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What does it take to achieve top 1% performance in your craft?
What are the productivity secrets of world class overachievers like Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos; and many others who left their names written in history due to their great accomplishments?
While all of these greats had a talent for their craft, it was their passion, persistence and the productivity science that ensured historic heights of productivity.
Working smart, not hard, will help you outperform your peers. So let us dig into the most effective ideas proposed by the productivity science.
The Dunning-Kruger effect is named after David Dunning and Justin Kruger for their research; which was published in 1999 by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (1)
Their article “Unskilled and unaware of it” describes a cognitive bias. This bias causes amateurs, in many social and intellectual domains, to overestimate their abilities – without being aware of it.
The Dunning-Kruger effect leads people to reach wrong conclusions and make unfortunate choices while, at the same time, being unable to realize how wrong they are.
While this was not a remarkable discovery, it did shine light on troublesome cognitive bias which we all share.
The Dunning-Kruger effect goes to show that there is a lot that we do not know, which can lead us to bad decision making.
The steep decline in self-evaluation, which you can see in the chart, is a result of humbling experiences. Costly mistakes which one could have avoided, if only they knew.
What can we learn from the Dunning-Kruger effect about productivity?
- Stay humble.
- Take advice from those more experienced than you.
- Learn from the mistakes of others.
- Always look for new tricks of the trade that will boost your productivity.
- Judge your abilities according to your results.
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates
The Eisenhower Matrix, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix, was invented by none other than Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States.
Before his presidency, which lasted from 1953 to 1961, he served as a general in the United States Army and as the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War ll. The Eisenhower Matrix served its maker through many tough decisions. Due to his renowned achievements, the urgent-important matrix became popular as a productivity tool of a historic figure.
It was later further popularized in the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, written by Stephen Covey. Known as one of the most compelling books, it continues to be a best seller after empowering and inspiring readers for over 25 years.
The Eisenhower Matrix has since been used for a variety of software applications aimed to improve productivity and time management.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a great way to easily prioritize when you are dealing with a batch of tasks or a big workload. It is also a great example of keeping things simple when it comes to prioritizing.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” –Stephen Covey
Improve your decision making | Increase productivity in 2020
The Pareto principle is a very rich example of productivity science. Also known as the Pareto distribution, the 80/20 rule, the principle of factor sparsity and the law of the vital few. (2)
The principle was first noted by an Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who noted the 80/20 distribution in his first work Manual of political economy back in year 1896. He observed the pattern in Italy’s land ownership distribution.
Later, it was popularized by Joseph M. Juran, who wrote several books on the topic of managerial consultancy. In his book Managerial Breakthrough, Juran applied the Pareto principle to the issue of quality in management.
The Pareto principle is one of the most rewarding lifehacks that productivity science has to offer. You can easily apply the 80/20 rule to yourself in order to boost your results.
How to 80/20 your activities:
Write out the 80% of daily habits that take up most of your time and provide you with no results. These are your time consuming leisure habits, as well as procrastination and busywork.
Then, list out the 20% of your top performance habits which produce 80% of your results. This is when you get in the zone and perform at your best. However, these are also your healthy habits, like workout or reading, which contribute to your productive mindset.
Now, just try to cut back on the most time consuming leisure activities and spend more time on the result producing activities.
“Believe it or not, it is not only possible to accomplish more by doing less, it is mandatory.” –Tim Ferris
Time management skills | How to stay focused | Top productivity gadgets for 2020
“It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
This was the first sentence of an essay, published by The Economist in 1955 and written by Cyril Northcote Parkinson. He was a British naval historian and author of over 50 books. The essay was featured again in his best selling book Parkinson’s Law.(3)
Parkinson observed, and reported in his research, an increase of employees at the Colonial Office during the decline of the British Empire. He noted that the number of employed in bureaucracy rose by 5-7% per year “irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done.”
Parkinson’s law is a great example of how busywork, procrastination and perfectionism create excess work. This work could have been avoided with better management. Here, the productivity science teaches us how a little bit of oversight goes a long way.
Most of the projects that you work on come with a deadline, or require time and effort to be accomplished.
When dealing with a deadline, then focus only on the work. Free up your plans, so that you can dedicate more time to completing your goal before the deadline.
On the other hand, if your goal can only be realized over time, then it is best to separate the work into small tasks. This way, you will turn your daily grind into an easy chore.
“Bureaucracy is the death of all sound work.” –Albert Einstein
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Compound interest is when you get a return on the investment and then reinvest it back, along with the rest of your capital. The term is most widely known in finance, because it displays the potential of compound interest to your savings account or investment portfolio.
The concept of compounding interest can also be applied to building knowledge, mastering skills, improving productivity and scaling up success. When you scale up anything consistently, then, with time, you grow exponentially more productive. That is the true power of compound interest.
You can find examples of compounding in anything that thrives on hardship. Take for example Olympic athletes, or billionaire investors, or historic inventors. People who were willing to push themselves, and their ideas, harder than anyone else.
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffett
3 types of habits
Personal planners have been brought to popular use in recent history, some 200 years ago, by Benjamin Franklin; one of the eight Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin kept a small private book with his own planning system. This was detailed in the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.
More recently, in 1984, Hyrum W. Smith built a time management system which he named The Franklin Planner. He went on to build a successful business producing and selling personal planners.
What makes personal planners a great addition to the productivity sciences is that it holds you accountable to your goals, so that you do not stray, or fall short, from your target.
Personal planner is the single more practical productivity tool. I believe in its utility so much, that I have made a printable version of my proprietary planner, so that anyone who is eager to make it can benefit from my experience.
This planner is the best way for you to utilize your newfound productivity skills and start producing outstanding results.
Here is how you can make the most out of productivity science:
- Print out your own copy of the monthly planner.
- Set out a few meaningful goals that you would like to work on this month.
- Use the Pareto principle to narrow down your focus to a few most profitable activities.
- Use the Eisenhower matrix to help you manage time for your chosen activities.
- When analyzing results, remember Parkinson’s law and remain vigilant for procrastination.
- Have faith in the process and you will reap compounded reward for your effort.
“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.” –Elon musk
Let’s review our productivity science lessons for the day:
- The Dunning-Kruger effect is when amateurs overestimate their abilities and make mistakes.
- Eisenhower matrix helps you organize tasks according to their importance and urgency.
- The Pareto principle shows a common 80/20 distribution between effort and results.
- Parkinson’s law reveals how busywork arises when there is a lack of responsible oversight.
- Compound interest shows the potential of consistent effort.
- Personal planner is the most practical productivity science.
Achieving high performance is a matter of working smart – not working hard. While there are many tricks in every industry, there is no substitute for passion and consistency.
Productivity science comes naturally over time to those who hone their craft. However, it comes naturally over a very long while. Perfecting your skills will take a lot of time and mistakes, unless you direct your efforts with the lessons from the productivity science.
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