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Last Updated on December 4, 2017

The Power of Small

The Power of Small

You’ve decided to take on an extravagant vacation over the winter break. But simply deciding to take a trip isn’t enough to actually make it wonderful.

To have a wonder trip, it involves a bunch of small decisions: How do you decide on the perfect destination? When should you travel? Where to stay? What adventures and excursions should you try?

Let’s use Henry Ford’s car business to illustrate how this process works. Most people believe that Ford’s decision to mass produce the Model T is the lynch pin in his success. However, what we fail to see are all the tiny decisions added together that produce a large result.

    Here are the smaller more significant decisions Ford made that made mass producing the Model T the success it was:

    • He reduce the standard workday from nine hours to eight.
    • He doubled the workers pay

    These two decisions alone reduce employee turnover from 370 percent to just 16 percent. And even though he reduced the workday by an hour productivity rose from 40 percent to 70 percent. His decision to focus on employee moral and invest in and improve the lives of his workers made him the world’s greatest automobile maker and a billionaire. This was after he reduced the price of the Model T from $800 to $350 over a nine year span.

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    All these actions, reducing the amount of hours worked per day, doubling their pay and lowering the retail price of the car seem counterintuitive and should have made him lose money. But by making a few smaller decisions that really matter led to the overall decision of mass production a smashing success.

    Don’t we naturally think that bigger is better?

    Research shows that the human brain is hard-wired for efficiency.[1] It seeks and finds the most efficient and energy saving method to do everything. So if possible, our brain would desperately want to just make one big decision that will be beneficial for once and for ever.

    Conscientiously, you are unable to comprehend and understand the process our brain undergoes to do the smallest tasks. You are only aware of larger tasks and processes which are an aggregate of millions of tiny decisions your brain undergoes every second.

    This process and logic should be applied to larger decisions that must be made. You must make multiple small decisions to reach the big one.

      Big is a burden

      There is a reason that big decisions are too hard to make. When you try to make a big decision, you expend a lot of time working and reworking an idea. You try to perfect it. You try to view it from all angles and try to avoid all negative consequences.

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      Aiming for the perfect solution can actually delay and hinder the decision-making process. Very few decisions are perfect without any negative consequences. Striving for a no-consequence solution can lead to you not making a decision at all. And when no decision’s made, nothing’s executed, and nothing gets accomplished.

      Big decisions are also very hard to change. Once you’ve made a big decision, it’s harder to go back and change what’s been done. When you hang you all your hopes on one big decision, you are setting yourself up for a big success or a huge disaster.

      The greater the risk, the greater the consequence. A bad decision can alter your future, ruin your business, cost you money or even a relationship. And when you expend copious amounts of time and effort in making such a large decision, you are more apt to be blind to the fact that your decision was a poor one.

        You’ll stick with it and defend it. You are less likely to change your course which can end up costing you even more time, energy and resources. It’s hard to cut your losses when you make a huge decision.

        Small is big

        You’ve heard less is more, what about small is big? Most successes are not the result of one big decision. Instead, success is constructed from a slew of tiny decisions. Smaller decisions are more flexible.

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        Making smaller decisions also allows you to mitigate risks. You don’t usually make a huge mistake from smaller decisions. Good small decisions create small wins. One small win leads to another and another. They form a chain of good decision-making.

        Big decisions are burdensome and heavy. You are more apt to put off making a decision when a big looming consequence is hanging threateningly over your head. Breaking a decision down into pieces and steps makes the process easier and much less daunting. You progress quicker and build confidence.

        If you decide to to change your lifestyle and eat healthy, it’s better to start by deciding which small actions to integrate into your lifestyle first. In lieu of going completely vegan all at once you may want to start by drinking one more bottle of water per day and replace your normal, unhealthy snacks with fruit.

        If you completely change your entire lifestyle all at once, you will become discouraged. And when you do, it’s hard to shake it off and keep going. However, adapting to drinking more water and eating healthier snacks is easier to adjust and stick to. When you become demotivated and fall off the wagon, it is so much easier to get back up and resume. The risk of failure is smaller which is far less burdensome than trying to cut all meat, dairy and eggs out of your diet in one swoop.

          From bricks to walls

          When you are faced with having to make a big decision, break it down into bite sized chunks.

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          • Think about of the smaller components of this decision.
          • Determine what steps you need to take and what resources you need.

          Make small decisions about these things first. Each small decision adds to the larger one and before you know it, you’ve reached your intended goal.

          Think about Henry Ford and the small adjustments he made. By using the process of small decisions, he changed the entire manufacturing industry forever, impacted the lives of his workers, made the Model T affordable for the common man and became a billionaire during the process.

          Make your big decisions one small decision at a time.

          Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

          Reference

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          Last Updated on September 17, 2018

          How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

          How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

          Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

          Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

          All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

          Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

          How bad really is multitasking?

          It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

          Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

          This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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          We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

          So what to do about it?

          Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

          Now, forget about how to multitask!

          Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

          1. Get enough rest

          When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

          This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

          When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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          2. Plan your day

          When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

          When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

          Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

          3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

          I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

          I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

          Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

          4. When at your desk, do work

          We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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          Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

          5. Learn to say no

          Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

          Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

          By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

          6. Turn off notifications on your computer

          For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

          Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

          7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

          Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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          You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

          The bottom line

          Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

          Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

          Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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