👋 Hey Friends,
Welcome back to the 30-Day Productivity Challenge by the famous YouTuber, former doctor and now writer Ali Abdaal. Today let’s investigate a concept that has reduced my study time by 60%.
I would like to start today’s blog with a quote from modern philosopher Naval Ravikant:
“What you choose to work on, and who you choose to work with, are far more important than how hard you work”.
What Naval Ravikant is trying to capture is the importance of focusing on productive things rather than busy work.
I have found myself many times in the past working or studying all day for a Latin exam, for example, and after the day I was extremely exhausted. I had studied for four hours or more but hadn’t gotten that much further with my study plan because I needed a similar chunk of study session the next day.
This resulted from working on the things I already knew a lot about and not focusing on the things I wasn't understanding well. This meant that I felt productive, and worked hard but hadn’t come any closer to my initial goal of studying. I didn’t at the time understand the difference between busy work and productive work.
❌ Busy work and ✅ Productive work
❌ Busy work was what I was doing when I studied for my Latin exams in the past. I felt busy because I was working a lot, but I wasn’t focusing on the things that really required study time. I have only focused on the things I was good at and not otherwise, which meant I spent numerous unnecessary hours studying.
To resolve this, we need to understand what productive work is.
✅Productive work is when you can accomplish more of what matters to you in a shorter amount of time, while in the best case feeling good along the way. This is what is famously captured in:
Work smarter, not harder.
Hard work doesn’t equalise productivity because if you don’t get closer to your goals, you are not coming closer to what truly matters to you.
The best method I use to identify whether or not I focus on productive work is the 80-20 rule by the Italian economist Wilfredo Pareto:
Pareto discovers that in nearly every aspect of life, 20% of our efforts produce 80% of our results.
Let’s get back to my study example to see that in action. In my case, I was focusing on the 80% while thinking that I was doing productive work, although it was just busy work. Therefore, by focusing 100% of my time on the 80% I generated only 20% of the outcome since I haven’t worked on the actual 20% which are responsible for the big results.
I have personally struggled with finding the 20% of my work, but here are a few tips that I have found helpful over the years:
- 🎯 Focus on the tasks that align with your main missions and overall general goals in life.
- 📆 Schedule your life around your main goals.
- ❌ Eliminate the unimportant task. For this, really ask yourself about each task: Does this just make me feel busy, or am I actually productive?
By using these simple methods, I was able to cut my general study time for one exam from 6 to 10 hours in total to about 3 to 5 hours depending on the subject I am studying. As with countless things concerning your productivity, this is again really about honesty with yourself. Don’t cheat and say that something is productive just because it makes you feel that way.
The best way to change and to fulfil your life vision is by first accepting that you are wrong, and then using this to your advantage to improve the areas where you are bad.
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Thanks again and I'll see you soon.
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