Time blocking, making ideas stick, and asymmetric career bets
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This is Learn With Kat, where I help you accelerate professional growth. Every Saturday, I share three things you should know, in three minutes or less.
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1. Wield your time with intention
Cal Newport, author of multiple New York Times bestselling books and an esteemed computer science professor, says he works normal 40 hour weeks.
How does he keep such high output, while still having lots of time for family and leisure? He uses time blocking:
Dedicate ~15 minutes to plan each day
Set aside blocks of time for specific tasks or a group of tasks
During the blocked time, only work on that
To account for unexpected new tasks, set aside a separate block for reactive work
A 40 hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure.
2. Six attributes to make ideas stick
In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip and Dan Heath describe their S-U-C-C-E-S formula for making ideas stick:
Simple (is it easy to understand?)
Unexpected (weave in an element of surprise)
Concrete (is it easy to visualize?)
Credible (emphasize your own credibility or refer to someone else’s)
Emotional (make it emotional to make it memorable)
Stories (people remember stories better than plain facts)
Next time you’re pitching an idea, try testing how it performs on the SUCCES attributes.
3. What is a risky career decision?
Anything noteworthy is hard to do and ripe with risk. But our mental models for risk tend to miss crucial points.
(a) Likelihood vs. consequence of failure
“I don’t think I’m taking a risk because I’m not going to fall. But there is an extremely high consequence if I make a mistake," said Alex Honnold.
Alex is the crazy dude who climbed El Capitan without any ropes or gear.
How are you thinking about risk for your career decisions?
(b) Asymmetric risk-reward profiles
Many people act as if the risk-reward profile of their choices is balanced around neutral:
But many choices have highly asymmetric risk-reward profiles. The chance of a reward is much higher than the chance of a loss.
If our bet doesn’t work out, we’re still in a good spot.
But if our bet works out, the reward is 100x.
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