I’m currently reading a great book called ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. It’s nothing specifically to do with physics (although physics offers many case studies of why and how things work successfully). The word ‘atom’ suggests ‘the smallest unit’ and the secret is to improve each element of the process.
The premise of the book is clear and simple. If you change/improve your habits by 1% per day, the compound effect over the course of a year yields a 37% increase. I’ll leave James Clear to explain the mathematics if you read the book.
The book cites several fascinating case studies on the process of progress that are made through tiny changes. For me the most startling case study was the hiring of David Brailsford as Performance Director at Team Sky cycling in 2003.
At this stage, the UK had won just one gold medal in the last 100 years, and subsequently 60% of the gold medals in the Beijing 2008 Olympics, followed by nine Olympic records and seven world records in London 2012. As if that wasn’t enough, three UK riders have won 5 Tours de France in recent years. If that is not evidence of significant improvement in a particular field, then I don’t know what it.
How was this achieved? Sir David Brailsford calls it the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’. Effectively, you look at what you do, break it down into small pieces and see how you can improve on each item. He deconstructed the bicycle and he looked at each and every element of each rider in the team, and looked for a 1% improvement in everything. Over time, the compound interest is startling.
There was famously, the incident with the French cycling team when it was announced that the UK team had rounder wheels (the UK team had bought wheels from a French supplier).
So, what does this mean for me/you?
I have some bad habits as a businessman. I didn’t like bookkeeping or accountancy, but I know that I have to do it. So, instead of leaving important documents in envelopes collecting dust, I’ve systematized my process. I have box ledgers for each company, plastic folders for categorized inputs, I’m putting items in date order, and I’ve started a diary of events, payments and confirmations. I annotate documents with notes and actions so I can keep track of progress.
What does that mean for your communication skills?
Imagine knowing the techniques that will bring you the success and peace of mind that you crave. What if you could improve the overall technique and delivery in one huge chunk, and then build on that exponentially in the coming years? It might be the best investment you ever make. That was certainly Warren Buffet’s best investment when he was a young man.
Why is that important?
Well generally, I’m busy as a trainer and so focused on my classes and clients. But when year end approaches, I go into cold panics trying to find the documents and evidence of payments and my relationship with my accountant because of my lack of due diligence has strained over many years.
So, in 2019 I am determined to make small incremental, positive change which I know in the next five years at least will have a profound impact on professional success and personal fulfillment.