In order to improve massively in any field you need to identify the most critical skills or areas of knowledge and performance. Once you have identified these and focus on improving a little at a time then you can get amazing results.
For example, if you want to improve as an academic researcher there must be hundreds of things to learn and skills to improve. Actually there are only 5 simple things you need to master and keep improving at and these are summarised in the table below.
|Skill||Improvement (%)||Overall result (%)|
By making a simple 10% improvement in each of the 5 key areas enables you to improve you academic research skills by not only 10% you can make an overall improvement of 50%. An improvement of 10% in each area is easy to do whereas a 50% improvement is hard. Therefore, little improvement in each area gives great overall results. You are twice as good than you were before you started working on the key areas. The results do not increase linearly with small incremental improvements in each area but increase exponentially. A 10% improvement is not as daunting as a 50% improvement. It is easily achievable.
Let us take an example from the business world and see how small improvements can make huge difference in the overall turnover of the business. For example, there are only 3 things that you need to do to improve your business. The key areas of business are the number of customers, value of transactions and frequency of purchase.
- Increase the number of customers
- Increase the value of each transaction
- Increase the frequency of doing business
If you have 1000 customers and you sell a product for £10 every week then you will make £10,000 and over 50 weeks a year the turnover is £500,000. Lets look at 10% increase in number of customers and transaction value and double the frequency.
|Increase transaction value||£11|
|Frequency of business||100|
Dramatically the turnover of the business has increased to over £1.21 million pounds from a mere £500,000. This is the power of making simple and small changes to few critical aspects of the business.
This strategy can be applied to any area of your life to make dramatic and for example for improvements in your finances, health, career and family life.
These are the steps you need to take to apply this approach to any area of your life you want to improve.
- Identify the most critical areas that affect the final result or outcome.
- Set goals to improve each of these areas by a small easily achievable amount.
- Commit to daily improvement by a specified amount every day.
- Over a period of one year you will be astounded by the improvements in your overall performance.
When you are trying to identify the most important areas that impact your results then you can use the Pareto principle or more commonly known as the 80/20 rule. This rule has been tested in many areas including business. During research it has been found that a disproportionate number of products give the majority of profits. For example, 20% of the customers generate 80% of the revenue, 20% of the problems cost 80% of the aggravation, 20% of the footballers earn 80% of the total income and 20% of your actions give 80% of the results. The rule can be narrowed even further and may break down as 10% to 90% or even 5% to 95%. The percentage split does not matter however it is generally recognised that there is a large imbalance between effort and outcome. By using this focus you can achieve amazing results with much less effort and time. For example, if you make a list of 25 things you should do in a day, then if you apply the 80/20 rule then 20% of 25 narrows this down to 5 things that you must do. These will be the things that are the most important and have the most impact. If you were even more ruthless with your focus you then you will apply the 80:20 rule again to the 5 things you must do and 20% of 5 is equal to 1. This is the ONE thing you absolutely must do today. You must allocate all your effort and resources at this one thing to get it done. Once it is done then you have done the most important things and then can move onto the next four things on your must do list.
|Want to do||Must do||The ONE must do|
People generally overestimate what they can do in a short time scale of a week or a month and underestimate what they can achieve over a year. The longer you keep up this strategy the greater your achievements will be. The major key to achievement is consistent discipline.
This can be applied to any important area of your life. Take your level of physical fitness. If you want to be fit and healthy then you need to focus on three areas in your life and improve each by a small percentage such as 10% increase. You need to apply this principle to the following areas:
- Exercise routine
- Eating and drinking habits
- Stress levels
By eating more protein and fewer carbohydrates, increasing your exercise frequency and meditating for 5 minutes in the morning and then at night you can dramatically improve your health and fitness and reduce your stress levels.
KEY PRACTICE NUMBER 27
- Pick a field where you most want to improve and get the next level and write it down.
- Identify the 3 most important areas that you can work on over the coming 4 weeks. Write them down.
- Write down the actions that you need to take NOW to improve the performance in the 3 areas you have identified by 10%. This is easy and readily achievable.
- Take the actions now to improve 10% in each key area.
- How much have you improved overall in a month?
- Pick another area for improvement and apply the same approach for a month and see how your life will change very quickly.
- You can apply this to your health, finances and learning new skills such as learning a new language or another subject.
Try it and let me know how you get on in the comments.
This is an extract from our bestselling book Discipline: 50 Keys to Success
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