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Fitts' Law and the Beauty of Big Goals

Fitts' Law, and the Beauty of Big Goals

Editor's note: Happy New Year, gang! Tiny Improvements took off for a few weeks at the end of the year so I could fix my leg, lol, but we're back in action and will be coming to your inbox mostly-weekly for the foreseeable future. I hope you're well.

Fitts' Law is simple: the time required to move to a target is a function of the distance to the target and the size of the target. The further away and smaller the target, the longer it takes to reach it. The closer and larger the target, the faster it is to reach it. (Wikipedia)

An illustration of Fitts' Law

This is the reason that actions you take in phone apps are on large buttons near where your thumb is. It's why the "X" to close a window is in the top right corner of the screen. It's also why it's so hard to click on a tiny link on a website, and why you have to focus more to move your cursor to the right spot in a text document.

Big, well-placed targets are easier to hit than small, far away targets.

...You see where I'm going with this yet?

Tiny Improvements and Big Goals

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that it's easy to reach your goals. No matter what you're after, it's going to take time, effort, and focus. But I do think that it's easier to reach your goals if you set some audacious targets, and work towards them with small, consistent improvements.

When I set out to start publishing articles, I made a list of 50 people from the industry who I would be thrilled to see reading my words. This was my target - the bullseye I was aiming for. These weren't necessarily people I knew, but they were people who I admired, and who I thought would be interested in what I had to say.

Every time I brainstormed new topics, I'd try to write for the people on that list. Was it reasonable to think that I'd get any these 50 people to read what I have to say? Maybe not, but the audacity of the goal helped me to focus on writing for a specific audience, and that's helped me to write better.

From there, I started publishing an article a week (this was before Tiny Improvements existed). I would thoughtfully share my work through twitter, reddit, LinkedIn, and When the context was right, I'd reply to posts from the people on my list, and I'd try to be helpful and add value to the conversation.

And you know what?

It was less than three months before I had one of the people on that list read and respond to one of my articles (on Twitter, which was a different place back then).

Fast forward to today, and after years of consistent effort, I've gotten better at writing, and built a small audience. From time-to-time, I even get messages from friends that they've seen my articles shared by people they follow, which is a pretty cool feeling.

One of my articles share on twitter by Sebastien Lorber from This Week in React, and responded to by Joel Hooks from
I got a message from a friend after Sebastien was kind enough to share a recent article of mine on twitter, and it got a reply from Joel. I've been learning from both of these dudes for years, and it was a great feeling to see them talking about my work.

My great, big goal was to get one of these 50 people to read and respond to one of my articles, and it was a great feeling! The surprising side-effect was that I had also built a growing audience of people who were interested in what I was sharing, and I was helping people all over the world who were trying to learn the same things I was learning.

That's why I love Fitts' Law: it's a reminder that big targets are easier to hit than small ones. If I had set out to get one person to read my articles, I probably would have stopped after the first few weeks. But because I had a big goal, I was able to focus on the small, consistent improvements that would get me there.

So: when you set goals, make 'em big.

Tools for moving towards that big bullseye

  • I love The Theme System Journal, because it looks at New Years' resolutions through a simpler lens: you'll set a theme for your year, and every day you'll do something to move towards that theme. It fosters gratitude and self-reflection, which are critical tools for personal growth.

  • If you're building a product by yourself, Indiehackers is a great community for getting feedback and support. It's a great place to share your work, and to learn from others who are doing the same.

  • For learning and inspiration, The podcast Acquired is a great listen. They do deep dives on the stories behind some of the biggest acquisitions in tech, and it's a great way to learn about the history of the industry.

From one of my other corners of the internet

We've been busy over at APIs You Won't Hate, the community website I run with the help of my friends Phil Sturgeon and Alex Karan. We'll be realeasing a bunch of new podcasts in the coming weeks, and have recently published a handful of articles:

And hey, I'm still at it over on Threads @irreverentmike - I'd love to hear from you if you're on there!


Thanks for reading Tiny Improvements. If you found this helpful, I'd love it if you shared this with a friend. It helps me out a great deal.

Until next time - be excellent to each other!

Fitts' Law and the Beauty of Big Goals

Fitts' Law is a fundamental principle of UX design and usability. It states that the time required to move to a target is a function of the distance to the target and the size of the target. The further away and smaller the target, the longer it takes to reach it. The closer and larger the target, the faster it is to reach it.


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