Helium, Productivity

Increase Personal Productivity By Thinking More Like a Robot

As humans, we spend a lot of time making decisions. If you stop and think about it, every action you make in your life is dictated by a decision you make just prior to that action. Occasionally we ask for advice, attempt to validate our decisions, re-evaluate the decision we just made a decision on, and sometimes even changing our minds. We’re human. That’s what we do.

In the process of decision making, we waste time. If you’re anything like me, time is probably the single-most valuable commodity for your entire day.

In an attempt to save time or increase productivity in my personal and professional schedule, which seems to be a never-ending cycle of flights, meetings, events, dinners or other social gatherings, I decided to find the best time-saving tactics.

I searched and tested dozens of tips and tricks - everything from multi-tasking “hacks” (btw, multi-tasking doesn’t work...but we can talk about that in another post) to using reminder and calendaring apps to further organize my life.

What I’ve found over time is that some of the tactics work better than others, but the ultimate way to increase productivity and save time is to completely change the way we make decisions.

One of the core missions at Helium is to search for ways to humanize technology - make the systems, machines, and tools we use more like us. But what happens when we start being more like the machines we’ve built? Increased productivity, and peace of mind.

Robots and machines don’t actually “think” for themselves. They’re programmed to make every single decision based on a set of rules and code that’s been predefined for them. At the root of all the algorithm and code that’s written is a set of source code consisting of zeros and ones, or, binary code.

Understandably, we can’t be just like machines nor can we allow technology to make decisions on our behalf. But we can begin to make decisions in a binary fashion. Binary is defined as “relating to, composed of, or involving two things.” In the case of decision making, these two would be your “yes” or “no”.

The moment I began making decisions as a clean “yes” or “no” and removed any “maybes” or “let me get back to you” from the equation, I noticed two things:

1. More confidence and belief in my decision — my ability to commit to my answer due to having really only two available options.

2. More overall productivity due to the time saved second-guessing any commitments I made that took time from more important activities I had. I was able to quickly make decisions and move on.

Some may argue that things aren’t always so easy and this black or white decision-making framework isn’t always applicable. I agree. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach and there is definitely room for subjectivity, especially with larger more important decisions.

I was driven to deploying this binary style of decision making out of necessity to save time - and it worked. I learned that saying “no” isn’t a bad thing - but you should always attempt to give a well thought out response for why you say “no”, especially when it impacts another person.

During a podcast interview I listened to between Tim Ferriss and Gary Vaynerchuk, Gary mentioned using the same style of decision making to save time. He also mentioned that when making a decision that impacts others, a hard “no” is sometimes better than a soft “maybe”. It not only saves you, but the other party, time as well. There are dozens of ways to say “no” honestly and gracefully.

The binary method seems to be working well for me, and in my attempt to humanize technology I’ve ironically found a way to be a bit more like a robot myself. Try out the binary method for decision making and let me know what you think.

To keep in touch, follow me on Twitter @hasskhalife


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Helium is a digital strategy and execution company focused on working with brands to create elevated experiences.