Happy Sunday! We’re happy to be back this week sharing what’s on our minds and currently interesting us. It’s fun to see the variety from each post and today, we all have something different, from books to beauty picks, a conference and experimentation. As always, we hope you’ll join in by leaving a comment letting us know of anything you’ve recently discovered or things that have been inspiring you.
Julia – I love reading. There really is no show or movie that’s better than the one you visualize while reading a book. It’s my own world and imagination and no matter what, I’m always a little disappointed in book-to-movie remake. That’s why at the end of a long day, if I’m wanting to wind down with something, I try and choose a book over tv. I’ve had a list that I’ve been trying to get to for months, and with a few books started, I haven’t been able to finish any. On a recent flight however, I started Caraval, recommended by my friend Rose, who always has the best book recommendations. It’s been one of those books that I can’t put down and want any chance to pull back up when I’m not working. While I’m only halfway through, I already love it and wanted to share. If you’re looking for a book that’s an enjoyable escape and a quick page turner, add this one to your list!
Thomas – I believe that too often, people accept the status quo. It might be with our careers, our relationships, our health, or our knowledge, just to name a few important areas of our life, but once we reach a satisfaction level that meets our standards, it’s normally easiest for us to turn on autopilot. It makes sense why this happens, we experience something called the law of diminishing returns, which states that at a certain point, each unit of expenditure leads to decreasing levels of improvement. We naturally reach points in life where we decide, consciously or unconsciously, that it’s no longer worth pursuing improvement. We accept that our performance is high enough and that working much, much harder for the same incremental level of improvement is something we don’t want to do because we know increasing the commitment could lead to the detriment of somewhere else in our life.
For me, I’ve been obsessed with improvement for as long as I can remember. Maybe it was the athlete in me, I played two sports, baseball and golf. Like all sports, expertise requires repetition and golf especially is a repetition heavy sport. Around the age of 10, I became very familiar with diminishing returns. Everyday I spent golfing led to smaller and smaller improvements in my skill. Despite this, I wanted to get better all the time. So I started creating experiments. I remember I’d often hit hundreds of golf balls per day, and every few swings I’d make one slight adjustment and witness the results. As I got older, I’ve tried to apply experimentation to the rest of my life and I encourage you to try and do so as well.
It’s not as daunting a task as it seems. First start with areas of your life that you’d like to improve. Write down as best you can what your current performance is. Let’s say your goal is to be more productive. You could use average # of tasks done per day as a measure of performance or you could even self rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 how productive you felt throughout the whole day. Whatever you choose, it’s important that you don’t just take one data point and then start experimenting from there. Spend 5 days, 7 days, 10 days or more in your current routine, recording your performance level each day. Once you feel that you have enough data points to find your baseline, then it’s time to start experimenting. Make a list of things you can test, sticking with the productivity theme. You could try waking up earlier, you could adjust your diet or workout schedule, you could adjust your calendar, you could try a new productivity tool. Once you have this list, pick the one item you think will have the biggest impact and then integrate it into your daily routine. It’s important that you only test one thing at a time and you try and keep the rest of your routine exactly the same as before. Each day, continue to track your performance and after a few days of experimenting, compare that to your initial average. Let’s say you were 33% more productive, before declaring victory and stamping in your mind that “X makes me a significantly more productive person” try to think of anything that could have impacted the reliability of your results, maybe one day your car broke down on the way to work or a huge project was handed to you to work on last minute. If you have true outliers like this, you can throw them out of your data set and work to collect more days of data. When running experiments on your life, it can be hard to balance time and reliability of results. As we know from statistics, the larger your sample size, the more statistically significant your results will be. But it’s often not practical to run the same experiment for months. That’s why I always try to experiment with what I think will be the lowest hanging fruit, the thing that has the potential to make the biggest impact with the least amount of incremental work. I do this because obviously I want to get better with lower effort but also the bigger the potential improvement, the sooner I can be certain my test results indicate the new way was better than the old way.
What areas of your life can you apply experimentation to?
Laura – Sharing a quick and fun find I bought last week! I found this makeup brush cleaning mat through a friend of mine. Before discovering this I used to clean my makeup brushes in the palm of my hand with baby shampoo. I never felt like it was the best method, but had never looked for alternatives either. This mat is way more efficient and cleaner than having to get suds of makeup in my hands. I still use baby shampoo as a my cleaning product and now with this mat I’ll be more diligent about cleaning my brushes once a week!
Margaret – This past Tuesday I was gathered amongst a group of creatives at PechaKucha Charleston listening to eight speeches from leaders within their disciplines. Each were limited to six minute and forty second speeches, consisting of their creative insight with a common red thread: fear less. It left me feeling very inspired within my field. Here are a few key takeaways I’ll continue to remind myself in my work:
“Play like jazz” – Jazz takes guts. Jazz musicians are open to new ideas and phrases. They may combine two ideas to create something completely new. It takes a level of fearlessness that we can all use as a metaphor for our work. For a deeper dive into how to apply the principles of jazz, this Organization Science article is a compelling read.
Be careful of the “shoulds” – Stepping out of fear means leaving the “shoulds” behind.
“We are a lot less self conscious as kids than we are as adults” – Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. This provides room to embrace change.