Medical student / Blogger
· 6 min read
Were it not great if we had a model that makes your work count gradually, step by step, in the long run. Then the what we invest would show, eventually. A model to focus on what's important - yourself. But at the same time, allow you to achieve meaningful things. Not for others, but for yourself. Because it's not only how much we produce and achieve, but it's also what and how we produce it. It's not only being productive but also being efficient. This is my take.
What exactly are efficiency and productivity? Efficiency is the ability to avoid wasting efforts, time, money and energy in producing a desired result. Productivity, on the other hand, is the rate at which work is completed. But when we look at it more closely, productivity doesn’t specify work. It doesn’t matter what kind of work we complete, only how much of it.
When we take a look at efficiency, however, the definition of work is more specific. It has to be such that doesn’t waste our resources. We are frequently producing work just for the work’s sake, only to find out what we achieve doesn’t lead very far. At least not where we want to be. This article will offer you a model, a theory, on how to become and stay efficient. Whether that's in designing our lifestyle, studying in school or anything else. I call it The Gradus Model of Efficiency.
It’s based on an assumption that what we strive to reach is our vision, which consists of goals that are further divided into individual steps. We achieve our vision by tackling every goal step by step.
A vision is an ever-changing representation of how we want our lives to look like. It also presents the motivation behind achieving certain goals. If you're building a blog, your motivation may be to express yourself. If you start your own business, you perhaps want to take a different path in your career or maybe need a new challenge. We could say that at any given moment, each and every one of us has some sort of a vision in their life. This vision consists, as mentioned earlier, of several different goals (areas) like education, relationships, jobs, money and so on. But there is no way to do everything at the same time. So we have to choose, which of them are more important than others at a given moment.
One of the ways was unintentionally proposed by an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto.  He noticed that a small number of pea plants were producing the vast majority of peas. Being an economist, he then looked at the Italian economy and its distribution - 20% of Italians owned 80% of Italy's land. This was the birth of "The Pareto Principle". It's a paradox that happens almost everywhere. That’s why it’s also a part of The Gradus Model of Efficiency.
If we do some reverse-engineering we can use The Pareto Principle to our benefit to achieve remarkable results. Applied to our example, it’s much more efficient to focus on the 20% of goals that complete 80% of our vision rather than focus on 100% of the goals that may never complete our vision. Maybe not even 80% of it. Why? The first reason is that we are bad at multitasking. That's because, if we focus on one thing, we will lose awareness of all the other ones.  In other words, if we focus on too many goals at the same time, we lose sight of the other ones and deviate away from our vision. The second reason is that 80% is still the majority of our vision. It’s more likely to achieve this 80 % by focusing on less, rather than on more goals.
An illustrative example comes from modern marketing, which is focused on a specific group of people, called a target audience. Imagine you wanted to focus on all of the people in your country - all of your goals. Imagine the work put in, money and time spent winning your massive audience over. Good luck with that. Because you can't satisfy everyone's wants and needs, not even your own. Just as you can’t even satisfy all of the goals’ needs with your work. But choosing a specific group of people (let's say your 20%) and focusing most if not all of your resources (80%) is a lot more efficient. And it’s the same with your goals.
But focusing on our goals alone won't do it for us just yet. We need a process that will help us achieve our goals.
The goals you chose to pursue on the way to your vision can be enormous. Almost unimaginable to achieve. Breaking down a big goal into small steps makes it easier and more accessible. It reduces the perceived scale of the goal, without jeopardising it.
A great example of the breaking down of a big goal is Sir David Brailsford, the legendary manager behind Team Sky, a British cycling team. In 2000, Britain won a single Olympic gold medal. In 2004, one year after Brailsford was appointed performance director, they won two. But in 2008, they won eight. And another eight in 2012. Meanwhile, in 2009, Brailsford also said that they were going to win the Tour de France in 5 years. The race Britain never won since it's establishment in 1903. In 2012, against all odds and two years ahead of schedule, Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win the Tour. Brailsford himself said that "if you break down a big goal into small parts, and then improve on each of them, you will deliver a huge increase when you put them all together."
This principle is called the principle of marginal gains and is exactly what I'm trying to say in this section. Breaking down a big goal into really small steps and completing every single one of them is the essence of improvement and of achieving your vision. That’s because it shortens the amount of time we need to stay focused to achieve it. We devote attention much easier to a single small task that takes less time than to a big goal that takes longer and requires more of our attention. In essence, we’re making it easier for ourselves to overcome our limits.
There is, however, another thing that breaking down your idea of life does for you. It causes you to automatically focus on the process.
We could leave out the “The Breakdown” and focus on our actual vision. But it's much better to focus on the process rather than the goal. “The Choice” and “The Breakdown” automatically do this for us. With the Pareto Principle, we first define the goals that are most sensible to pursue in regards to our vision. We then break down each goal into little steps, which leaves us with a very detailed plan of our vision. The only thing we need now is attention.
Attention is such a valuable resource that social media companies make a lot of money from. What we usually don't realise is how much of time and energy we throw away by rigorously trying to satisfy all of our followers, friends and people in general. And we all do it. For example, when I was developing my website, I would jump between problems, trying to solve every single little detail all at once. Sometimes even searching for a very complicated solution, whereas a simple one would do just fine. And after a couple of hours, I realised I achieved nothing. Zero. I sometimes even made things worse. That's why attention is so important and why multitasking is not very useful.
That's why not being specific and clear is so tiring. I know it feels good to be all over the place. We have a feeling that we're at the peak of our productivity, effortlessly jumping from one problem (step) to the next. But in reality, we achieve less compared to a narrow focus. This is why breaking down our vision into steps and goals and seeing it that way is so important.
Our mindset in this step should be that we complete every step of every goal from start to finish. We focus on each step and forget about our vision for that moment. We put it in the background and trust the process. And since it's well-defined and focused on, we don't have to be too afraid of not achieving it.
This is the point where everything discussed in this article connects and keeps going. Every time we complete a little step, a new one emerges and we're eager to also complete that one. Because we know where it will take us. And every time we achieve a new goal we get closer to our vision. But then we learn or see something new, and our vision is challenged, perhaps this causes it to change. A new, important goal emerges that enters the process I broke down throughout this article. We break this goal down into individual steps that once again allow us to come closer to our vision. It's an upward spiral that shouldn't end. It's what this article is trying to achieve.
But just as with thousands of books, articles and apps published every year that promise an increase in your productivity or efficiency, this one is no different. Simply reading it won’t do it for you. Just as just reading those books and using those apps won’t. What will do it for you, are efficiency and action.
What good does it make if only you learned something new? If you liked this article and found it useful, share it:
Learn something new with every issue. A weekly newsletter containing my own thoughts, stories, ideas, articles and experiences. Or see past issues.
No spam ever. Unsubscribe at any time.