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Tag: productivity

Warren Buffett’s System for Sharpening Your Career Focus

Image result for warren buffett

James Clear shares an interesting anecdote, reportedly based on advice legendary investor Warren Buffet (pictured above) gave to his personal pilot, Mike Flint.

If you don’t want to click through, here’s the TLDR for how the Oracle of Omaha said to focus on what’s most important in your work:

  1. List your top 25 career goals
  2. Circle the 5 most important
  3. The key: Avoid the other 20 “goals” until you’ve accomplished the first 5

That’s it. Do what’s important until the big stuff is taken care of.

I like it. 

Related: my Book Notes entry from last year on “The One Thing,” By Gary Keller with Jay Papasan:

Brief re-cap: This is a short book with a simple thesis: In every job, there is one single activity that you should focus on that will improve your value to your company or your customers. You should focus on that, above all else, even if it means neglecting other responsibilities, the authors argue.

Book Notes — ‘The One Thing,’ by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan

Note: I have long kept written notes on index cards about the books I read. I decided to share some of these thoughts here, and will be posting them, one by one on individual books, in no particular order. I’ll group them all together on a central page later. Thanks to Derek Sivers for the inspiration.

2016-01-02_one_thing

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
By Gary Keller with Jay Papasan
Published: April, 2013
Read: December, 2015
Amazon link.

Brief re-cap: This is a short book with a simple thesis: In every job, there is one single activity that you should focus on that will improve your value to your company or your customers. You should focus on that, above all else, even if it means neglecting other responsibilities, the authors argue.

I didn’t find this book revelatory, exactly, but it served as a useful reminder of the necessity of prioritizing the most crucial projects over all others.

My notes:

  • You must disabuse yourself of several common notions in order to have the biggest impact in your work and life. One is the idea that humans are adept at multitasking, that we can do it all. You can only ever concentrate on one thing at a time. So choose wisely.

    Another myth is the idea that willpower is available on demand. In fact, willpower decreases throughout the day, like a cellphone battery draining bit by bit. That means you must get your most important work done early in the day, while you’re still able to concentrate to the best of your abilities.

  • You should block out four hours on your calendar every day for your “one thing,” and treat it like an appointment that can’t be broken. Day after day of concentration on your most important work will yield big results down the line.
  • Embrace chaos. When you prioritize your “one thing,” some other stuff won’t get done. But that’s okay.
  • Derek Sivers: ‘Relax for the Same Result’

    I like this anecdote from Derek Sivers* about effort, stress, and the importance of relaxation while working:

    A few years ago, I lived in Santa Monica, California, right on the beach.

    There’s a great bike path that goes along the ocean for 7½ miles. So, 15 miles round trip.

    On weekday afternoons, it’s almost empty. It’s perfect for going full-speed.

    So a few times a week, I’d get on my bike and go as fast as I could for the 15 mile loop. I mean really full-on, 100%, head-down, red-faced, sprinting.

    I’d finish exhausted, and look at the time. 43 minutes. Every time. Maybe a minute more on a really windy day. But basically always 43 minutes.

    After a few months, I noticed I was getting less enthusiastic about this bike ride. I think had mentally linked it with being completely exhausted.

    So one day I decided I would do the same ride, but just chill. Take it easy, nice and slow. OK not super-slow, but dialing it back to about 50% of my usual effort.

    Give it a read.

    *Sivers, a longtime tech entrepreneur, has a great website. I especially like his section devoted to book recommendations.

    Productivity Tip: ‘Iterate Toward Perfection,’ But Forget Perfection Exists

    Matt Might, whose account of having a disabled child I mentioned previously, also has an interesting post on productivity tips for academics.

    The advice can be applied to people working in many professions, though, not just academia.

    I really like this bit:

    Iterate toward perfection

    Treat perfection like a process, not an achievable state. Perfectionism is crippling to productivity. I’ve known academics that can’t even start projects because of perfectionism. I know some academics that defend their lack of productivity by proudly proclaiming themselves to be perfectionists. I’m not so sure one should be proud of perfectionism. I don’t think it’s bad to want perfection; I just think it’s unrealistic to expect it.

    The metric academics need to hit is “good enough,” and after that, “better than good enough,” if time permits. Forget that the word perfect exists. Otherwise, one can sink endless amounts of time into a project long after the scientific mission was accomplished. One good-enough paper that got submitted is worth an infinite number of perfect papers that don’t exist.

    Yes.

    Ann Friedman’s Visual Guide to Dealing with Criticism

    2015 07 22 matrix

    Journalist Ann Friedman created this excellent graphic, which she calls the “Disapproval Matrix.” It helps determine how you should deal with criticism based on who’s giving it.

    As she writes:

    The general rule of thumb? When you receive negative feedback that falls into one of the top two quadrants—from experts or people who care about you who are engaging with and rationally critiquing your work—you should probably take their comments to heart. When you receive negative feedback that falls into the bottom two quadrants, you should just let it roll off your back and just keep doin’ you.

    Sounds like good advice to me.

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