We’ll jump straight in!
1. Cyril Northcote Parkinson: Parkinson’s Law.
“If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.”
Profound and proverbial: work expands to fill the time available for its completion. We’ve all experienced this when complaining about having a month to finish an assignment, but then magically getting it done in the final week.
It extends beyond the concept of time: possessions expand according to income and space; data expands to fill the storage available.
The law provides great opportunity for self-discipline. Impose shorter lengths of time for a task; restrain from using money simply because it is available.
2. Eric Ries: Validated Learning.
“If we are building the wrong product really efficiently, it’s like we are driving our car off a cliff and bragging about our awesome gas mileage.”
There is only one thing worse than spending months on a product, and stressing about negative customer responses- it’s having no response at all. That’s why Ries preaches about this concept of validated learning:
In a nutshell, it is taking small steps and at the same time testing for results. Often referred to as the “Minimum Viable Product,” throw enough out there in order to make a measurable evaluation. Enough to measure, but not too much that you’re wasting efforts and resources.
A perfect example is Nick Swinmurn and his startup of Zappos, the billion dollar online shopping portal. He asked some local shoe stores if he could take photos of their stock, post them online, and if people bought them, he’d return and buy them at full price. It cost him next to nothing, but gave the crucial validation to take the next few steps.
Ries explains, “The key take-away of the concept of validated learning is to treat everything that we do, as entrepreneurs, as an experiment; as a scientific experiment, designed to help us figure out if we’re actually on the path of sustainable business.
He gives 3 Learning Milestones:
1. Establish the baseline: Actionable metrics; an audience to work with.
2. Tuning the engine: once establishing a viable product, improve on it.
3. Pivot or persevere: are the returns great enough to continue to production?
So, take baby steps, check your progress. If it’s working, keep moving forward. If not, change directions.
3. David Allen: 2-Minute Rule.
Procrastination happens when we don’t take action. More often than not, the next step can be done in less than two minutes. Identify the action, then immediately do it. The time spent considering it or reviewing it will take longer than if you just did it. The 2-minute rule a powerful productivity muscle.
See how many 2-minute tasks you can get done in a day- you’d be surprised.
4. Amy Cuddy: Power Poses.
There is a huge connection between our psyche, emotions, and physical body. While the internal can affect the external, the external can also affect the internal. Cuddy’s research is all about this reverse effect. If you’re happy, you’ll smile; but even if you’re not happy and you’re forced to smile, your brain will produce positive responses.
Participants were given two high power-poses to take on for two minutes- in a room by themselves, and two low power-poses. High power-poses caused an increase in testosterone (confidence, assertiveness, energy) and a decrease in cortisol (stress, anxiety, nervousness). Low power-poses had adverse effects.
Same results with a job interview success: When giving the exact same pitch, those who took on high power-poses for two-minutes before entering into the interview dominated and received great evaluations over those told to take a low power-pose.
Before you engage in any activity, here are a couple high power-poses to adopt for 2 minutes to give you that edge (and the low power-poses to avoid):
5. Darren Hardy: The Compound Effect.
If you were given the choice between taking $3 million in cash this very instant, and a single penny that doubles in value every day for 31 days, which would you choose?
The immediate draw is toward taking the $3 million. But, if you chose the penny, by day 31 you would have $10,737,418.24.
The Compound Effect is the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small choices. Why aren’t these small actions taken? Because what is simple to do, is also simple not to do- as Hardy’s mentor Jim Rohn would say.
Here are a couple of ways to implement the compound effect: Start micro-managing your time and tracking everything you do. You’ll be blown away by the negative compound effect already building- time wasted on social media with every 10 minute break, or the accumulation of calories when grabbing a handful of peanuts each time in the kitchen.
Hardy teaches to carry around a notepad and write everything down pertaining to your goal. In eliminating these negative compound behaviours, you are at the same time building positive ones.
The other step is to eliminate instant gratification from your mindset. Focus on the longterm reward as motivation to be consistent with the small tasks. Make the strong connection between the small task and the longterm reward.
I found a free PDF of The Compound Effect here.
6. Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi: Flow Channels.
It is being “In the zone” for the athlete, the “Ecstacy” of meditation for the religious mystic, and the “Aesthetic rapture” for the musician and artist.
Being blissfully immersed in an activity or experience that you lose track of time and even your sense of self. That is flow.
Here are the crucial requirements to find your flow channel: If you have too much skill for your task, then you fall into boredom, if you don’t have enough skill, you go into anxiety. Your goal needs to stretch you just beyond your skill level but not break you beyond your skill level.
7. Malcolm Gladwell: Priming.
Priming refers to subtle triggers that influence behaviour without our awareness. In his book Blink, participants read through a list of ‘old’ themed words: Florida, bingo, shuffleboard, golf etc. resulting in them walking out of the room much slower than when they entered. In a similar study, students that read through ‘polite’ themed words interrupted a professor much later in a following scheduled meeting than students that read through ‘impolite’ themed words.
Of course, Gladwell is by no means to be credited with uncovering the idea of priming- he cites heavily from Professor John Bargh’s studies, but Gladwell does make it palatable to pop culture.
When can priming be used to our advantage? It’s already being used heavily with positive self-talk and NLP. Rewriting your internal dialogue with words that produce positive physiological effects.
Write out a list of empowering words and read them aloud to yourself in the morning. Note the changes in your mindset.
8. Shawn Achor: The Happiness Advantage.
Society’s formula for happiness and success is fundamentally flawed: If I work harder, I’ll be more successful, and then happy.
Shawn explains that if we put happiness on the other side of success, we’ll never get there because success, like our personal evolution is always changing. It’s an externally based formula, but, “If I can predict your external world, I can only predict ten percent of your happiness.” We need to change the lens that shapes reality-
Making happiness the starting point rather than the arrival has incredible effects on productivity and success.
Shawn gives these 5 practical activities to do for 21 days to recondition the brain and change our lens:
1. Write down 3 daily gratitudes.
2. Journaling one positive experience- allows us to relive positive experiences.
3. Exercise- teaches us the connection between mind and body.
4. Meditation- builds focus.
5. Random act of kindness- send an encouraging email to someone; the effects of positivity on others.
9. Tim Ferriss: DiSSS.
The accelerated model for learning anything:
Deconstruct: Reverse Engineer- start with the end in mind break down the task. Remember when you were a kid you took apart your remote control car and tried to put it back together? Same concept.
Selection: What actions will be the difference makers? In any language there will be a number of words that dominate and find their way into every sentence. Work on learning these first. When learning guitar, master the basic chords that appear in almost every song.
Sequencing: Don’t feel bound to any linear progression of learning, e.g.. Step 1,2,3…When Ferriss was learning how to dance, he learned the female role first in order to give him a better understanding of the male role.
Stakes: Apply pressure on yourself to get the task done. You could commit giving money to a charity you hate. Or, you could make a bet with a friend.
10. Tony Robbins: RPM Plan.
Results: Know your destination. When you decide what is most important to you, all your efforts are directed toward it.
Purpose: Know your “Why.” Reasons come first, answers come after.
Massive action: You need more than one action plan- when plan A does not work out, you need B and C to make sure you relentlessly pursue.
One of our biggest mistakes is overlooking simple things. Tony’s message is simple, but powerful. Basically, once you are clear on your destination, having a strong enough “Why” will drive you toward it. And then giving yourself enough options to make sure you don’t just give up.
You need to be specific. One of the functions of the Reticular Activation System in your brain is to hone in on information flagged as important. When you decided to buy a certain BMW, you started noticing it everywhere. Clarity is power. If you’re clear with your RPM’s, your focus and energy know where to be directed.