing you need to accomplish and multiple secondary loosely defined small optional things you might or might not do, as long as that big thing moves forward I know I am on the right track, and when the big thing invariably feels like too much, I have a bunch of little things to recharge myself creatively and emotionally, here’s my current list to give you an idea:

Note: It is tempting to add a secondary BIG thing to your list, I suggest you don’t, rather just write it down in the other list as a small experiment or secondary goal, once you are done with your main BIG thing, you can then add that one or another one.

Small Experiments.

Very often one knows what the BIG thing is, but the smaller ones are harder to define and lay down on paper, how much time should I give them ? How important will they be, what if they are my future, where do I start ?

  • Involve little time.
  • Low or no budget.
  • Be disposable.


I recommend you get a notebook ( I like dot grid ) and a pen ( I like fountain pens ) and simply start with a 2 section division like mine:

And the BIG thing ? Big goals and projects usually start out on the right column (secondary projects/smaller experiments), and after a few successful experiments and a lot of planning end up being my main thing, as such they sometimes have a whole notebook or even a room and budget devoted to them, having a couple of pages devoted to them is usually enough to get started. Back to small experiments..

You are stuck.

So you got your notebook, your fancy pen and your main goal, you sit down to write the secondary things you’d like to do and try to come up with experiments but you come up dry, you are stuck.

Oblique Strategies.

Oblique strategies consist of a set of cards with a novel yet vague strategy written on them that you then try to apply to your current predicament, they were originally used to encourage musicians to think different and are responsible for some amazing music, their story is worth a read, or a listen.

Where to get oblique strategies ?Buy them: The original onesMake your own : I started by writing down about 50 found around the web on half double sided index cards.Here's a few stolen from the wiki to get you started:- Use an old idea.
- State the problem in words as clearly as possible.
- Only one element of each kind.
- What would your closest friend do?
- What to increase? What to reduce?
- Are there sections? Consider transitions.
Note that while some are geared towards music composition, there's nothing stopping you from applying them to your specific problem, just replace the musical elements with whatever you are dealing with, people, food, technical problems, etc, etc.

Small experiments as a way of life.

Or company culture…

Why should you trust me ? You shouldn’t ( caveat emptor ), I've tried to lay down here some organizational/goal setting methods, if what you are doing is working ( is it ? ) keep on doing it, maybe even write a post and let other know, if on the other hand you need to change and don't know how, I hope you give this and other methods a fair trial and then make up your own decision.

In closing,

Changing is hard,I propose a mix of small experiments and a singular big goal, to keep your sanity. If stuck, oblique strategies can help you come up with creative experiments and solutions both at home and work.

AI, Software Developer, Designer :

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store