The Dangerous Trap of All-or-Nothing Thinking

See if this sounds familiar…

You committed to sending out 10 prospecting emails this week. But by Thursday afternoon you haven’t sent a single one.

Now you’re slammed with other work. Yes, you might have time to send two or three emails — if you’re lucky.

Then again, what’s the use? If you can’t send all 10 emails, maybe you should just wait till next week, right?

I call it all-or-nothing thinking. It’s very common. And very dangerous. (I’m certainly not immune to it, so I know!)

You don’t have a full hour to do your workout, so you don’t do anything that day.

You were going to call your parents to see how they’re doing. But you don’t have a full hour to talk, so you don’t call at all.

You were going to touch base with three previous clients. But you have only 20 minutes before you have to leave for the day. So you don’t call any of them.

Here’s the thing: It’s better to do something small than nothing at all.

Better to work out for 20 minutes than to skip the whole thing.

Better to chat with your parents for 15 minutes than to not call at all.

Better to send out two warm emails this week than to wait until you have time to send a bigger batch.

Two warm emails a week is about 100 emails per year. And when done right, those emails can generate five or more positive responses. Which could lead to one or two new clients.

Plus, you get better when you practice. Even if it’s just for a few minutes every week.

You get more efficient. And over the course of a year, these little efforts can change your world.

It’s a compounding effect we don’t notice… because it happens so gradually.

So think about what you’ve been putting off because you just “don’t have time.” Break up that big task into little actions. And commit to taking just a few simple, easy actions consistently, even if it’s not as much as you’d planned to do.

Give it a couple of months. You won’t believe the results.



  • Haha I’m SO guilty of the “I’ll skip my workout because I only have 20 minutes” thing. With prospecting I always need a few minutes to get into my groove so when time is short I’ll often skip it just because the transition from the mindset I’m currently in to the one I need to be in takes longer than it’s worth, at least to me. I get around this by scheduling that stuff into my calendar just like I’d schedule client work. It’s not a perfect system but it helps.

  • Laura Sayegh

    Great ideas. We have to make the most of every second.

  • I so needed to read this today. I’ve done lots of prospecting this week, but not got around to sending out any emails. My day didn’t run to plan, so I decided i would wait till next week, even though I could probably have done a couple. I will definitely be following this advice from now on!

  • Cheryl Williams

    So true! I feel very stretched at times, but taking a step forward is better than standing still. Like you, I believe we will get better if we keep trying. Thanks for the tips, Ed!

  • David Nix

    You’re right! This is very easy to do & we are all guilty of it at some point. Thanks for the push! 🙂

  • Ted Goldwyn

    On the money as always Ed! Happens to me all the time. My three hour “prospecting” block got deferred this week due to heavy client project work, so I ended up doing no prospecting at all. But Monday starts a new week!

  • JoAnne Burek

    I love this article and all of these comments. We can be so much kinder to ourselves if we are willing to take some our work in chunks. I’m thinking how motivating it would be to tally my efforts on a scorecard, to be examined at the end of a stretch (e.g. how many warm emails did I send this week?)

  • Alberto

    Nice, Ed, as always. You know your audience so deeply… Good job. You deserve success, man.

  • Thanks, Ed. I put off contacting new schools every day this week when I should have contacted at least two. However, I did follow up with the previous school, which doesn’t make me feel like such a slacker.

  • Right on, Ed. This also works for writing assignments themselves — 20 minutes invested in research or outlining can make a huge difference when a deadline is approaching.