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The String #26: "Think Big, Work Small"

From abstraction to completion. A lesson learned after shipping my first web design project.

Jonas Achouri Sihlén
Jonas Achouri Sihlén
4 min read
The String #26: "Think Big, Work Small"
Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

🎧 The String Playlist 📖

A quote

Children grow up and discover that the world is not as it seemed from within the four walls of their homes. Humankind as a whole does the same. - Carlo Rovelli

This quote is from the book, The Order Of Time, by Carlo Rovelli.

I can truly recommend this lovely book about this basic concept we tend to take for granted and that we usually think we have too much of.

A beautiful combination of science and poetry. Not the ordinary type of book you would read from a Physicist.

A lesson

Even though I am super happy to share my first project milestone with you all, I want to go all in and brag about the fact that I have built something.
But this lesson is not about me.

It is about a timeless approach that I hope you all can benefit from when heading into your next project.

One of the main takeaways I learned from this project was the true meaning of thinking big and working small. Before we break it down a bit, here is a little cred to John Cutler who inspired me for not only the title but opened up the concept a bit.

The title inspiration for this issue is inspired by a tweet from John Cutler.

Think Big

To have a clear vision on what the end-goal would be without being paralysed from the amount of work that is required. To outline the path on how to reach that goal without going into too much details. A good mixture of planning context and creative exposure.

When we "Think Big" we want to open up for creativity at the same time we set a clear scope to start execute on.

💡  Basecamp calls this Principles of Shaping.

This is the part where I pretend to be a designer 👨‍🎨. I don't blame you if you laugh at my handwriting and lack of drawing skills.

My initial sketch on file- and HTML structure.

Luckily we have Figma 👇🏽.

This is where we start moving from the abstract thinking into more concrete iteration of design and development.

Work Small

This is about starting to iterate and execute on the tasks at hand. It can be daily wins or even more granular than that. The point is to have a laser focus on small chunks of work.

It all boils down to building up confidence and making progress. Showing yourself that you can complete one task after another. Taking a step-by-step progress without loosing your cadence of productivity.

To finally make sure that the tasks can be connected and validated towards the big goal.

This is easier said than done since it is not a straight-forward and linear process.

Making errors and trying to correct them along the way is not usually a recipe for confidence boosts. But yet so important for the learning process.

Defining a project into small chunks of work is not a new way of thinking though. That is how we refine our projects, backlogs and missions. It is very easy though to deviate from this and get into a state of "analysis by paralysis".

Here are a few of the small chunks I defined to not get paralysed:

  1. How can I use local fonts and link them through my .html and .css files?
  2. How can I include my images into the cards I want to present in my ”content box”?
  3. How can I add a subscription form button and make it aligned with the main content?

Eventually, these kind of daily wins added up to the simple website that was reviewed and approved by professionals and my teachers at Udacity.

A lil' extra bonus...on focus & productivity 👇🏽

Here are a few more takeaways I want to share with you if you are curios about the methods I use to keep the rhythm, motivation and discipline up. NB. My wife and kids are on vacay mode and have long sleep ins in the morning. Otherwise this schedule wouldn't be possible.

Preparations, usually between 6-6.30 am:

  • Hydration - drinking water.
  • Morning stretch or a walk outdoors.
  • Cold shower.

Learning/work sessions:

  • Timeboxed for 90 minutes.
  • No distractions allowed, except if my wife and kids wake up and need breakfast 🤷🏽‍♂️
  • Timer on and my phone off.
  • Right after my 90 minutes session really do: NOTHING for approx 15-20 minutes. Closing my eyes or just laying down.

These 90 minutes of work and study really feels like a mental workout so I spend the time right after to fully relax.

I hope you found this lesson useful. Maybe you want to share some reflections or own experiences with me? Just send me an email at or DM me on Twitter.


Here are a few good resources if you want to dive in more on the lesson above.

📖   Think Big Work Small - By John Cutler.

📖  Stop Running In Circles - webbook. - Basecamp.

👂  Using Failures, Movement & Balance To Learn Faster - A. Huberman.

🧵 Reddit thread as a summary on the episode above.

A tune

Wrapping up with a tune. I hope you'll enjoy this song as much as I do 🙏🏽 ❤️

This song was presented to me by my wife a few months back actually. An excellent instrumentalist interpreting and playing a song and melody that you might recognise?

A true musical souvenir... 🙏🏽 🎧