Efficiency management is for people who feel like they can't get things done fast enough. It takes them longer to submit homework, complete client deadlines, or study for tests. This portion of the guide covers strategies for improving the efficiency of your efforts. I find this section the least important of the 6 productivity verticals, but it's also one of the verticals that is most enjoyable to work on.
Bias Towards Action¶
There's a tradeoff between planning and action. Too much planning causes inflexibility and procrastination. Too much action can yield suboptimal results and dead end paths. I find that the vast majority of people bias against action. They're afraid of wasting their efforts if they don't have a direct path from here to the destination. They convinced themselves that they're “researching” or “planning”, but 80% of the time they're achieving minimal returns for the research they do and most likely procrastinating on the work they should be doing. That's why I generally tell people to bias towards action. Parkinson's Law is an example forcing function that causes people to bias towards action by setting an aggressive deadline.
Generally, 80% of results are generated by 20% of the effort. Find out what 20% of work is required to get you most of the way there. Work exclusively on the 20% work, and you'll most likely have a high increase in efficiency.
For example, if you find that 80% of your sales comes from 20% of the customers, it might be worth spending more time developing the 20% customers than the 80% of the customers. If you find that the value you deliver to you company mostly comes from writing software instead of writing tests, you might want to spend more time writing software and have someone else write the tests.
Developing meta-learning skills deliver very high yield results for people who didn't grow up with good study habits or understand how the brain works. Simple interventions like learning how to study for a test, implementing spaced repetition, or knowing how to read a textbook can help improve your learning efficiency by a number of folds. Most of these skills can be learned from the online class Learning How to Learn. The concepts sound intuitive, but only through implementation and practice do you actually reap the rewards you sowed. Other easy reads for meta-learning strategies can be found on Cal Newport's blog or Scott Young's blog, which focus on more conceptual subjects. For rote memorization, I only have two words for you — spaced. repetition.
If you already implement most “good student” behavior it might be worth your time to learn some useful mental models. Here's one of my favorite catalogue of useful mental models. I strongly suggest that you treat this as a table of contents and not as the actual content. Each mental model could be and have been expanded into an entire book. Familiarity is an illusion of true understanding, and to really ingrain these concepts you need to spend more time reading into the models or disciplines themselves. If you need a book or resource for any of the mental models listed, feel free to email me for recommendations.
Mentorship & Support¶
I cannot overemphasize how important having a mentor is for learning. A mentor helps you figure out what's relevant for growth, shed light on what you don't know you don't know, sponsors opportunities for you, and helps unblock confusion that a simple google search won't fix.
For example, every successful internship I've had involving getting a mentor. When I did my first product management internship at Pinterest, I had a friend who was a full time product manager coach me. Each week we would review what I did in the previous week, discuss some concerns and obstacles I ran into, and plan for how to resolve them. My mentor would bring helpful lessons and experience onto the table and help me successfully navigate my internship. He would point out useful skills to develop, and point out things I should ignore. I could confidently say I would not succeeded in my internship had he not been around to help guide me.
Finding a mentor is its own skill that is covered is Scott Young's article "Why You Need Mentors (and Why You Don't Have Them Yet)”. If you can't find a reliable mentor, there are generally reliable strangers on the internet who can help answer any questions you have.