Sometimes looking at a challenge from a different angle can get you to tackle it better. That approach is called Inversion. Warren Buffet’s business partner, Charlie Munger was one person who believed in Inversion. “(Jacobi) knew that it is in the nature of things that many hard problems are best solved when they are addressed backward,” Munger counsels.

“(Jacobi) knew that it is in the nature of things that many hard problems are best solved when they are addressed backward,” Munger counsels.

It is not enough to think about difficult problems one way. You need to think about them forward and backward. “Indeed,” says Munger, “many problems can’t be solved forward.”

An example given by Shane Parrish of the Farnam Street Blog on Inversion is this-

“Say you want to create more innovation at your organization. Thinking forward, you’d think about all of the things you could do to foster innovation. If you look at the problem by inversion, however, you’d think about all the things you could do that would discourage innovation. Ideally, you’d avoid those things. Sounds simple right? I bet your organization does some of those ‘stupid’ things today.

“Another example, rather than think about what makes a good life, you can think about what prescriptions would ensure misery.

 

That in mind, I realized a while ago that I spent a lot of time being busy while at the same time killing other aspects of my life- especially my social, emotional, spiritual and physical life. The solutions I have come up with are largely influenced by Tim Ferris- some of which I list here.

  1. Answering phone calls

    My phone is on silent while at work and I don’t glance at it for anything except on my 15-min-per-hour breaks. I also don’t answer calls I don’t know or I’m not expecting when I am in work/office mode. This is not a new practice for me. I have been questioned about this and how I may miss an urgent call that may be routed my way. In the years I have practiced this, I have not experienced anything like this. My strong belief is if there was something really wrong that I needed to attend to, my ‘hunch’ will direct me.

  2. Meetings without a clear agenda

    When I get meeting requests I ALWAYS ask for a clear agenda. If none is given I schedule for a much later date. I critic every meeting I am invited to largely because I have been in so many meetings in my short life that have either been unnecessary or didn’t come with any gain at all.

  3. Check phone in the morning

    I don’t check my phone in the morning when I wake. I use the waking hours to savor the new day. Mostly listening to pre-planned soothing music. I am very careful about what hits me first in the morning. I also like to set the tone of my day.

  4. Emailing constantly.

    I used to be the answer-every-mail-as-fast-as-it-comes guy. Who it don epp? Right now, I check my personal emails about twice a day, turning off notifications.

  5. Cheap and unclear projects

    I don’t take on cheap projects for anything! It’s no question for me, those projects have not just brought a lot of discomfort to me, they have also cost me valuable relationships and financial loss. Not only do I not take on cheap projects, I make sure project objectives are VERY CLEAR

  6. Schedule social time

    I schedule time for activites outside work and personal time. This is one area that I have consciously invested in because I realize every other thing we do is generally tied to our relationships. We work so we can cater to our families, buy gifts for family and friend, etc.
    I typically schedule time driving in traffic to returning calls, following up on friendships.

  7. Determine what is priority

    If you don’t spell out what is priority, every other thing will look urgent and a priority. But sometimes those things that look like ‘hell has broken loose’ are often not the way we first perceive them.  Saying NO has been one of the biggest breaks I have had in my life.

  8. Millions of browser tabs

    I was am that guy that reads too many things at the same time. But it’s really wrong. It’s just wrong. Opening loads of tabs allow for cognitive overload. It affects us in ways we don’t know- especially productivity. When I need to do serious work, I make sure I close all those tabs. Funny thing is the fact that they are all open(especially after a day), they are not that important. The best you can do is categorize the open tabs in a bookmark.

  9. Excercise

    Without good health, there won’t be any chance to even practice productivity at all! I have adopted a 5km/day walk or 2km/day run into my schedule whether or not I go to the gym. This also gives me the chance to think, to know myself while stretching my muscles, losing fat.