A Simple Way To Increase Your Productivity

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re unable to resolve a problem on your own (and because of this, you waste a lot of time)?

When I was in university, a math teacher assigned to the class one of those “impossible-to-resolve” mathematical problems. The teacher gave us one week to resolve the problem.

I spent a couple of days scratching my head, trying to resolve the problem, but to no avail.

The day before the deadline, I went to ask for help to a classmate. When I approached him, he hadn’t started working on the problem yet. I wasn’t sure what was more puzzling, the math problem or the fact that he had not started working on it.

I reminded him of the complexity of the problem and of the impending deadline. He chuckled and confirmed that he was aware of it. He took a few minutes to look at what I had done. He wrestled for a few minutes with the problem and understood how complex it was. Instead of putting more time on it, he said, “Let’s go see Jacob; he’ll help us”.

I said, “Jacob the chimney (he smoked a lot), who’s rarely in school?”. He said, “Yes”. All over sudden, everything became even more puzzling. I remember thinking, “Here we go! We’re cooked! We have no time and we’re going to spend it with a bum!” Jacob wasn’t even in our class, but, apparently, he was going to solve this complex problem.

We found Jacob, chilling out in the smoker’s area with a cigarette in his hand. I trusted my friend, but, given the tight deadline, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea to waste our precious time with Jacob. We showed the math problem to Jacob, who seem more interested in smoking his cigarette than in solving a math problem.

Jacob looked at the problem for about one minute and said, “There’s a solution to this problem.” I thought to myself, “Duh! You thought about this yourself… Of course, there’s a solution! Why do you think we’re here for.” I held my peace.

Finally, Jacob took his pen out (not a pencil), and in about 15-20 minutes he solved the problem.

Now, I was really puzzled. How did he solve this difficult problem so easily? Turns out that Jacob had a previous bachelor’s degree in mathematics and he was very familiar with this kind of problems.

When he explained the solution to us, it made a lot of sense. With that new awareness, I went on to solve many similar problems and help others solve them.

Spending 30 minutes with an expert (Jacob) could have saved me days of hard work.

You want to increase your productivity. Learn from the experts.

Whatever you’re trying to do someone has done before you. Why not, when possible, leverage their experience and expertise to accelerate your own results (and thus increase your productivity)? By reducing the time and effort required to go from the problem and to its resolution, you increase your productivity.

Instead of trying to figure everything out on your own, find people who traveled the journey before you and learn from them. It is said that a wise person learns from the experiences of others. Be wise: learn from experts.