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El Nerdo, over at GetRichSlowly, recently updated the wording of one of their key rules.  The GRS Rule #3 states that you should “Spend less than you earn”.  A very sensible rule, and one that should definitely be adhered to.  However, this is being changed to “Earn more than you spend”.  This got me thinkng about mind hacks and how they can benefit us in our approach to productivity.

Get ahead, get a hat.

Mathematically, this is exactly the same, but by changing the wording slightly, the statement takes on a much more positive slant.  Looking at each statement, and highlighting the different slant, completely alters how the message is perceived:

Spend less than you earn

Earn more than you spend

This simple mind hack alters the way you approach this rule.

Mathematically, I agree it all boils down to creating a surplus.  But psychologically, the new syntax makes all the difference.  The emphasis is elsewhere.  And this change expresses a value statement, a core belief, a declaration of intent.

How to Mind Hack Your Objectives

It’s a pretty safe assumption that the majority of people reading this have a to do list.  I bet many of you have objectives for the year, also.  These might be personal objectives, such as lose weight, buy a house, quit my job.  Some might be objectives set by your boss.  Have a look at them now and see how positive or negative they are.

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Take the “lose weight” objective.  Some people might have write this down as “diet”.  How many of you have been on a diet?  It really is one of the most soul destroying things ever.  Personally, I really like my food.  I love going out to a restaurant with my Fiancée and enjoying a nice steak, followed by a gorgeously sloppy tiramisu.  Depriving myself of that can be very depressing.

Let’s re-assess this objective.  The aim might be to lose weight for health reasons.  The most common one is to look better.  By dieting, we mean “consume less calories than we burn”.  By flipping that over, we could say “burn more calories than we consume”.  In other words, get more exercise.

You still get to eat what you enjoy (within reason of course!), and by spending a bit of time being more active, you burn enough calories and you get the added benefit of other health benefits, such as an improved heart, endorphins flowing through your body etc.  You don’t even have to go to the gym, just a few lifestyle switches – for instance, park at the back of the car park, so you walk further.  Get up and walk around once every hour.  Go for a walk at lunchtime.

How Can a Mind Hack Improve my Productivity

So far, I’ve only discussed financial and health based mind hacks.  However, you can still take this principal and apply it to improving your productivity.

feet looking down at arrows pointing in opposite directions - signifying a mind hack

For instance, your work may be checking a bunch of reports, before they get signed off.  Usually you would check each one individually, and they would take 4 hours to check each report.  In a typical week you would get through 10 reports.  All of a sudden, you’ve got 20 that need to get signed off by the end of the week.  Your first reaction “I need to work 80 hours this week to get these out”.  Working long hours is no good for you.  By telling yourself “I need to get these reports out in 40 hours”, you start to look at alternative ways of achieving your goal.

  • Instead of checking each report in order, check the same section of each report, and then move on to the next section.  Similar to David Allen’s GTD methodology, you improve performance and efficiency by staying in the same context.
  • If you know all the reports are by the same author, you could thoroughly check several of the reports, then dip-check the remaining reports against your list of errors from your thorough checks.  Then quick scans through the remainder of the reports to make sure you’ve picked up all the obvious errors.
  • Can you automate any of the checking?  For instance, you certainly shouldn’t be manually checking for spelling errors!  And if the reports are in excel, then are there any quick calcs you can do to make sure that the numbers make sense – plotting graphs, subtracting numbers etc.  For instance, one of my jobs is checking Static Reserve Factor (RF – basically a measure of whether the part was going to break or not due to the loading applied to it) summary tables, which may have had values copy/pasted from other reports.  By inserting a column that calculated my own reserve factor and subtracting the reserve factor reported, I could see at a glance any numbers that were wrong and focus on those.

Conclusion

By adjusting how we look at situations, we can turn them around to look for better solutions.  Don’t accept what something is at face value.  Everything can be improved and nothing is impossible – we just haven’t found the right solution yet.

Photo by  Julia Manzerova