Micro Experiments With Huge Benefits
Small things you can do in your daily routine that could yield massive gains.
Sounds boring, but that’s how we’ve achieved our current level of success, right? Our life is much more like the ups and downs of the stock market, where hopefully over a long timespan, it trends up. Everybody wants to have that Gamestop stock moment, where our career explodes to become a massive success. Yet, it’s the incremental progress that will set us apart from others.
I’m reminded of the Joanne and Chip Gaines story. Famous from their HGTV Fixer Upper show (shiplap everywhere!), they’re now an industry mogul, with their own recently launched TV channel. They have a bazillion kids and hustle everyday, yet still maintain that loving relationship. My point is, even super successful people make incremental progress that then leads to massive success.
In this article we focus on what micro experiments we can make that have huge benefits. Keep taking small steps and before you know it, you’ve run a marathon.
“The most important thing to learn is that when coming out of this risk debacle, make sure that you don’t attempt to engineer the perfect risk management system. Instead create the best one, and then institute organizational processes to break it on a regular basis. Also make sure your information systems help you sense and respond to the unpredictable events. Don’t let your information make you less agile at the very time when you must take fast, accurate action to adjust.” — jjsviokla in Harvard Business Review 
I really love that statement. It’s packed with insight, so let’s break it down.
- Don’t engineer the perfect risk system. Yet, that’s what we’ve done with our lifestyle! Because we are creatures of habits and are naturally risk averse, we’ve structured our life to minimize the risks. In doing so, we’ve taken away opportunities for innovation, learning, and chance! DO THIS: Be mentally aware next time you go on autopilot… then do something different.
- Break it on a regular basis. In other words, disrupt your routine. Experiment with how you do things. I love my morning and evening routines, and my workflow throughout the day. Yet, I need to experiment, adopt new habits, and then keep the ones that work and throw out the ones that don’t. DO THIS: Incorporate one new habit or adjustment into your morning routine.
- Information system helps you. This is an area I need to do better at. I used to utilize an app called Flipboard, which I curated to get the latest feeds from aerospace and space policy news. This was how I kept up situational awareness about the industry I work in. How do you stay knowledgeable about the field you work in? DO THIS: Invest time to setup a way to get the info you want to be delivered to you.
- Less agile when you must take fast action. “We consume almost 90x more information in terms of bits today than we did in 1940.” From Loup Ventures, the phrase “embracing information utility” means we need to be discerning with what info we spend our precious time consuming… without creating echo chambers! DO THIS: Spend time producing/making something. It won’t ever be a problem to find something to read, much harder to create our own original content.
Productivity Experiments You Need to Do
Next, we dive into experimenting with our habits, in order to achieve some long-term gains. Small adjustments now that could yield massive results over time.
Perhaps the name most famous for experimenting with productivity is Tim Ferriss. Author of The 4-Hour Workweek, host of the Tim Ferriss Show podcast with over 100M downloads, and renowned for experimenting on himself and taking copious notes, he is a thought-leader when it comes to our topic.
The only negg I’ll throw at him is that his techniques and tactics may be too much for some. Most of us have 9–5 jobs and a family to tend to. Ferriss’s approach may lend itself to someone who has much more flexibility. Of course, that’s his exact thesis statement — take big gambles to get big changes. I’m arguing that the life we have is the one we want, plus it would be great to also level-up!
Let’s have some fun with experiments we can do — some big, some small — that could yield massive improvements over time.
- Cold showers. “When the body’s external temperature drops drastically and suddenly in this way, inflammation decreases and the brain experiences a rush of endorphins.” If i workout in the morning, it’s a cold shower for me. 
- Set artificial deadlines for yourself. Need to make progress on a task? Just tell yourself you only have 30 minutes to complete it. Need to complete several errands around town? Give yourself only 1 hour to complete as many as you can. Shrink time and you’ll be amazed.
- Emails in the afternoon. Tim Ferriss says he checks emails only twice a day, sometimes less. For those of us who have corporate jobs, it’s unfeasible to let the boss’s email sit for too long. My tactic lately is to scan for super-important emails a couple times in the morning, but really respond in the afternoon, once my deep work time is toast.
- Short burst, small timeframes. Similar to the artificial deadlines above, I like to maximize those spare minutes between meetings or events. Got 20 minutes before you head out the door, respond to that email you haven’t gotten to or reach out to someone in your network. Got 30 minutes between meetings, try doing one complex thing on your to-do list.
- Read your blood test results and adjust your diet accordingly. A common one would be high cholesterol and making a diet change. But what else is your blood test telling you? Tony Robbins tests his blood twice a year and makes lifestyle changes to keep in tip-top shape. 
Rise of the Super-chicken
In researching today’s topic, I read about the Super-chicken Management Model. 
In the business world, we idolize super-productive people. But when we apply that concept to a cage of chickens in a coop, what happens (apparently) is that the “super-chickens” are individualistic, hyper-aggressive and peck each other to death! These super-chickens, “suppressed the productivity of other hens.”
Meanwhile, the friendly chicken cage increased their egg production by 160% because they worked well together, showed high degrees of social sensitivity, and no one is given more attention than others. True story!
The takeaway is obvious — stop trying to be the super-chicken. You being super-productive might be having an adverse effect on the larger team. Don’t get me wrong, I’m gonna keep being productive, but I’m going to spend more of that time focused on others. Below are a few experimental ideas for you to play with.
