How To Work Smarter Not Harder Using The Min-Max Rule

Work Smarter Not Harder - Smart Money Makers Online
Have you ever wondered how some people can achieve a lot more than others, to a point where they can be called super achievers?

I know a few people that fit this description. From what I’ve seen, they have in common one particular approach for working effectively. They are very good in applying the min-max rule.

The thing about it is that we all use this rule at some level, but most of us do not apply it nearly as much as we should. Here are some guidelines on how we can apply the min-max rule to achieve more with less.

Maximum Gain, Minimal Effort

The min-max rule is a rule of thumb for getting the maximum gains from minimal effort. It is also known as the 80/20 rule, the 90/10 rule, Principle of Least Effort, or the Pareto Principle - after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who used this rule to explain the disparity of economic distribution among the population.

This rule of thumb was applicable in many other aspects in life. Peter Koch, author of The 80/20 Principle, also found that 20 percent of motorists cause 80 percent of accidents, 20 percent of those who marry comprise 80 percent of the divorce statistics, 20 percent of your clothes will be worn 80 percent of the time, and only 20 percent of the energy from the car’s engine is used to move the car.

Tim Ferris of The 4-Hour Workweek credited the Pareto Principle for significantly improving his business and personal life. He looked at everything based on these two questions:

   1. Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?
   2. Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?

After he figured out his biggest sources of business problems and identified the customers who represented his biggest sources of income, he doubled his monthly revenue and reduced his average workweek from 80 to 15.

Apply the Min-Max Rule

The following are some guidelines on how the min-max rule can be applied:

   1. Use min-max for priorities and goals: Before starting any work, use the min-max rule to help figure out which work you should do, and equally as important, which work you should not do. As Stephen Covey has said, “We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind.“

   2. Focus on tasks that use your strengths: It’s important for us to know our strengths and to focus on things that play to our strengths. If we get involved with things that we are weak in, we should expect to spend a lot of time and energy but get little to show for it.

   3. Reuse past work: This can be reusing either the results or the process itself that was used in previous work. If you give proper credit, the work doesn’t even have to be originally from you!

   4. Batch processing increases efficiency: Tim Ferris posed this question: if it costs $310 and takes one week to print 20 custom tee shirts with multi-colored logos, how much and how long will it take to print just three of the shirts? It would still cost $310 and one week, because the setup charges don’t change. Similarly for mental tasks - the psychological switching of gears can take up to 45 minutes to resume a major task that was interrupted. Bottom line: organize your tasks to do them in bulk. (Also, noticed how it took me until bullet #4 before I talked about doing the actual work? This is what I mean when I say work smarter, not harder!)

   5. Most things don’t need to be good, just good enough: If 80% of the project is done with 20% of the effort, then finishing the work will take an additional 80% of effort. If you do the math, that 80% can be spent on four more additional projects at 80% completion rather than finalizing just one. You can see why it’s valuable to stop at “good enough” if you can get away with it.

   6. One task, many goals: If you’ve committed to do something, are there other goals that can also be satisfied with the same task? In other words, try to find opportunities to kill multiple birds with one stone.

   7. Multi-task (only as a last resort!): Although I multi-task from time to time, I am not a big proponent of it, mainly because there are so many chances to abuse it. Not too many tasks can you truly do while doing something else simultaneously, so you tend to switch attention back-and-forth between the two tasks. It can be very inefficient if you constantly switch like this (as described in #4), and the work tends to be shoddy. I usually restrict this to low-level tasks, such as fixing a meal and listening to a podcast at the same time.

Is Min-Max a Way to Cheat the System?

This type of thinking is one I’m particularly keen on breaking. Old-fashion work ethics mean you should work hard to accomplish your goals, and doing it any other way is unethical. Blindly putting yourself to the grind is wrong in so many ways, but my main argument here would be that min-max does not equal laziness. If you can get the job done at a fraction of the time, then the rest of the time can be used to get more things accomplished, to spend it with family, or whatever else you see fit.

If you need more time to accomplish the same amount of work or even less, then you’re being wasteful and too lazy to figure out a better way. If you apply the min-max rule, you’re not cheating the system; instead, you’re making the system more efficient.

    It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.    - Warren Buffett

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