They are: Lists, best practices, and checklists.
Let me explain how each of these work in more detail.
#1: Making Lists
List-making is a small thing, but also a big deal.
Productive people make lists to stay organized and on top of things.
If you’re not already a “List-maker”, you should be.
Examples of lists you may want in your commonplace or as a browser folder:
- Things to buy
- Places to visit
- Books and articles to read
- Enemies for your minions to harass into submission and subordination
- Errands and minor tasks to procrastinate and bunch together
—And so on… You get the point.
The simple act of making lists will force you to tighten up your thinking.
Just making the list probably represents something like 50% of the benefit!
This holds true for best practices and checklists too. Then it becomes natural.
#2: Creating Best Practices
Best practices are like the support wheels for when you learned to ride a bike. Some say that riding is a bike is for fools, but I disagree. I think it’s a great vehicle.
Best practices are suggestions distilled from research, filtered into Dos & Don’ts.
“Best…..Practices” These are the best things to practice.
You can’t just make it up on the spot. It requires studies and experimentation.
Examples of best practices:
- How to get ripped and stay that way
- How to succeed in your field and make more money
- How to write or speak well
- How to run a business department
- How to create a commonplace book
The reason I have been able to learn and connect many different fields is because I have become good at distilling them down to their fundamentals and then practicing those things. Like studying history, for example:
[From my blog.]
Learning from masters, reading quality books, studying history, and reviewing past case studies tend to be the best ways to arrive at a series of best practices.
My two favorite examples of BPs are Francis Bacon’s Essays and Ray Dalio’s Principles. Dalio compiled all his hard-won lessons on decision-making, financial markets and managing his company Bridgewater. Francis Bacon’s Essays contain his ideas on everything from running an estate, building an outpost in foreign territory, to the process of apprenticeship and mentorship.
#3: Having Checklists in Place for Advanced Tasks
Checklists are hyper-actionable lists for specific tasks…
For example: Going on a trip 3-day trip, shopping food for a week, making sure you go through all the important clauses of a long and boring contract, doing industry-analysis, or installing a new technical device in your home.
Examples of checklists off the top of my head:
- Instructions to get to your home for a visitor coming from the airport.
- How to diagnose and troubleshoot a [specific] technical problem.
- Questions to ask while conducting an interview
(I know how nerdy this sounds…. and you certainly don’t need it for everything…. but you’d be surprised at how helpful it can be for avoiding unnecessary mistakes.)
Depending on your career choice and overall ambition in life, you may not need many checklists, other than for routine tasks to save time (like traveling, grocery shopping, cleaning your apartment, international payments, etc.)
However, if you’re doing something complex, then you’re likely to acquire them over the years and use them as training wheels; first for yourself, then perhaps for training employees or clients.
In general: You want checklists for complex tasks (that consist of many steps). From research, to technical stuff, to investing. And for boring stuff, like shopping lists.
And Finally: Gain an Overview
Once you have gathered a lot of information or lists related to an area in your life, you want to make an Overview Document for easy access.
This is like a TOC (table of contents) section in a book, which funnels you into the different sections you need to access for your work.
Once (if) you can master a long, complex task, and you do it intuitively, that document loses its purpose.
Whenever you learn a new thing, you want to edge towards a reductionist mindset. You start out learning broadly, finding out about anything that catches your eye, then you narrow it down. Finally, you should be able to boil it down to something like these 3 ways: Best Practices, Lists, or Checklist.
More info in:
*The difference between 2 sorts of overview docs depending on how you naturally process information.
*How Mikael Syding, European Hedge Fund Manager of the Decade organizes his commonplace by a collection of overview documents.