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The 2 Types of Growth: Which One of These Growth Curves Are You Following?

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The 2 Types of Growth: Which One of These Growth Curves Are You Following?

We often assume that life works in a linear fashion.

People will say, “You get out of life what you put into it.” The basic idea is that for each unit of effort you put into a given task, you get some unit of return. For example, if you make $25 per hour and you work for two hours, then you’ll make $50. If you work for 4 hours, you’ll make $100. Put more in. Get more out.

There is just one problem: most of life doesn’t actually follow this linear pattern. Don’t get me wrong, hard work is essential. However, if you expect your life to follow a linear trajectory, then you may find yourself feeling frustrated and confused.

Instead, most areas of life follow two different types of growth. This is something I learned from my friend Scott Young. Let’s talk about these two patterns now.

Which one of these growth curves are you following?

Type 1: Logarithmic Growth

The first type of growth is logarithmic.

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Logarithmic growth increases quickly in the beginning, but the gains decrease and become more difficult as time goes on. Generally speaking, logarithmic growth looks something like this:

logarithmic-growth-curve

    There are many examples of logarithmic growth in daily life.

    • Fitness and Strength Training: The “beginner gains” come quickly at first, but then it becomes more difficult to get stronger each week.
    • Literacy: Children and young students make massive leaps as they learn how to read. Meanwhile, college students and well-educated adults have to put in a focused effort to expand their vocabulary beyond commonly used words.
    • Language proficiency: Learning how to speak even a rudimentary level of a new language opens up a whole new world. However, there are only meager gains left for fluent speakers to discover.
    • Weight Loss: It may be relatively easy to shed five pounds within a week or two, but then the progress slows. Each successive pound of fat loss is more stubborn than the last.
    • Musical skill: Improvements come quickly for a novice guitar player. Improvements come very slowly for a concert pianist.

    There are thousands of other examples. In fact, most skills (writing, programming skills, juggling, running, etc.) fall into the logarithmic growth category.

    Type 2: Exponential Growth

    The second type of growth is exponential.

    Exponential growth increases slowly in the beginning, but the gains increase rapidly and become easier as time goes on. Generally speaking, exponential growth looks something like this:

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    exponential-growth-curve

      You will also find exponential growth opportunities in daily life (although I think they are less prevalent).

      • Investments and wealth: Thanks to the power of compound interest, your retirement savings start out as a small treasure in the early years, but balloon in size during the final decade or two of savings.
      • Email subscribers and website traffic: New websites receive just a trickle of traffic here and there, but as the weeks and months roll on those trickles can build into a raging river of visitors and subscribers.
      • Entrepreneurship and business growth: The assets that you build for your business stack on top of one another and revenue compounds throughout the life of a successful business.
      • Social media followers: When you only have 100 followers, getting another 100 followers may take six months. Once you have 1,000 followers, however, getting the next 100 may only take one month. Once you have 100,000 followers, getting another 100 probably takes one day. Your growth rate snowballs.

      The Challenges of Each Growth Curve

      Neither type of growth is good nor bad. These growth patterns are simply the way certain things work. However, it is important to understand the growth pattern of your task so that you can set your expectations appropriately.

      Don’t expect exponential returns when you’re playing a logarithmic game. Similarly, don’t expect quick wins when you’re building something that has an exponential curve.

      When dealing with logarithmic growth, the challenge is to avoid feeling discouraged as your improvements decrease. Improvement will come easily in the beginning and you will become accustomed to enjoying small wins each day. Soon, however, those small wins will become smaller.

      Logarithmic growth requires you to have the mental toughness to play a game that will, by definition, become more challenging to win as time goes on. You will feel like you have plateaued. You will question yourself and your abilities. If you want to succeed with logarithmic growth, you have to learn how to fall in love with the boredom of doing the work if you want to maintain consistency as your improvements dwindle.

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      When dealing with exponential growth, the challenge is to continue working through the early period when you have little or nothing to show for your effort. Exponential growth requires you to be remarkably patient and diligent (often for years or decades) before enjoying a significant payoff. There may be 10 years of silence before you hear the sound of success.

      Equally important, you need to give your best effort even when you’re getting average results. Exponential gains only result from sustained effort in the early years.

      How to Accelerate Your Progress

      Once you understand the type of growth curve you are dealing with, there are two ways that you can accelerate your progress on a given curve.

      Option 1:

      The first option is to break the task down into smaller tasks that can be mastered more quickly. In other words, by getting very specific with the task you are working on, you can increase the rate of growth (i.e. smaller tasks have steeper growth curves because they are easier to master). This strategy works especially well for accelerating your progress on tasks that experience logarithmic growth.

      smaller-growth-curves

        Dave Brailsford’s aggregation of marginal gains is a great example of this. By improving every small task related to cycling by just 1 percent, Brailsford was able to guide his British cyclists to massive success. Mastering these small tasks led to incredibly fast growth.

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        Option 2:

        The second option is to play a different version of the game. More specifically, play the version of the game that has the highest growth curve. This strategy works especially well for tasks that experience exponential growth.

        Take entrepreneurship, for example. You could build a candle shop. All of the statements about exponential growth hold true for a candle shop. Given enough time and a good product, you could eventually produce candles at scale, develop new product lines, and otherwise build assets that lead to exponential growth years later.

        However, if you played a different version of the entrepreneurship game and started a software company, then you may reach the exponential growth threshold much faster. There are a variety of reasons for this: reduced overhead and manufacturing costs, faster industry growth overall, higher margins, and so on. The end result is that both companies have exponential growth curves, but one has a much steeper slope.

        highest-growth-curve

          The Bottom Line

          Most things in life have some type of growth curve and very rarely is that curve a straight line.

          Understand the type of curve you are dealing with so that you can set your expectations appropriately. And if you aren’t happy with the type of growth curve you’re on, then start playing a game with a different curve. (1)

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          This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

          FOOTNOTES
          1. This article contains many of my own insights, but I want to make sure that all the credit for the two types of growth concept goes to my friend Scott Young. I am simply building upon his work.

          Featured photo credit: Stefan via flickr.com

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          James Clear

          James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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          Last Updated on October 7, 2021

          Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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          Are You Addicted to Productivity?

          “It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

          Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

          “Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

          Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

          Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

          “The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

          This is my mantra:

          I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

          But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

          Addiction to Productivity is Real

          Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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          “A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

          Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

          “It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

          Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

          “A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

          “There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

          “For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

          There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

          Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

          By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

          Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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          Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

          Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

          Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

          The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

          Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

          • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
          • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
          • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
          • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
          • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
          • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
          • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

          The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

          Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

          Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

          1. Set Limits

          Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

          For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

          2. Create a Not-to-Do List

          Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

          3. Be Vulnerable

          By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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          4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

          Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

          Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

          There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

          5. Don’t Be a Copycat

          Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

          That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

          6. Say Yes to Less

          Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

          That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

          Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

          7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

          “In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

          “That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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          • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
          • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
          • Establish realistic goals.
          • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
          • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
          • Hold yourself accountable.
          • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
          • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

          8. Simplify

          Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

          The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

          9. Learn How to Relax

          “Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

          “But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

          “And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

          But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

          • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
          • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
          • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
          • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
          • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
          • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
          • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
          • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
          • Visit a massage therapist.
          • Just breathe.

          “Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

          It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

          Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

          Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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