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A Fighter Pilot’s Secret to Surviving Wars: Making Right Decisions Fast

A Fighter Pilot’s Secret to Surviving Wars: Making Right Decisions Fast

You have less than 3 seconds to make a decision. The situation is changing faster than you can think. In the moment you take action, you must immediately reassess and make the next decision. The wrong choice could cost you your life. This is air to air combat, where fighter pilots make the right decisions fast using a highly effective system called the “OODA Loop.”

What a fighter pilot can teach you about making decisions quickly?

You can leverage the OODA Loop model to improve the speed and quality of your own decision making.

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The OODA Loop is a repeatable process for making better decisions. It uses a 4 point decision making loop to support quick, effective and proactive decision making.[1] OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. It is referred to as a “loop” because it’s designed to be repeated immediately upon completion. The more rapidly you can move through the loop, the more effective the process becomes. Simplicity is the critical element that allows the model to be applied universally.

The term “OODA Loop” was coined by Col. John Boyd of the US Air Force,[2] who earned the nickname “40 second Boyd” because he could defeat any opponent in less than 40 seconds. Boyd’s tactical brilliance revolutionized air combat. Today, there are many different models that articulate the same concept. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin have “Relax, look around, make a call” in their book Extreme Ownership. In A Spy’s Guide to Thinking, John Braddock describes the decision making process with the acronym DADA (Data, Analysis, Decision, Action).

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Pilot, entrepreneur, and SWAT operator Andrew Cull makes a strong case for using the OODA Loop.[3] He has personally used the model to land planes in zero visibility, negotiate business deals, and physically take down criminals. According to Cull,

“The OODA Loop allows you to coordinate and organize your thought process. More complicated models are inaccessible the moment your brain goes into stress response.”

But even if you are not in these high stakes situations, you can still benefit from using this model. This post lays out a few key applications of the OODA Loop: A learning system, a method for dealing with uncertainty, and a strategy for winning head-to-head contests and competitions.

However, the OODA Loop is incompatible with certain mindsets.

When used correctly, there are no downsides to the model itself. But with certain mindsets, the OODA loop is incompatible. For example, if you are inflexible in your thinking or unwilling to take decisive action, this is probably not the best decision making framework.

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Mr. Cull shared a perfect case study to explore a the OODA Loop step by step. Shortly after takeoff, he hit unexpectedly low cloud cover at 100 feet. The dark of night combined with the thick cloud cover left him with 0 visibility. Enter the OODA Loop:

  1. Observe: According to Cull, the first thing he observed was that he was “surprised and freaked out.” Acceptance and awareness of those feelings allowed him to adjust his focus accordingly. He also immediately began observing data from the relevant instruments.
  2. Orient: Cull assembled all of the available information to establish a full understanding of his position. Some of the information he used to orient himself included visual data, instrument data, previous flying experience, and physical sensations in that moment.
  3. Decide: After quickly and accurately orienting himself, he realized there was no way to determine how thick the cloud cover might be. He made the decision to land the plane immediately.
  4. Act: He began a slow descent in the proper direction to get below the cloud cover and regain partial visibility.
  5. Repeat: An extremely rapid, non-stop OODA Loop resulted in a quick and safe landing.

As you implement the OODA Loop personally, keep these strategic ideas in mind.

  • Mobilize your will. This means a mindset of humility and objectivity, and a readiness to take decisive action. Consciously bringing these qualities to the process are the grease that keeps the OODA engine running smoothly.
  • Start with a familiar environment. Environmental stress can interfere with learning. Once you have it down, you will be able to use the model as a tool to mitigate stress.
  • “Tactics come easy when principles are in the blood.” Highly relevant wisdom from Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning. Practice until you have fully internalized the OODA Loop as your natural default process for decision making.
  • Troubleshoot as you go. If the process does not appear to be working, check for interference from ego and over-thinking. Look for ways to take more ownership.

Reference

[1] Mind Tools: OODA Loops
[2] Avion History: Col. John Boyd
[3] Andrew Cull

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Austin Collins

Financial Advisor | Vice President

A Fighter Pilot’s Secret to Surviving Wars: Making Right Decisions Fast

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

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