When to Target the Average

Focusing on the average makes sense when you're hoping to sustain something, even if it is not always a perfectly easy and consistent output.

It works when you are already putting in a bit of effort, but want to improve that effort over the long-term.

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Self Improvement

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When you focus on the maximum, you can expand your potential. It requires deliberate practice with a high focus on quality, focusing on specific aspects of performance with clear feedback.

Bursts of high intensity are not sustainable long-term. Maximum-targeting works well when there is an efficiency gain for reaching higher levels. Once the burst has finished, you move to average or minimum-targeted goals.

Ways to improve your life

There are a few different ways you can go about setting a goal or creating a new habit.

  • Target the minimum output. You focus on always doing at least a little bit so that over time, you do enough to make it count.
  • Target the average output. You focus on setting a goal you won't always achieve, but if you do, you'll end up making a big difference.
  • Target the maximum output. You invest your energy in targeting a specific, intense threshold that will pull you to a new level. 

Minimum targeting works well for establishing long-term habits.

A goal of, for instance, doing fifty push-ups every day might not be ideal for fitness, but doing something is better than doing nothing.

Another reason to focus on the minimum is that it assumes the difficulty is in starting. To start a process can often be the hardest. Then you want to set a lower threshold to make starting as easy as possible.

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The role of effort

For most types of work you can increase your productivity by increasing the intensity of your work. No more watercooler chats or lingering over emails.

Some productivity systems admit that we can get more done within the same time. But scheduling every moment of your working day takes extra effort.

How Hard Should You Work? | Scott H Young

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Goal-Setting

Any goal or project will usually have these basic qualities:

  • A general ambition or motivation. (e.g. learn French)
  • A specific target. (e.g.  speak fluently)
  • A time-frame or deadline. (e.g. in 6 months)
  • Constraints or methods. (e.g. practicing every day)
  • Overall impression of effort/time required. (e.g. a few hours per week of moderate effort)

A goal is then a group of different features that get bundled together. Some are necessary, others are optional, and some are better to postpone.

Set Goals in the Middle | Scott H Young

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Hitting the efficient point is important

Too little effort and you may never see results (or too slowly to notice). Too much effort and you may burnout long before any permanent progress has been made. 

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