On Thinking Slow
Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. – Tim Ferriss
In the world of performance, action is all that matters. But not all actions are weighted equally. Different actions lead to different outcomes. Therein lies the challenge of the modern creative, creator, or entrepreneur.
It doesn’t require specialized knowledge, skill, or talent to be a hard worker. Anyone can have a work ethic. In culture, work ethic is worn like a badge of honor. But with so many competing on work ethic, it’s fast becoming the mass transit to burnout and disappointment as opposed to the golden ticket to success.
The adage, “if you see everyone going the same way, turn and run the other way” applies here, even among the population that consider themselves counterculture already.
To be highly effective today, you’ve got to start thinking slow.
Most Things Make No Difference
Your to-do list may be a mile long. But if you were to 80/20 your list, you’d discover that just 20% of your work accounts for 80% of the results. If you apply 80/20 to itself, it becomes 64/4. Which means just 4% of your activity accounts for 64% of the results.
Let that sink in. Ferriss’ assertion that most things make no difference is devastatingly accurate as applied to the life of an independent creator or entrepreneur.
What does that mean in concrete, real-world terms? Let’s have a look.
You may be sharing your message across 18 marketing channels. The Pareto Principle (80/20) suggests only three and a half channels are producing any kind of results for your business. But if you were to apply the rule to itself (64/4), you’d find that barely one (if one) channel is responsible for the results you’re generating.
Author, podcaster, marketing speaker and entrepreneur Joe Pulizzi frequently says you can only do one or two things with excellence. Examine what you’re doing, and you will find that of the many items that line your to-do lists, you’re only doing a few of them at a high level. Everything else is noise.
Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason why so few engage in it. – Henry Ford
Thinking is hard work. But if you’re chasing true productivity, you must identify the few things that are going to make a difference.
Busyness is a Form of Laziness
To me, “busy” implies that the person is out of control of their life. – Derek Sivers
Why are we so busy? What exactly are we doing with our time? Where is it all going?
I’ve shared about the horrifying realities of busywork before. Engaging in busywork is a lot like pulling your smartphone out of your pocket to alleviate boredom and anxiety. It may give you temporary relief, but all it does is reinforce your addiction and deplete your time deposit.Engaging in busywork is a lot like pulling your smartphone out of your pocket to alleviate boredom and anxiety. It may give you temporary relief, but all it does is reinforce your addiction and deplete your time deposit. Click To Tweet
All things being equal, action is better than inaction. One of marketing guru Dan S. Kennedy’s Wealth Magnets (as proposed in the sublime No B.S. Wealth Attraction in the New Economy), is Do Something.
But that doesn’t negate the importance of thinking. Thinking offers access to the specific actions that hold the keys to your greatest goals and desires.
If you’re busy doing the right things, it’s planned. If you’re busy taking indiscriminate actions, you’re in an insanity cycle and have delusions of grandeur.
A Fresh Access
We’ve all heard about working smarter not harder. But it’s like pouring salt on an open wound, because we’ve all felt guilty for not knowing what to do or even what working smarter is supposed to look like. Then we begin to assume we’re too dumb or untalented to figure it out!
But we shouldn’t. Finding the one decision that removes 100 decisions, as Tim Ferriss puts it, requires deep intellectual work.
Thinking slowly gives you the much-needed access you’ve been searching for. But thinking must be scheduled, just as you would put anything else into your calendar – meetings, grocery shopping, working out, or otherwise.
Thinking slowly is giving me a fresh access to productivity. Here are just some of the ways it could play out:
- If you’re blogging daily (as I do), you would actively look for ways to repurpose and monetize the content you’re working so hard to create.
- If you wanted to maximize the value of the content you’re creating, you would spend more time researching and identifying viable keyword opportunities.
- If you wanted to increase response rate for your email pitches, you would invest heavily into upgrading your communication skills.
- If you have five book ideas, you would home in on the single one that represents the greatest commercial opportunity.
- If you have an established business, you would home in on the two or three things you do well and allocate more time and resources to them.