3 ideas that will make you smarter at work (that you’ve probably never heard of)

1. Systems vs Goals

Most organisations set annual and/or quarterly goals.

But few people take the time to review their systems, which are often more important to what is ultimately achieved.

“Goals determine your direction. systems determine your progress.” — James Clear

Winning a 5 new clients is a goal.

Making 50 phone calls a day is a system.

The more time you spend focused on systems, tinkering, improving, and monitoring progress, the more success you will have.

2. Learn faster with retrieval and testing

School teaches us that repetition is the best way to learn.

But re-reading papers at work is not only time-consuming, it’s ineffective.

Science says that deliberate retrieval and frequent testing are far more effective techniques to retain what you read:

One of the most striking research findings is the power of active retrieval — testing — to strengthen memory, and that the more effortful the retrieval, the stronger the benefit.”
Peter C. Brown, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

The reason is simple: learning requires effort.

Forcing retrieval by asking “what did I just read” or testing yourself with flashcards is a much more effective way to learn.

In this digital age of tens of careers and emerging skillsets, the ability to learn effectively is a huge competitive advantage.

The best learning techniques require effort, but will pay off over time.

3. Confidence → competence

No matter what you’ve been told, results don’t speak for themselves.

We often distrust results because it can be hard to isolate cause and effect: are his numbers up because he’s good at sales, or because the market’s red hot?

Because people aren’t great at assessing competence, they look for confidence instead.

Research cited in this HBR article shows that confidence in your performance is just as important, if not more important than performance itself.

What’s more, people who are perieved as competent and confident are offered more opportunity — allowing them to develop more competence in turn.

While ‘fake it till you make it’ won’t work, successful people aren’t afraid to highlight their accomplishments.

Praise yourself daringly,” the philosopher Francis Bacon said,“because something always sticks.



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