Imagine two programmers, Jim and Bob. Each one has to create a certain report. Jim is all over the place: he’ll create some output, then see a mistake, make a change by hand in one place, and tweak everything until he has no idea how he got to the result.
Bob’s much better method is to design a process: keep as much as possible in the code, and when you need to change anything, change the process and create the output again. This way you can create the same thing automatically, you can make whatever changes you want easily, and you can actually improve the process rather than just randomly throw things together.
Most people approach life the way Jim approaches programming. When they try to lose weight, they just focus their effort on not eating or on exercising as much as possible. When they want to get a better job, they send off hundreds of resumes. When they want more friends, they just focus on the same things they’ve been doing to meet people.
But taking the process approach to life has tons of advantages:
1. Scale. What if you want to achieve the same result again? One simple example is meeting interesting people. Most people find their friends through sheer luck, and feel forced to keep the same social circle all their lives. But what if you knew how to meet interesting people in whatever field you want, whenever you wanted? You’d have no social insecurities because you’d know how to find as many friends you wanted no matter where you went.
2. Ability to make conscious improvements. What if you want to rapidly improve? One example is the job search: if you focus all your attention on the action (say, sending out resumes) rather than the process, you’re forced to accept essentially the same level of results that you’re already getting, and have very little chance of making a major career move. But if you focus on improving the process, you’ll quickly find that almost anything works better than applying to ads on Craigslist, and odds are you’ll get a much better job in far less time.
3. Ability to generalize. When you learn a process, you can apply it to many things at once. For example, if you have a process for meeting people and improving your social skills, this can help your social life, love life, and career all at the same time. If you have a process for learning new skills, you can gain the ability to learn anything twice as fast-as opposed to just throwing more effort into whatever you want to learn.
4. Ability to teach. If you have a process for something, you can teach it to someone else. This lets you help others, or hand off work that you don’t want to do. Take getting fit as an example: if you know how to efficiently gain muscle and lose fat, you can give people looking to get fit solid advice. But if your method is to spend ten times as much effort, all you can tell someone is “just try harder.”
So if there’s some area of your life where you want to get better results than you’re already getting-stop winging it! Try writing up a process, testing it, and improving it, and you’ll notice much faster growth than most people ever experience.
Love and strength,