Three Principles to Boost your Performance and Fight Information Overload

The Unlimitix Journey

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Information Overload in the 21st Century

Nowadays, data culminates to a level of such vastness that no human being is able to conceive it nor process it. Back in 1900, Fuller estimated that knowledge doubles every century. After the second World War, knowledge was estimated to double every 25 years. Today, the world-wide information basis doubles approximately every thirteen hours. [1]

How will you cope? We usually observe three default options.

  1. You do nothing. You are simply overwhelmed by information. Indeed, ‘Choice overload’ paralyses you. A famous experiment demonstrates how two different booths selling jam vary drastically in their sales. The first booth offers 24 different flavours of jam, while the second one offers only four. Expectedly, the booth with more flavours attracts twice as many customers — yet the booth with 4 still sells twice as much. [2] This has strong implications. If we are confronted with more options, we tend to do nothing. This happens all the time: There are too many things to study, too many options for career afterwards, too much to read … Another experiment shows that people’s predictions of horse race outputs worsened when they had more data, i.e. more variables available. People who had less information available clearly performed better. [3] This has also strong implications. More data does not only slow us down, it also makes us worse decision makers!
  2. You fight. You try to read everything out there. This comes with a strong trade-off: Reading, planning, thinking all compete with action for our most precious resource: Time. What is even worse is that you will have consumed an expanse of unnecessary and even wrong advice. In fact, the majority of useful knowledge is found in highly cryptic scientific papers that most people never get their hands on. There’s myriad of apps trying to solve this problem with summaries, such as Blinkist, that offer us more data. Those do only amplify the problem. Amongst those million book summaries out there, which ones do you read? What actions do those summaries translate into? Those apps fail to deliver the most important parts: Prioritisation, examples and action steps.
  3. You stick with someone who did the work for you. Someone, who read all the books, prioritised them, translated them into possible action steps, tested those, coached those and eventually knows what works. Let us elaborate.

A proposed solution

Benjamin Franklin became one of the greatest men of virtue and eventually President of the United States of America by practicing a virtue every month. He would focus his virtuous action on one thing a day, until he had absorbed it fully — and only then did he move on to the next virtue. We tend to do the opposite. We focus on many things at once and achieve none of them. As the Chinese proverb goes: ‘If you are chasing two monkeys, both will escape’. To cope with the chaos of the 21st century, we must demonstrate focus. We must live it.

Inspired by Benjamin Franklin, we plan to address one of life’s most important topics every month in form of a series of articles. This series of articles will prioritise the most important elements of that topic, depict them simply and dissect them in such a way that they translate into clear action. For instance, we teach how we increase sleep quality to such an extent that we can actually sleep less yet feel more alert during the day. We teach how to acquire indelible focus when working on a problem. We teach how to do less and achieve more.

How can you be sure that this will work? Our methods are built on scientific knowledge, such as physiology, neurology, psychology and other spreads of research. One of our founders has gone ahead and coached the Dagang Olympic Math team in China in 2018, which subsequently won the First Place China Award among over 3’500 participants that took place in the competition — just after several weeks of using the Unlimitix approach. We’ve been training students to achieve top 1% GPAs that were believed to be way out of their reach and coached teams in Nigeria, which subsequently won both the “Train the Trainers” and “Start-Up” competitions at Impact Week. Those do sound like solid achievements; they definitely are, but nothing of what we coach is difficult. It’s simple. That makes it work.

Three Truths That Will Help You Cope

We at Unlimitix have scanned 1.000s of books, scientific papers and articles for their practical relevance to boosting performance, condensed the findings into straightforward action steps and compiled the most illustrative examples. Guess what? We found out that there are only few principles that make a lasting impact, accompanied by strong believes.

We believe in the following three truths:

  1. Intelligence can be increased. [4][5][6][7]
  2. Objectivity over subjectivity. Our mind is prone to bias. [8][9][10][11] We have no chance to grasp even the surface of the complexity of life. When we want to achieve our goals, objectivity through tracking and data is necessary.
  3. Effectiveness over Efficiency. Doing the right things is more important than doing the things right, even though both is important. Yes, we can work hard every day, but if we focus on the wrong things, nothing of significance will happen.

The Unlimitix approach in depth

Unlimitix is sick of statements such as “either you are intelligent, or you are not” or “I’m just not made to do this”. Do those statements sound familiar to you? Taught by our parents and/or teachers, people grow up with one of the world’s biggest productivity and creativity killers planted deeply in their heads: Assuming intelligence to be a fixed figure — or the very worst of all: assuming it to be a meaningful scale to measure what is important in life. Sadly, this misconception makes people believe that they are not capable of achieving their dreams.

