The Minimum Effective Dose


It was 11:32 on a Thursday night. It's only been two weeks since I started the site and I'm already having second thoughts. The last hour was wasted as I stared at the mostly blank screen of my text editor. I told myself, “Write one simple sentence. I can do that!"

The minimum effective dose (MED) is used in medicine and is defined as “the smallest dose that will produce the desired outcome.” The outcome I needed was to get off the floor. My MED became writing one sentence.

What’s your desired outcome?

I can be an unbalanced person, prone to extremes. All or nothing. But important things in life are rarely achieved in one marathon effort from beginning to end. It’s usually simple things we do each day that make a big difference in our lives. That’s where the beauty of applying this idea can be so helpful.

I don’t like running. I like being finished with a run, but while I’m doing it, it’s not that enjoyable. My MED for running would be to put on my running shoes. Then to walk out the door. Do I think about the 5000+ steps I’ll take on my 3-4 mile jog? Definitely not; it’s depressing. Instead I focus on the step that comes after the step I’ve just taken.

I love my daughter. But I don’t do that by going out and buying her an inflatable jumping castle. I do that by making small decisions everyday to spend more time with her. To have more patience. To find the learning moments and capitalize on them. To read her books and tell her I love her. It’s the small things that add up to a big difference.

What’s your MED for a given project or goal?

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”
— Henry Ford

Just ask yourself, “What is the most simple thing I can do right now that will bring me closer to my intended outcome?” Break things down until you can proclaim with confidence, “I can do that!” Then take immediate action.

Why MED Works?

  • It’s simple (and easy to understand)
  • It’s immediate (and you feel good)
  • It’s actionable (and results are motivating)
  • It’s effective (and makes things happen)

When I look back on the last year, I’m excited by my progress. For the first time in my life, I’m consistently making progress on important life goals. Here are a few things I’ve accomplished using this principle:

  • Refinanced my house (sent one email)
  • Incorporated business into LLC (made one phone call)
  • Purchased health and life insurance (scheduled one meeting)
  • Made this website (made one decision)

What will you get done?

A Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.” I don’t know what outcome you’re hoping for, but I do know it’s only going to happen after you take that first step.


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