Imperfect action can be applied to any area of your life to quickly accelerate your progress towards your goals. Here's how.
I remember the first time I stumbled across the term ‘imperfect action’. It was like a lightbulb went off in my mind and everything just clicked.
This is how I’d been operating for years, and I hadn’t even realised there was a name for it. And before that moment, it certainly hadn’t occurred to me it was a positive thing.
You see, while I’ve always been extremely driven, I can also be a little… chaotic. My mind works fast, always jumping from one thing to the next.
From an external perspective, I’m sure it just looks like I’m always rushing. When I was at school, my report card often read ‘Emma is very bright and creative, but she makes careless mistakes’.
And yes, while I have made plenty of silly mistakes over the years (although I have been forced to develop better attention to detail over the years from working as a writer), I owe a lot to my ability to take swift action.
From whipping up 10 pitches for publications in half an hour to writing my book in four months and even quickly cutting off relationships that weren’t working, being driven and decisive has always given me a head start.
While I didn’t invent the term imperfect action, it has become a pivotal part of my work and life. Now, I work as an imperfect action coach for driven women, helping them overcome perfectionism and procrastination to get their creative projects out into the world.
But, my favourite thing about imperfect action is that it can really be applied to any area of your life to quickly accelerate your progress towards your goals.
Here, I’ve put together some of my favourite ways to take imperfect action in every area of your life.
Whether you’re employed but keeping your options open, are graduating university soon, or are building a side hustle, I think career growth and networking should be an ongoing process. And the good news is you don’t have to spend all day every day sending out cover letters to do it!
Some great ways to take imperfect action in your career include:
Reach out to one new potential contact per day
This is one small habit that can have an enormous impact on your career or business.
Whether it’s connecting with a new decision-maker on LinkedIn, emailing a company you’d love to work for, or just following a potential collaborator on Instagram, make an effort to connect with one new person every day. Not only will you build your network, but you never know when you’ll get yourself in front of the exact person who needs what you’re offering.
Use ‘quick apply’ to pursue new opportunities
Ever seen a job advertised on LinkedIn that seemed vaguely interesting, but you couldn’t be bothered creating a whole new cover letter from scratch to apply?
I recommend taking advantage of the ‘apply via Linkedin’ feature, where it simply sends them your LinkedIn profile with one click. Of course, I don’t recommend being lazy when it comes going after your dream job — I’ve created entire job application websites for roles I really want! But, this can be a good way to put your hat in the ring and open yourself up for new opportunities without wasting too much time and effort.
I don’t know about you, but this is one area of my life where I really struggle with all-or-nothing thinking.
I’m often guilty of leaving my friends (or even just followers in Instagram DMs) on read — not because I don’t care about them, but because I feel like I have to come up with a super long, thoughtful response in order to get back to them.
But, this just puts unnecessary pressure on me, and I’m working on taking small, imperfect steps to nourish the relationships in my life.
Some of my favourite ways to do this are:
Reach out to a friend when you think of them
Whether you see a meme that reminds you of them, a memory pops up on Facebook, or you just randomly think of them, send them a quick message at the time rather than thinking ‘oh, I should really organise to catch up with them later’ — because we both know that’s never going to happen!
I can guarantee they’ll appreciate the thought, even if your message is one line or a long-winded ramble.
Make last-minute arrangements
Previously, the idea of meeting up with a friend with no advance notice would have been enough to send my social anxiety into overdrive. But, a few of my friends are a fan of the last minute catch-up and I’ve actually realised that if anything, it’s better!
It doesn’t give me as much time to overthink things, and it’s a great way to fit in social engagements in a time where everyone’s so busy.
So, next time you’re in a friend’s neighbourhood, consider hitting them up to see if they’re free for a coffee!
Personal finances are one area where it’s so easy to get overwhelmed. From clearing debts to creating a budget, it can be hard to know where to even start.
But one great thing about money is that it’s also an area where small steps done consistently can make a huge difference.
We all know that sometimes this works against us — like when you realise that your daily almond milk latte habit has cost you over $2000 in a year. But it can also work the opposite way, to your advantage!
Here’s how to use the power of small, imperfect actions to boost your bank balance:
It’s literally never been easier to get into the investing game, with apps like Raiz (Acorns in the US), Spaceship and Stake allowing you to start your portfolio for as little as a few dollars. With many of these apps, you can even turn on round-ups, so that each time you make a transaction it automatically rounds it up to the nearest dollar and invests the rest.
I’ve previously used micro-investing as a way to save money into a bank account that’s hard to access (because it often takes up to seven days to receive your funds). Now, while this generally isn’t recommended as investing is meant to be the long-game, I find it’s imperfect yet effective to force myself to save more money!
Transfer money to savings every time you don’t make a purchase
Next time you find yourself deciding that maybe you don’t really need that third pair of black jeans or a takeaway meal when you already have a fridge full of food, reward yourself! Transfer the amount you would have otherwise spent on it into a savings account and watch your balance grow.
You can also try Emma from the Broke Generation’s automated saving hack, where certain things trigger savings automatically transferring into your account — like snoozing your alarm. Genius!
Home and life admin
This is probably my least favourite area of my daily life. There’s just something about the idea of having to change over bank accounts or clean the kitchen that just makes my head feel like an overheating microwave. But alas, I always feel SO much better when it’s done.
So, here are some ways to take imperfect action to get those mundane tasks done so they’re no longer hanging over your head.
Get your speed clean on
Cleaning your home doesn’t have to be this huge thing that takes up your entire Sunday. In fact, if it is, you’re far less likely to actually do it if it’s eating into your weekend time!
I’m a big fan of the speed clean, where you set a timer for 20 minutes to half an hour and do as much cleaning as you can in that time. You’d be surprised at how much you can achieve in that time, and it actually almost makes cleaning fun (almost!)
Try the 2-minute rule
This is a great rule of thumb to get those boring-yet-important tasks done, like changing a lightbulb or redirecting an address. If it’s going to take you less than two minutes to do it, just do it straight away — even if it’s imperfectly!
Usually, these things seem so much worse in our brains that they actually are in reality.
Health and wellness
Taking care of your body and mind isn’t something you just do once, then never again. It’s a constant, ongoing process and it’s not always going to look exactly the same.
Some days, you’ll be able to do a more vigorous workout and some days, you’ll be lucky to even drag yourself out of bed.
Here’s how to take imperfect action with your health and fitness, to make it a lifestyle not a chore.
Fit in micro workouts where you can
Rather than feeling like you have to do an hour-long workout or nothing, try dispersing micro workouts throughout your day.
Otherwise known as workout snacking (mm, snacks!) these are tiny exercises that you can fit into your daily life — think, doing a pushup when you get out of bed, or some squats while you’re cleaning your teeth.
It all adds up, but feels so much more doable on those days where you really can’t be bothered.
Do mini meditations or breathing exercises
You can also apply the same approach to your mental health, by doing mini mindfulness exercises throughout the day. Rather than feeling like you have to sit around cross-legged for half an hour every morning chanting, this makes it way more doable.
Plus, it’s a great way to hit ‘reset’ and recharge your batteries throughout the day, especially if you’re feeling tired and stressed.
I really love the Calm app, because they have meditations that are as short as 60 seconds. But, a lot of modern smartphones and smart watches also have breathing exercise apps, which are handy because you can do them anytime and anywhere!
This article was written by Emma Norris and originally published on A Girl In Progress.