How can we change that?

  1. Motivation: Even though we often want to believe that we are as rational, smart and objective as a machine, at the end of the day we are still humans. We need to be motivated — by ourselves or others. Unfortunately, most tools available out there stop here — Unlimitix doesn’t.
  2. Action: At Unlimitix, we combine motivational elements with precise and straightforward action steps that will help you take action effortlessly. The best part of it: our action steps are based on actual scientific research.
  3. Understanding: To keep going when it gets uncomfortable, you need to know why you act in a certain way. We break down complex theoretical concepts for you and make sure that you always know the “why” behind the “what”.
  4. Objectivity & tracking: We should combine this understanding with an objective view on our lives based on self-tracking. Then, we can see our action as a means of us getting closer to some goal in the future.
  5. Consistency: We know that times can get tough. Our coachees and ourselves, we’ve all been there. Therefore, we know how to help you stay the path and act consistently.
  6. Achievement: What are your wildest dreams? We help you achieve them. That will be the greatest motivating factor and set you on your journey towards a life worth remembering.
  7. Recursion: Let this process be a positive feedback loop that translates into ever greater success.

Knowing all of this, what can you do?

  1. Dream big: Take a couple of minutes now to write down at least 10 bold dreams. You can consider different areas including your health, career, personal life, family life, financials, and travelling plans. What are the big and audacious goals that you never dared to dream about?
  2. Stay tuned and join the movement: Do not miss any of our free content by subscribing to our medium channel and our weekly newsletter and by following us on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). We will publish one article every week to provide you with the most relevant pieces of information in the field of personal development. 
    We have defined themes, such as sleep, willpower, time management and neurology, as well as actionable steps embedded in those larger themes that help you form the right habits and actions towards more success. Inspired by Benjamin Franklin, who practiced a new virtue every month, we will change our themes monthly as well. Follow us, and we promise you that you will be a different person by the end of the year — sleeping better, working quicker and learning faster.
    We are starting today. Join the movement.

Why all of this for free? We love researching, testing and writing about our content. Moreover, we have experienced first-hand how it is to be called ‘stupid’, ‘untalented’ or ‘just not intelligent enough’ by teachers, peers and others. Fighting this misconception of fixed intelligence and equipping people with everything they need, whether it is to turn your life around or — as an overachiever already — to push things to the next level, means a lot to us, personally.

Sources

[1] IBM Global Technology Services (2006). The toxic terabyte: How data-dumping threatens business efficiency. Retrieved from https://www-935.ibm.com/services/no/cio/leverage/levinfo_wp_gts_thetoxic.pdf

[2] Iyengar, S. S., & Lepper, M. R. (2000). When choice is demotivating: Can one desire too much of a good thing? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79(6), 995–1006. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-3514.79.6.995

[3] Tsai, C. I., Klayman, J., & Hastie, R. (2008). Effects of amount of information on judgment accuracy and confidence. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 107(2), 97–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.obhdp.2008.01.005

[4] Sternberg, R. (2008). Increasing Fluid Intelligence is Possible After All. PNAS, 105, no. 19 , 6791- 6792.

[5] Garlick, D. (2002). Understanding the Nature of the General Factor of Intelligence: The Role of Individual Differences in Neural Plasticity as an Explanatory Mechanism. Psychological Review, 109, no.1 , 116–136.

[6] Susanne M. Jaeggi, M. B. (2008). Improving Fluid intelligence With Training on Working Memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0801268105

[7] Kyllonen, Patrick & Kell, Harrison. (2017). What Is Fluid Intelligence? Can It Be Improved?. 10.1007/978–3–319–43473–5_2.

[8] Kahneman, D.; Tversky, A. (1972). “Subjective probability: A judgment of representativeness”. Cognitive Psychology. 3 (3): 430–454. doi:10.1016/0010–0285(72)90016–3.

[9] Gigerenzer, G. & Goldstein, D. G. (1996). “Reasoning the fast and frugal way: Models of bounded rationality” (PDF). Psychological Review. 103 (4): 650–669. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.174.4404. doi:10.1037/0033–295X.103.4.650. PMID 8888650. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017–09–22.

[10] Tversky, A. & Kahneman, D. (1974). “Judgement under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases”. Science. 185 (4157): 1124–1131. doi:10.1126/science.185.4157.1124. PMID 17835457

[11] Sadker, David. “Seven Forms of Bias in Instructional Materials”. sadker.org. Archived from the original on 21 October 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.