Set yourself up to succeed. Here are three straightforward techniques to do so.
- Pareto’s principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. Spend your time on the vital few. Around his time, economist Vilfredo Pareto conducted a study showing that 20% of the Italian population controlled 80% of the land. Over the years, business and natural phenomena were observed to follow this pattern. 20% of the output comes from 80% of the input while 80% of the output springs from 20% of the input. For example, 80% of the sales are generated by 20% of the salespeople.
- Pomodoro technique. Try it for 25 minutes, even if you don’t feel like it (yet). This technique hails from the use of a timer that looks like a tomato. Hence the name pomodoro, the Italian word for tomato. The intervals chunk the task into productive work sprints, instead of dragged marathons.
- Three things today. Accomplish three objectives in one day and you move three steps closer towards your goal. That’s over a thousand steps closer in a year.
Here are three perspectives that promote the idea of focused work.
- Neuroscientific perspective tells us that our brains physically transform with more concentration. Opt for intense concentration and choose targets with care. Some reading below.
- Carstensen, L. (2005) ‘At the Intersection of Emotion and Cognition: Aging and the Positivity Effect’, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14.3: 117-121.
- Csikzentmihalyi, M. (1990), Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, New York: Harper & Row Publishers, pp.71.
- Fredrickson, B. (2009), Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive, New York: Crown Archetype.
- Gallagher, W. (2009), Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, New York: Penguin, pp.3.
- Psychological studies show us the benefits of focused, uninterrupted concentration. These areas have been identified to have the best moments and where jobs are more enjoyable. Some light reading below.
- Csikzentmihalyi, M. (1983), ‘The Experience Sampling Method’, New Directions for Methodology of Social & Behavioral Science.
- Csikzentmihalyi, M., Flow, pp.3, 162, 157.
- A philosophical perspective explains that depth in work and other areas of life makes for a more meaningful life. Some more light reading below.
- Dreyfus, H. and Kelly, S.D. (2011) All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age, New York: Free Press, pp.xi.
P.S. Deep Work author Cal Newport is a professor of computer science. He writes about deep work, digital minimalism, and attention capital theory. On top of his professorial duties.
Here are the other versions
The belief in the esoteric egoistic genius is out. Grit is in.
- Talent + Effort = Skill. Skill + Effort = Achievement. This is the grit formula. Without effort, talent does not equal skill. Without effort, skill does not equal achievement. It’s not enough to count on talent or skill, put in the effort. Don’t worry about whatever label others cast on you as you actually try. The ones who do something are the ones who get something done.
- Grit is persistent effort towards a goal that we hold in our mind. Goal here refers to a long-term passion or an overarching philosophy that gives meaning to life. It’s not just any goal but it’s a goal that is worth pursuing, over and over, for a long time.
- Hold a searing goal in your mind and work on it with enthusiasm and passion everyday until you accomplish it. It’s not one swooping act of success that defines a person. It’s the consistent work behind the success. If superficial success falls on your lap, it’s not success at all, it’s a hand-out. If you work on something with determination and perseverance, even if you superficially fail, it’s not a loss. Grit lies in the process and the process will not fail you.
P.S. Angela Duckworth, a McArthur grant winner, is known for her research on grit. Her book Grit: The Power of Perseverance and Passion is a good starting point for exploring grit. The examples are relatable. The stories give you context. She also read the audiobook herself.
Yes, it is good to fail. Fast and forward. Here are three advantages of failing.
- Failure is a learning opportunity.
- Failure is a reset. Failure is not final, it is only a starting point.
- Failure is a meaningful source of energy.
Flow means being in the zone. It’s a powerful state. You know you’re in it when these three things happen.
- You are one with the task. You are intensely focused on what you are doing. Everything you think and intend to do lives in the present moment.
- Required skill is just above the available skill. You are challenged but not frustrated. You find things straightforward but not too easy that you’re bored.
- Time distortion. You lose track of time. You are so absorbed in what you’re doing that time flies by without you noticing it.
P.S. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s research about flow gives us insight into how creatives work. Creatives include anyone and everyone who uses creativity in their professional lives, it is not limited to art or music. You can be a programmer and be nerve-racking creative. We can apply creativity, and have flow, in anything we do. Here are a few of Csikszentmihalyi ‘s work about flow.
