Elastic Thinking, Ruthless Prioritization & a question about 2020

The High Five - Edition #19

Hi friends!

I couldn’t send Edition #19 last weekend as a personal exigency took over and I couldn’t write it. With Edition #20 slated for next weekend, I’ll be concluding Season-1 of The High Five’. I will be starting Season-2 in the new year.

And a warm welcome to all the new subscribers. Thank you for subscribing and I hope you will enjoy reading this newsletter. If a good friend forwarded you ‘The High Five’, you can subscribe to it by clicking this button below.

With that, let’s dive into this edition.

Psychology: The single most important skill that nobody taught us

If there is one phrase that can describe our environments today, it is ‘rapid change’. This article posits that, essentially, there is one skill that nobody teaches us - the ability to stretch beyond our core strengths when necessary and quickly rebound back to our core skills and disciplines. This is also called as ‘Elastic Thinking’ or, in the world of psychology - ‘Cognitive Flexibility’. Elastic Thinking allows us to shift gears and think about something in more than one way so that we consider a range of different possible consequences of our actions rather than only considering either an optimistic view or a pessimistic view.

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change” - Albert Einstein

Being flexible doesn’t mean having to always give in, or say yes. What it means is you are looking at things from a different perspective first, and then making a choice that is best. It’s the ability to adapt to new situations, break down complex tasks into bite-size chunks, improvise, and shift strategies to meet different types of challenges. Elastic minds are people who reimagine new ways to solve existing problems, make things better, easier, faster and smarter. They can also better balance long term and short term desires. Elastic Thinking gives the human brain an edge over computers because:

  1. Logical/analytical thinking is good when we are trying to solve a problem we’ve seen before. We can use known methods and techniques to approach whatever issue we are dealing with.

  2. Elastic thinking is what we need when the circumstances change and we are dealing with something new. It’s not about following rules.

Now, how can we develop ‘Elastic Thinking’? This article suggests some methods:

  1. Carving out time for daydreaming

  2. Talking to people outside your social circle

  3. Absorbing great art

  4. Listening to ideas or concepts you actively disagree with before disregarding them

  5. Looking at everything from more than one angle

  6. Changing the context or your environment

  7. Going for a walk or taking a coffee break

  8. Exercising

A way to get better at Elastic Thinking is by challenging ourselves to be more spontaneous and allowing space for new experiences and perspectives. In the right combination with other traits, Elastic Thinking can be a crucial predictor of total well-being.

Productivity: How to Ruthlessly Prioritize Tasks to Get More Done

Task lists are ubiquitous today and anyone who wants to accomplish more in a limited time (or even for remembering things) uses task lists of some kind. However, as task lists keep growing, we all at times struggle with prioritizing the tasks we note down. This article highlights some effective strategies we can use to ruthlessly prioritize our tasks. The article suggests 6 effective methods of prioritization, some of which are very popular and some - less popular though they are in the realms of common knowledge. Here is a visual illustration that summarizes the 6 methods of ruthless prioritization:

I personally have tried methods like Eisenhower Matrix, Timeline-based-priority-ranking, MITs, and Pareto Principle a number of times and have found them to be extremely effective. Which among these do you often try, to get to your task lists? And what’s your favourite?

Career: Archetypes and Orientations of a Chief of Staff role

I have been writing about my learnings and experience in my current role in the form of a 5 part series. This is the 3rd part in the series, in which I share about the 3 things people usually do not view/tell about the Chief of Staff role.

Oh! by the way, I decided to have my own tiny piece of real estate on the internet, for all my writings. While ‘The High Five’ will continue as my curation based newsletter, my website will be the home for other writings of mine. Drop by to see how it looks or just to say hello :-).

A quote that connects to Elastic Thinking: "I'm not afraid of making a fool of myself. Often I will often say something that later I consider wrong. I don’t mind changing my mind. There’s a 40% chance I’ll be wrong, but that’s OK. That’s the mindset you need to have." - Malcolm Gladwell.

A small question for you: How did 2020 change you (if it did)?

Let’s talk about it in the comments?

The album I revisited this last week is Saturday Night in Bombay by Remember Shakti. The composition ‘Shringar’ is a wonderful intersection of jazz and Indian classical improvisations.

If you liked ‘The High Five’, do share it with a friend who might like it too. See you next weekend.