People who smoke cigarettes struggle to quit because the act of smoking a cigarette makes them feel good. Also, the long-term health effects of smoking aren’t immediate. No one would smoke if the first puff of a cigarette would get them hospitalised immediately for lung cancer. Despite the best efforts of Health Ministries around the world, knowing cigarettes can kill you hasn’t been enough to stop people smoking.
Last week, a friend shared a problem he had been having with his productivity. Every morning at work, he would look at his to-do list. It contained every task he had identified as needing to get done before the end of the day. However, he could never seem to get started on those tasks because in his own words, “There were just too many of them.” We had an insightful conversation and his problem got me thinking perhaps there are other people out there who have the same problem. With his blessing, I have decided to make this week’s post about the solution he and I decided he could try.
Some time ago, I had a WhatsApp conversation with a colleague on the merits of hard work vs smart work. Which is more likely to lead an individual to wealth? Hard work and smart work are terms that are quite difficult to define. When people say hard work, are they referring to back-breaking labour or to the act of working 8 hours a day? Similarly, what does smart work mean. I know someone who considers smart work to be only work done by Programmers. Going by his definition, most of us don’t do smart work. Which of the two kinds of work do you need to succeed?
A pharmaceutical company can create new products by either:
Making small improvements to already existing drugs or
Making a large breakthrough to develop a new type of drug
None of the two approaches are wrong. Better drugs have been formulated through either approach. In the end, it may come down to an individual company’s risk tolerance and business philosophy. I mention that example today because more often than not, when people are looking to improve a process, they try looking for a breakthrough. Similar results can often be achieved if one focuses on making small consistent improvements to an already existing process.
Last week, I wrote about the apparent disconnect between a person’s desire to learn a new skill and their ability to commit to a learning program. I also provided four questions to ask yourself if you find yourself dragging your feet over acquiring a new skill. If you haven’t read that post, you might want to do so before this one. This week, I will focus on some of the unique challenges that come from trying to acquire a new skill online.
A key characteristic of productive people is that they are always learning new skills. They realise they need to get better at some skills in order to be more effective at what they do. Many people desire to acquire a new skill. Few actually take action to learn that skill. Of those who do, many give up after a few attempts. The desire for self-improvement and the discipline to see it through seem to be two different skills. When you struggle with a new skill, a good place to start is by asking yourself 3 questions:
Some time ago, I was part of a meeting where many people brought out their laptops and started working. They kept glancing at their wristwatches and I could tell most of them would rather be elsewhere. It got me thinking if devices should play a role in productive meetings. If you are reading this article because you want a quick answer, let me tell you I don’t have one. On one hand, I have attended meetings where the use of technology enabled devices allowed for richer engagement. For example, we once used Jamboard to capture ideas from as many people as possible during a meeting. On the other hand, it’s easy for people to whip out their phones and play mobile games under the desk.
A major challenge faced by people who work with a computer is how to work on a task while resisting the urge to open a browser window or watch a film. Companies have tried to address it by configuring office laptops such that social media, video streaming sites and games are inaccessible. That hasn’t really stopped the desperate. Unless you work in a customer-facing role in a bank, there is often no restriction on cellphone usage in most offices.
If someone were to tell you a small but important piece of information right now, how prepared are you to capture and store that piece of information? I ask this question because over the years, I have seen some very interesting (and some very cringeworthy) attempts to take notes. The most interesting one has to be when a friend sent me a long whatsapp message containing a list of seemingly unrelated items followed by this message: Ignore. I just need a place where I can see this. Quick hint: Don’t use chat applications as a substitute for a good note-taking app.
How many mistakes have you made in your life? If you are like most people, it will be impossible to count them all. Mistakes are a natural part of life. We make them all the time. If you choose to acquire a new skill, you will have to accept you will make a lot of mistakes on your path to mastery. At some point, you have also probably made a mistake at work. It could have been as simple as placing the office keys on the wrong hook. Perhaps you took a decision that in hindsight ended up not working out as you had envisioned. Or you made an estimate that ended up being wildly off the mark.