Here are the other versions
When you set out to do something different, you might experience some discouragement from other people. Here are three things today to help you focus on the positive.
- The critics are not after you. The criticisms are an expression of what they truly are. Perhaps the criticism is coming from a deep-seated conditioning, even they are not aware of.
- There is goodness inside people. Thinking this way gives them the benefit of the doubt and lifts the burden off you.
- This is a learning experience. How can you grow from it? Maybe it means improving a process, gaining a new perspective, detaching from negative influences.
What is your deathbed question? When time runs out, what answer does it take to make you peaceful. Here are three example questions.
- Did I live?
- Did I love?
- Did I matter?
P.S. High Performance Habits by Brendan Buchard walks you through aspects of high performance and practical techniques to maximize performance in each area. Worth a read, a listen, and a try. If you prefer online reading, you can also grab the e-book version.
The friends you have mirror the kind of person you are, and the person you want to be. Here are three things that you find in the best of them.
- The kind of person you choose to become. Each friend exemplifies a trait. You gravitate towards those who personify what you deeply respect, aspire to, and require in life.
- Someone you can grow with in different ways. It is a privilege to witness someone’s growth, help and root for them. Friends bring new wisdom into your life, and so do you in theirs.
- A friend who exudes positive energy. It’s a breath of fresh air to have friends who think and live positively. It rubs off on you.
There are two kinds of mindsets. One is fixed and the other one is focused on growth. Here are three things today that distinguish the growth mindset from the other.
- Talent, intellect, and failures are NOT set. It is possible to keep growing, at all ages from any background. True talent and intellect involve thousands of hours of finetuning.
- Focus on effort, strategies, tactics. Praising smarts is a failing scheme. It is the initiative and sense of responsibility that counts.
- Excuses are ego-talk. A person with a growth mindset owns the outcome of whatever they set out to do. First or last prize, win or lose.
P.S. Mindset by Carol Dweck is a mind-opening book. It’s enjoyable to both read and listen to, a few times over. If you prefer online reading, you can also grab the e-book.
Do you want more out of life? Are you ready to take yourself to the next level? Here are three things today that will greatly impact your process.
- Reading. Reading creates the potential to spark new insights. More sources of growth, greater potential to learn.
- Journaling. Introspection and reflection determine whether you spend your time going in circles or upwards. Experience alone is not enough.
- Learning constantly. If you could learn just three things a day, you will be a different person in a month, and you could have a different life in a year.
P.S. Since we learn in different ways, we can use of different tools to optimize the reading and learning process. Kindle is a good portable reading solution. If you move around quite a bit, you’ll appreciate the convenience of an online access to thousands of great books with Kindle Unlimited. Podcasts and Audible are a good fit where you do repetitive tasks that require minimal active attention. If you’re into the feel of the pages, there’s always the paperback version on Amazon, and their free shipping trial with Prime or Prime Student. Mix and match and keep experimenting.
Here are three take-aways from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.
- You fall to the level of your habits. So raise them.
- Make good habits convenient. Make the habit easy, attractive, and rewarding.
- Don’t overvalue one big win. The daily improvements are worth more attention.
P.S. This book is an enjoyable read, it’s insightful and practical. You can get it in paperback, e-book, and audiobook formats.
Ever wondered what you’re really about and what you want out of life? Here are three things today to help you find out.
- Observe. Thoughts and feelings are cues. The negatives are signaling that something must change. The true positives are a nod in the right direction. Tuning in gives you the chance to improve on what comes next.
- Practice self compassion. Absolutely take ownership of losses but also be kind. Overcome the judging so you can start knowing. And keep growing.
- Befriend yourself. Enjoy your own company. Ask how you’re doing and what you can do to help. Always be there. For you.
A life-change is a tall order but there are three things today that you can use to empower yourself to make that change.
- Clarity is the habit of being crystal clear. Define what you want by imagining. In the morning, picture the ideal day. This makes it simpler to make the rest of the day fit that picture. In life, imagine the best that you want to have. It makes the journey less difficult, more directed, and quite stirring.
- Discipline is the habit of doing. Your actions echo your intentions.
- Consistency is the habit of repetition. Every act compounds. Eventually, you become what you do. And life becomes as you are.