How to improve your performance by creating your own algorithms.

Reading Time:
4 mins 10 secs
Ben Willmott

When I first came across this approach and heard the word algorithm, I immediately thought this must be complex, but it’s actually one of the most straightforward productivity tools I’ve used to improve my performance at work or actually, for anything in life.

The most basic version of an algorithm is;

IF X happens, THEN do Y.

This simple but powerful algorithm can be used for many things.

Do you have any bad habits you want to remove from your life? It could be you always buy a muffin with your coffee, or every time you get a challenging task at work, you put it off, and then it gets harder to complete as you have less time.

Or do you have an inner voice saying things that aren’t true? I know I do.

For example, if you walk out of the office 30-minutes early as you need to pick up your kids, does that inner voice say, I’m sure everyone or my boss is thinking where he’s going at this time, when in reality they’re probably haven’t even noticed or care you’re leaving a little early that day.

Another example is at work when you’ve attended a meeting, and for whatever reason, you didn’t have much to say, and you leave the meeting thinking, I bet they didn’t think much of me in that meeting, and wondering why I was even there.

Again, in reality, the attendees were very likely just focused on what they were saying, the outcome of the meeting and their actions, not what you were doing.

Our habits have a significant impact on how we perform, and that inner voice can have an even more substantial impact on our confidence, how we act, and the decisions we make or in some cases, do not make.

So how do you help fix bad habits, improve good habits or help fight back against that inner voice with performance algorithms?

First, find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted and write down between 10-20 things like the above examples that you would no longer like to do or improve upon.

So it could be a bad habit, how you react to certain situations or people, or that inner voice you hear when you’re in that meeting, before an interview, or a big presentation, or those moments when you procrastinate.

The descriptions don’t need much detail; it could be a few words or a sentence or two of each situation. As long as you understand what you’re trying to resolve, and if you do, your life will improve with it.

Next, take the first item on the list and write your first IF THEN algorithm.

For example, using a straightforward one like you want to stop buying that muffin when your order a coffee in the morning, here are some examples of the algorithms you could create.

IF I order a coffee, THEN, I always order a healthy snack

IF I’m going to order a coffee, THEN, I always pick up an apple from my desk to take with me.

IF I order a coffee, THEN, I count down from 5-1, which reminds me not to buy that healthy snack.

Create one that works for you, then move on to the next one.

Another example could be those pre-pitch or big meeting nerves where your inner voice tells you all the things that could go wrong.

IF I’m feeling nervous, THEN I use the “I’m exited’ tool to calm myself down.

IF I’m feeling nervous, THEN I remind myself of how good I’ll feel once I’ve finished the pitch.

IF I’m feeling nervous, THEN I visualise myself speaking confidently and the audience are enjoying what I’m saying.

Pick just one per issue on your list.

Once you have your list of performance algorithms, you now need to start implementing them, but with a list of 10-20, you’ll never remember them all, so begin to put them in places where they’re easily accessible for when you need them.

This will be whatever works for you, but some examples are:

  • On your desktop at work, save it as a file or a sticky note (on Macs). Just make them easy to access.
  • A quick link to a document you can open easily on your mobile.
  • Add them as a reminder in your diary, so they pop up regularly. The start of the week or day is an excellent place to add them.
  • Do you journal? Store them here so that they’re there as a reminder when you’re reviewing your day or week.

Linked to the journal location, if you do daily end of day reviews for how your day went or weekly, you’ll likely have moments where you forget to use your performance algorithms.

When doing your reviews, have your performance algorithms visible so you can capture the lesson learnt and implement them next time.

So create your algorithms, test them regularly, adapt them, and create new ones as you improve or come across new challenges in your life.

Soon you’ll find your inner voice is playing back your performance algorithms to you rather than the negative voice.

IF you enjoyed this tip, THEN please share it with anyone who you think will benefit from too 😊

Ben Willmott
Ben is Delivery Director at the London based creative agency Wunderman Thompson where he creates bespoke ways or working for his clients and teams. Ben is also the founder of The PPM Academy specializing in coaching Project Management, Agile Delivery and how to be more productive at home and work.

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