Feel Good Experiments
What are small experiments we can do that can lead to massive positivity increases? My goal here is to bring you some uncommon tips, but grounded in research. Yes, meditation is a great thing and should already be a foundational piece of your routine. But what else? Below are a few nuggets that I found exciting and plan to do myself.
- Hawthorne Effect — In this famous experiment, two groups were measured for their productivity levels. One group had a constant environment, while the other group had their work conditions changes every so often, such as brighter office lights, less bright lights, etc. The group that had their conditions change were more productive, but only because they thought someone cared about their work conditions! DO THIS: Do more than check in with your coworker and how they’re doing, send them a note of appreciation or make a comment on something they did recently that was awesome.
- Micro Quotas — Set small, measurable goals each day. For example, my goal this morning is to write 3 future Venture Out emails. Small, measurable goals that once I complete, I’ll feel great that I’ve made incremental progress towards my larger goal (positive impact on people’s lives & grow Venture Out’s value). DO THIS: When you sit down for work in the morning, write down or pick 1–2 things on your to-do list, and set that as the goal this morning.
- Holacracy — This sounds fancy:
“In a holacracy, instead of hiring a person to fill a pre-defined role, people opt to take on one or more roles at any given time and have flexibility to move between teams and roles if they have skills or insights that would prove beneficial to the organization. Holacracy looks to do away with managing from the top-down and gives individuals and teams more control over processes.”
Here, the experiment is mental, in that I want you to think there are no bosses or employees, just all colleagues. How would you act differently in front of your boss (disagree, interrupt them) and your employees (accept their way of doing things, letting them finish their thought)? DO THIS: Don’t tell anyone and just pretend you work in a holacracy.
10 Ways to Prevent Energy Leaks
I recently finished two days of intense decision making. For two days, I was confronted with all kinds of decisions, from huge ones to tiny details. At the end of the second day, my brain was mush and it needed an extra day of chill. (If anyone can guess what I did, bonus points!)
My point is that decision fatigue is real. The concept is that each day there are only so many decisions we can make before our mental energy depletes, and we end up making bad decisions. Therefore, it makes sense to prevent “energy leaks” throughout the day. Like a boat with holes in it, we need to plug up as many as we can, reach safe harbour and recharge.
Let’s wrap up this article by doing a 10 point inspection on our routine and eliminating wasted energy.
“Energy leaks distract you from what is important as you spend a great deal of time going against what feels natural.”
Here are experiments to stop the leaks… and gain some energy while you’re at it.
- You need a vacation — We’ve been cooped up in our WFH situation for too long. It’s not good for our mental health. I’m taking a day off and doing a movie marathon.
- Stop doing it all — Stop trying to be a “jack of all trades” and acknowledge something won’t get done today… nor tomorrow.
- Retire now — I’m not talking about actual retirement. Instead, what do you tell yourself you’ll do once in retirement? Do some of that today, because you never know.
- Cut ties with people — If there’s someone you dread talking to, then just stop. You’re magically always busy.
- Outsource tasks — If you hate grocery shopping, Instacart it. If you hate preparing for meals, subscribe to a meal delivery service.
- Review your monthly subscriptions — Maybe you can drop one streaming service and save money, or get a better rate.
- Eliminate what you hate — If there’s an aspect of your job you dislike, investigate if there are other ways of doing them, explore with your boss if there’s a way to take it off your plate. Heck, maybe there’s someone else who loves to do it.
- Believe you are, indeed, “all that” — We are indeed our worst haters. Do what I do, look in the mirror and repeat after me… just kidding! But do try to appreciate when you make a value-added input on your project.
- More pushups — Feeling a tad tired or distracted? Drop and give me 20. Natural boost of energy, blood flow, endorphins to the brain, and you’ll look swole on your Zoom call.
- Reframe the obligation — Being forced to do something? No problem, just reframe it as an opportunity. Forced to do a family hangout call? Use it to practice listening skills. Forced to go run errands? Use it to get some exercise or listen to a podcast while driving.
Ready To Level-Up?
If you want to have a better chance of achieving your goals, then check out my Epic Life Planning with a free downloadable tool. No catch, no gimmicks, just a step-by-step guide to help you obtain your unobtainium.
- The Small Personal Risks That Actually Change Behavior by Peter Bregman
- JP Morgan Chase’s Risk Lessons: Are You Oxymoronic Enough? by John Sviokla
- What are Energy Leaks and How do they Impede Productivity?
- Productivity Hacks, Energy Leaks, and Mental Mindf*cks: Hybrid Workplace Series (Part 3) by Tanya Lesiuk
- 6 Energy Leaks That Will Tank Your Productivity by Romana Stokelj
- 3 Ways It Seems You’re Working Hard When You’re Really Just Burning Yourself Out by Garrett Gunderson
- This Is What Causes Energy Leaks in Your Life by Tim Denning
- Small experiments that have shown to increase productivity by Reddit
- My Top 10 Favorite Productivity Experiments
- Myth-busting Productivity Experiments That Will Change Your Habits Forever by Merily Leis
- I tried Arianna Huffington’s elaborate bedtime ritual for a week and couldn’t believe how well I slept by Anisa Purbasari
- Tony Robbins explains how he sustains energy with no stimulants and little sleep by Richard Feloni
- Defining the Future of Human Information Consumption by Doug Clinton