Incremental Improvements

In “One Percent Better“, Elder Michael A. Dunn talks about making incremental improvements in our lives. “Every effort we make – no matter how tiny it seems to us – just might make the biggest difference in our lives.” Where can we make these improvements? How do we identify where and what to improve?

Taking Inventory

If we try to just jump in and tackle improving ourselves wholesale, we will quickly get overwhelmed. We should take an approach to identify areas where we need to improve. Taking inventory of our lives to identify the areas we want to improve on will lead to success.

How to take inventory? I always start with the “Primary Answers.” How am I doing with the following?

  • Daily Prayer
  • Scripture Study
  • Family Prayer
  • Family Scripture Study
  • Seeking Wisdom in Good Books
  • Filling My Time with Meaningful Activities
  • Church Attendance
  • Temple Attendance
  • My Calling

The list can get long quickly, but once I have a list, I can begin to review each item for improvements. The key is to recognize where I can improve in an area and then set a reasonable goal for improvement.

For example, daily prayer. I do well in having prayer in the morning. However, the rest of the day not so much. Realizing this, I have set a goal to pray before going to bed at night. I don’t have the reference, but it’s been said that a goal not written down and tracked is a wish. For me, I have added prayer to my “PM Routine.” This allows me to track my progress on this goal.

Setting Goals

The example above sets a goal of daily nighttime prayer. The goal isn’t specific enough though to track properly. A goal needs to be S.M.A.R.T. which stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time Bound

Using this on my nighttime prayer goal S.M.A.R.T would be:

  • Specific – I will pray before laying down in bed for the night
  • Measurable – I will mark my PM Routine card after I pray
  • Achievable – The first two points in this list ensure this
  • Relevant – Strengthens my relationship with God
  • Time Bound – I will do this every night for 14 days

Setting goals this way will allow for one to not feel overwhelmed. There is a sense of achievement in an understood time frame.

Tracking Progress

To build confidence and to show success goals must be tracked. The measurable part of S.M.A.R.T is where this tracking is done. Even a small piece of paper with checkboxes can work. My AM/PM Routine is on a half piece of paper.

Incremental Improvements Cycle

In order to have continuous incremental improvements, we can put the previous steps into a cycle as shown in the featured image. Taking Inventory leads to Setting Goals which leads to Tracking Progress which inspires us to take inventory again.


Elder Dunn quotes James Clear, “habits are the ‘compound interest of self-improvement.’ If you can get just one percent better at something each day, by the end of a year … you will be 37 times better.” The cycle of Taking Inventory, Setting Goals, and Tracking Progress creates those habits. However, there is “one caveat with this approach … that for small gains to aggregate, there must be a consistent, day-in and day-out effort.” This effort plus reviewing our progress via a tracker will increase our confidence in reaching the goals and improving our lives.

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