Lessons from the 4-day win experiment


Pamela Slim

I promised to report back today on the success of my 4-day win, which I shared earlier this week in Death to procrastination:  Use the 4-day win to get your goals moving.  I encouraged readers to share their own goals and we got some specific examples from Mike, Andy, Latarsha, Rosalind, Billionaire Strategies, Glenda, Kizla, Jan Marie and Judy (see comments on the original post).

My 4-day win involved working on a book proposal, a task I have tried to accomplish in the past (without success, and with great consternation).  My specific goals and rewards are in this worksheet (click to enlarge):
Here are three lessons I learned from the experience:

  1. It makes a HUGE difference to set a small, feasible goal each day.
    I have a classic case of what Martha describes as “monkey brain,” skittering from one bright shiny object to the next when I have loads of work to do.  But with a very small, specific task to accomplish each day, I had no problem getting the work done.  I didn’t feel pressured or rebellious and actually accomplished much more than my daily goal.  My thoughts flowed, and I didn’t exhibit usual signs of stress like a pounding heart, tight throat or pressure at my temples.
  2. A daily reward really works.
    I have had a lot of writing projects lately, and have been wanting to work on a very personal post about immigration, using photos of a farming family I stayed with in Mexico over 20 years ago. All the photos were in slide format, and I recently had them scanned into digital photographs.  Even though I was dying to look at the photos, I made myself wait until I accomplished my daily task.  The anticipation really built up and heightened the enjoyment of the reward.  Opening up each photo, I actually got tears in my eyes from connecting to such an important part of my past. It was a wonderful emotion to associate with my book proposal.
  3. When you accomplish small wins, you can stop and relax instead of living in a constant state of stress and dread.  I have been an “all or nothing” kind of gal for some important projects in the past, either whittling away hours and hours on small, insignificant tasks to avoid a big project or pounding away at the keyboard for hours on end up to the last second of a deadline.  I noticed it is much more stressful to avoid a task rather than to do a small portion of it.  When I accomplished my daily goal, I was able to step away from work and truly relax, which energized me for the next day.

The 4-day win really worked for me.  I am excited about incorporating it into my life and sharing it with my clients.

Alright Mike, Andy, Latarsha, Rosalind, Billionaire Strategies, Glenda, Kizla, Jan Marie and Judy, how did it work for you?

0 replies
  1. Mike DeWitt
    Mike DeWitt says:


    My experience was much like yours, particularly in the benefits department. One challenge for me was that the tasks for each day were slightly different, so the amount of time and effort varied more than it probably should for this type of system. That said, I think it’s a great system and I’ll definitely start another series this week (trying to refine my scoping and planning)!


  2. Glenda Watson Hyatt
    Glenda Watson Hyatt says:

    Unfortunately, mine isn’t a 4-day success story. Life happened! One day contractors were banging outside my window, then another of my commitments needed urgent attention, and then another chapter in our family drama unfolded – all making focused writing nearly impossible. But, I did finish another looming task and now I’m about to do some fact checking as I finish the draft of this article.

    I do like the 4-day concept, as well as SMART goals, but my problem is, when life gets in the way, I beat myself up for not keeping to my schedule and then I’m more easily distracted, which excaberates the beating I give myself. And so it goes!

  3. Jamie Beran
    Jamie Beran says:

    I didn’t sign-up, but did DO the 4-day win.

    The Big Goal is to run an 8K race in March

    I chose 15 minutes of exercise as the ridiculously easy day goal

    My rewards for each day ranged from allowing myself to sit and read each day to eating a small piece of chocolate.

    The ridiculously easy goal was the centerpiece. After all, if I couldn’t manage 15 minutes a day, then what was the point? (And I never went for just 15. Once I was there, 30 minutes was the norm.)

    The big reward- a massage–will have to wait a while, but the greatest reward was jump starting my program.

    Thanks for a great idea that can work for almost any goal!

  4. kizla
    kizla says:

    Well, I have to admit that I didn’t exactly make the 4-day win happen. BUT, I did write a bunch of Turtle Steps, which in itself was a step.

    Also, as Martha wrote about in North Star, I was overwhelmed with the desire to do creative things – I looked around my apartment and I wanted to repaint my bedroom. And while I know that probably sounds like procrastinating my actual goal (working on my book proposal also), it is actually something I have been meaning to do for months and months, and I took the turtle steps to get it done. Seriously, before I knew it, the room was done! It looks amazing. It made me change all sorts of things in my home, making me shift the way I see my little world.

    I know it sounds odd, but just making those creative steps in my environment has been making a huge difference for me. I have also been writing my Morning Pages, which the writer/teacher Julia Cameron recommends in The Artists’ Way.

    Today I also found out that I will be leaving my job of four years in May. I was hoping for a promotion that just doesn’t seem like it will ever materialize, and today’s meeting with my supervisor solidified my resolve to quit. It was sad and upsetting, since I had hoped to make it work, but after I kvetched and groaned to my friends and husband, I actually felt relieved. I realize that I have finally given myself permission to let go of my toxic job, to envision a new future for myself and feel …. free.

    Honestly, between Martha and Julia I feel like I have made more progress in the last few weeks than I have in months of therapy!

    I am looking forward to visiting here often and hearing about other people’s experiences.

  5. Matthew Cornell
    Matthew Cornell says:

    I love your willingness to experiment – It’s a trait that pays off, esp. when done over our entire lives. I think of it as being Scientists of Life. We’re made to experiment and learn, no question.

    I found helpful a compatible list here:

    Eight Do.s and Don.ts of Effective Goal Setting


    1. DO be specific. DON.T deal in absolutes.

    2. DO create a plan. DON.T wait for .someday. to roll around.

    3. DO write it down. DON.T forget to give yourself a deadline.

    4. DO start small. DON.T focus on too many things at once.

    5. DO leave room for failure. DON.T expect perfection.

    6. DO track your progress. DON.T fool yourself into failure.

    7. DO reward your success. DON.T beat yourself up over failure.

    8. DO find a support system. DON.T try to do it alone.

  6. Andy Pels
    Andy Pels says:

    Just want to report back that I failed to even embark on the test. I tweaked my back right after setting my goal, so I got very little done. I even missed my Mom’s birthday celebration where I could have had a Fenton’s black and tan sundae. Maybe the pressure was too much for me 🙂

    I am going to reset my goal as soon as I can move freely. I think it should be something to do with strength training this time.

    The feedback from everybody else is great. Thanks all.


  7. Rosalind Joffe
    Rosalind Joffe says:

    I forgot to report in – it seems so long ago. I learned that I’ve been setting short term goals for myself for years – it’s not hard for me to keep from being distracted doing them. So this exercise was pretty easy. It’s the bigger goals — like building my business to the “next level” that can leave me struggling. I have a harder time plugging in the 4 day goals that get me to the bigger target — and keeping on track with those. Rosalind


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Why exactly?I fondly remember how folks used to say, ”I don’t like my job”? Well not fondly exactly, but at least such language was a valid statement from a possibly well adjusted human being. When did the conversation become about “I quit my toxic job.” […]

  2. Karan says:


    I always enjoy coming to this site because you offer great tips and advice for people like me who can always use a few good pointers. I will be getting my friends to pop around fairly soon….

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