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Notice The Little Things

When it comes to our lives, we often get caught up looking at it from a big picture view.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

“What are your big plans for the year?”

Or specifically in the FIRE community…

What is your FIRE date?

While a big picture view is essential to help build a robust strategy to reach your long term goals, when you look at everything from the big picture level you tend to lose sight of many smaller things happening around you.

It’s a fast paced world we live in, with many people seemingly going through the same routine over and over again such that all the days begin to blend together. When this happens, not only do the days blend together (big picture), but you begin to lose sight of the smaller things that happen each day too.

These little things that happen are important. They are the things that make each day special and different from the last.

When you strive to notice the little things, you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference that makes not only in all aspects of your life, but the world around you.

Work

When it comes to work, noticing the little things can set you apart from the crowd.

Ask your manager or supervisor what exactly it is that they like or prefer. I found out through this that my current manager likes her charts formatted a certain way and detests spelling errors, so every time I send her stuff, I have it in the exact way she desires.

Find out the little things you could be doing to make your manager or coworkers’ lives easier. When you take things off their plates, not only will they be grateful that you’ve lightened their load, but you’ve shown the ability to be proactive and can handle the tasks that they couldn’t get to.

Back when I worked for a couple months at a liquor store right after graduating college, my manager was bummed out when I gave him my two weeks as I was starting my full time job.

He told me I was one of his best employees ever (humble brag). When I asked him why that was, he said it was simply because I did all the little things right. When I noticed things that needed to be put away in the store aisles, I did. I showed up to work on time. I helped out other employees when needed. I had a good attitude.

I heard a similar thing from the lead machine operator at the cardboard box factory I worked at. He said the unit operated at one of its highest productivity levels when I was there.

Not only because I could load the cardboard quickly into the machine so it could run at faster speeds, but because I noticed when certain pieces would hamper the machine and set something off, so I was proactive and removed them before that was possible.

When you can make the lives of your managers and coworkers easier, who do you think they would vouch for to promote or give higher raises? (if possible and pending your profession of course)

Finances

Noticing the little things in your finances can make a huge difference in your financial life.

Track your expenses to make sure your spending is aligning with your values.

By combing through your credit card and bank statements, you may find charges for things you didn’t even know you were spending money on, or egregious spending elsewhere. More nefariously, you could also find fraudulent charges or other bank fees you didn’t know you were incurring by paying closer attention to these things.

Move your savings account(s) or emergency fund to a high interest account.

Check the interest your savings accounts or emergency fund is earning. Most big banks give out a paltry interest rate, sometimes less than 0.1%. Why earn that little amount of interest when you can move it to other savings accounts like Ally, Goldman Sachs or Barclays and get interest rates at 2.2%+?

This can be such a simple move, yet you’ll see an immediate difference in your returns.

Analyze your investment portfolio to find out your funds expense ratios.

If your investments are in funds that have high expense ratios, that can be an absolute killer on your returns over the long run. Choose low cost index funds if possible, as that can sometimes be the easiest, most laissez-faire approach.

While periodically tracking this, you can also monitor your asset allocation to make sure this aligns with your desired risk tolerance.

There are dozens of other small things you can also do for your finances such as periodically checking to see if you can get lower rates on your recurring bills (car/home insurance, internet/phone, etc), using credit cards (responsibly) for cash back or rewards points and learning the rules of the game.

Relationships

Building and maintaining relationships can be tough. Each person has different wants/needs/priorities/interests/etc. It can be a lot to manage!

Because of all this, it can be easy to ignore the small things and focus on the big picture. Remembering the big events is the important thing, right?

While yes, that is definitely important, you can also improve your relationships by noticing and keeping track of the little things.

Help your parents out with the multitude of tasks they have to deal with. Maybe that’s yard work, scheduling appointments or events, or getting them involved in the community.

Keep in touch with your friends. Give them a call if you know they have a birthday or big event coming up, or if you see them post something on social media that resonates with you. Plan that next vacation with them.

By getting involved in the small things, you also get more involved in their lives, which can bring your relationships closer.

If you have a significant other, noticing the small things is essential. When you’re in a relationship, you’re part of a team and if one member isn’t noticing or remembering the small things, you can be sure the other person is, which creates an unfair balance.

I recently read the book, Fed Up, by Gemma Hartley, which goes into detail about the unspoken emotional labor in relationships that is typically picked up by women.

When you fail to notice the little things, or simply don’t do tasks when you notice them, you are pretty much saying “that’s not my problem” or it’s “not worth my time”, in essence putting off those acts that need to be done and making your partner pick up the slack.

These can be common things like doing the laundry, cleaning dishes, putting shoes away, etc. But it can also be more substantial things like being an actual parent to your kids (if you have any), scheduling appointments, knowing specific dates and/or times that things need to be done, etc.

It’s a lot of work, and you need to put the effort in.

I’m no relationship expert, and have never lived with a partner so I can’t tell if this is something I will drop the ball on, but I know it is something I’ll be cognizant of when the time comes.

Notice The Little Things

When you notice the little things, not only are you benefitting your life, but you can make the lives of those around you better as well.

It’s not easy, and in some cases can take a lot of effort, but it is absolutely worth it, and even essential in many cases if you want a successful and happy life.

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What other things did I miss? Are there any other ways in which noticing the little things has helped your life or other lives out?

8 thoughts to “Notice The Little Things”

  1. I generally agree. When I was reading this, I thought of the Pareto Principle, where 80% of the results come from 20% of your efforts. So it’s a matter of finding the 20% that will move the needle.

    One caveat is that it’s also possible to get too caught up in little things that don’t matter. The one example that comes to mind is coupon-clipping to save a few cents vs using the same time to earn more income. What are your thoughts on striking the right balance?

    1. This is a great point, it really is all about the balance. Sometimes people can get so caught up in the small, minute details and forget about the big picture. Finding that balance where you can notice and not overlook some of the more important small things while focusing on the big picture is what you’re really after.

  2. I agree that little things mean a lot. In my career I rose from intern to running a large company and a lot of it was I polished my presentations and typos and math mistakes basically were nonexistent. In fact I became the company proofreader and everyone brought me their reports to scan before they turned them in.

    In relationships I have found just what you said, my wife and I just celebrated our 41st anniversary this week. And the things that meant the most to her this week were my unloading the dishwasher before she could get to it and making the bed, not the date on the calendar. Tiny little things, but far from meaningless to her.

  3. This is why I enjoy being out in nature so much, to notice the little things. Some people see a trail as just a dirt path through a bunch of trees, but I enjoy observing all the subtleties of nature, from plants to bugs to the way the light shines on things. It helps me do the same in other parts of life.

    1. Absolutely! Seeing how the trail bends, the different plants growing, or the way the trees are shaped is so interesting and helps you really to put things into perspective. Well said!

  4. So true! It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you have to do the little things to win the marathon. At work, some of the most important things you can do are little: show up every day, stay in your lane and be productive.

    Never been in a relationship with a significant other but I imagine you’re right there too! 🙂

    1. Exactly! Coworkers and managers appreciate those little things so much more than people realize. Do those little things day in and day out and it’s surely will hep out in many ways.

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