The Pareto Efficiency Concept - Deepstash

The Pareto Efficiency Concept

The Pareto Efficiency idea refers to situations where you can (or can't) improve something without trade-offs.

For example, consider designing a car where you aim for speed and safety. Pareto efficiency is to find a design that allows you to get more speed or safety without getting less of the other.

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The frontier is always a bit deceptive. Finding a new technique can suddenly let you get much more done in less time. The frontier can shift.

Guidelines to know if you are on the frontier:

  • You've read and applied a lot of productivity advice.
  • When you look in your schedule, there aren't many things you could easily cut.
  • Making an effort to do more inevitably cause a setback in other areas of life.

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Mapping Efficiency Frontiers

Taking efficiency further, one can consider lots of designs. By putting them all on a graph, we can notice that the ones inside of the frontier are inefficient choices.

Efficient frontiers will show a general pattern.

  • Below the frontier, you can always improve by optimizing your choice.
  • When you're on the frontier, you can only improve by intentionally making something else worse.

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When you put all the possible working schedules, habits and systems on a graph, the graph will show all your productive possibilities.

  • If we're below the frontier, we can make more improvements without facing trade-offs. We might choose to work less while keeping our workload constant.
  • On the frontier, we can only improve by accepting trade-offs. Choosing an ambitious career move may make us work nights and weekends.

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Those that are far from the frontier can focus on improving each element. You can improve by reorganizing your work to get more done.

But once you are on the productive frontier, things are different. Improvement comes from making hard choices about trade-offs. Do you want a cleaner house or more time to work on your projects? You may feel guilty for investing more time on one thing while limiting time for something else important. It is best to be intentional about what you really care about and what can be downgraded.

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RELATED IDEAS

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.

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Consider at what speed you should try to do things in order to improve performance.
We can often learn something quickly, but without attaining a master level (like getting good at estimating answers to math problems. While you might get within close proximity, you'll seldom get to the exact answer.)
Learning to do something with precision will require a different technique and can take much longer to master.

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Spare capacity and growth
  • Avoid thinking of spare capacity as the lack of things on your calendar. Since we’re never really doing nothing it’s rare to see people talk about cultivating it directly.
  • The amount of progress you’re able to make depends on your spare capacity. Without time and energy to invest in your personal development, your life will stay as it is.
  • Spare capacity is a neglected topic; people don't usually talk about cultivating it directly. You see articles about how to do something in only six minutes a day, rather than expanding your capacity so you have more than six minutes to do it.

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