Fix the Small Problems

Fix the Small Problems

Something doesn’t have to be terrible for you to take steps to fix it.


I have a backpack, and I frequently overfill it to the extent that I cause myself severe back pain. When I start cramping up between my shoulder blades, I remember that I can hoist up my bag and fasten it around my waist. When I do that, it’s a huge, palpable difference. The weight comes off my shoulders and is shifted to my hips, which are much more well suited to carry my laptop, 3 textbooks, spare shoes, food, change of clothes, water bottle, etc. Once I shift that weight to my hips, my shoulders slowly uncramp, and I massage my neck until it feels less painful. I barely feel it the next day.


I had a lightning bolt thought a few months ago, though: why do I wait until it hurts before I fasten the waist strap? Why don’t I put on my bag and immediately shift the weight to my hips, so I never experience pain in the first place?


A lot of people don’t deal with small problems. They only fix big problems.

The small problems are fairly ignorable. A messy roommate, but it’s fine. An inefficient task at work, but you can get around it. A partner who forgets that you’re lactose intolerant, but whatevs, you have lactaid pills. Each small problem takes a small solution. Why bother with the effort it will take to fix it?

Additionally, a lot of small problems involve other people. Why inconvenience another person for the sake of something which isn’t THAT bad?


Well, three reasons:

  1. Small problems get bigger
  2. Many small problems are sucky, when combined
  3. You shouldn’t have to deal with ANY problems, if they’re fixable.


My backpack problem is a #1 problem. It’s a small problem (heavy backpack) that turns into a large problem (back pain).

If you have multiple small problems, like # 2, each of them adds effort and frustration and annoyance to your day or week. That can honestly turn a good day into a grumpy one. Coworker always finishes the coffee pot without refilling it. Redundant tasks through work database wastes time to duplicate reports. Poorly placed trashcan gets ick all over your hands. Those annoyances, the same ones you have to deal with every day, grind you down. Each on their own might elicit an eye roll by the 2nd week dealing with it, but piled up? It feels terrible to deal with inefficiency, day in, day out.


And #3, you shouldn’t have to deal with stuff that sucks, even if it’s minor, even if it’s just the one thing.

You’re allowed to make changes. You’re ENCOURAGED to make changes. You get to decide how you want things to be. If there’s no consequence to fixing an annoyance, FIX IT.


If there is a consequence or barrier, that’s where I see a lot of people stall. If you have to, say, run that fix by another person who will have to approve that change, that can be tough or intimidating. But remember that you deserve to have good things.

For a long while, I was running two different reports at work every day, which said essentially the same thing. Two different departments received them, and each needed a different format. It added an extra 15 minutes to my day, every day, to duplicate my work. FINALLY, I asked the department receiving the barebones version of the report if they’d be willing to take the more complex version.

They said no.

To my shock and delight, my boss stood up for me for what seemed like a piffling issue. She pointed out that I was losing more than an hour of work a week, just duplicating this report. It was embarrassing to have multiple people arguing over what seemed so silly and small, to me. But my boss stood up for me. And she was right to do so. Now, when I see my coworkers doing what amounts to busy work, just to save someone else a few clicks, I fix it asap. No one needs to deal with an ongoing problem, even a tiny or silly problem.


Judge the consequences. Make an informed decision. I’m not telling you that you have to go way out of your way, or go to great effort, just to fix something that doesn’t bother you a lot. But if the fix isn’t as bad as the build-up of that problem, fix it. If you have a small quibble with a partner, deal with that problem. If you don’t like how your partner folks your shirts, or washes your dishes, or calls you by a nickname you don’t love, bring it up.

instead of being a teeny bit resentful, try… not being resentful. By not having anything to be resentful about. By asking for change. By dealing with the things that bug you, even if they seem silly or small.

You deserve to not have to deal with things that suck, no matter how small they are.

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