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Small Aggravations Kill Careers

...Like Chinese Water Torture. Here's How to ‘Stop the Drops’ and Optimize Your Life

Chinese Water Torture

Imagine you’re restrained, lying on your back. A tiny drop of water hits your forehead every three seconds. This doesn’t sound like torture. At most, you’re just slightly annoyed. Now imagine you’re still restrained, 10 full days later. The drops of water have never stopped. Would this drive you insane? This is called Chinese Water Torture. (Note: There are methods of torture described to be like this in the 15th or 16th century – thanks, Wikipedia).

Now, think about your day to day life. How many drops of water hit you throughout the day, right on the forehead? How many small aggravations do you put up with only because you’re too busy to deal with them?

My Chinese Water Torture

My drops of water once included many things. Some of them were in my personal life:

  • Tires that slowly would leak air over the course of three days.

  • Plastic clothes hangers that would constantly break as I dressed in the morning.

  • Pillows that were a little too thin, causing me to fold it in half for added comfort.

Many of them were happening at the office:

  • Chairs that leaned back too far.

  • Printers that would never connect.

  • Leaving at 6 p.m. for a very crowded gym, which meant rush hour on the weights.

For me, I didn’t notice many of these things when I had a lower stress position in our growing digital marketing firm. As I reached promotions and received increased responsibilities in new roles, I also saw my time grow more and more valuable. My focus became more important. And the phrase my CEO had been telling me for months, “It’s all about the little things” started to make complete sense.

Life Optimization

Everything in digital marketing is about optimization — conversion optimization, search engine optimization, user experience optimization, etc. We optimize things by making small tweaks every month. These small tweaks, over time, amount to large impacts on website traffic, campaign performance, and overall ROI. Optimization is the yang to the above described yin. For every drop, there is a small optimization that can be made to your life.

I’m now on a mission to optimize my life. I started with the small drops. I replaced my tires, switched to felt clothes hangers (This took a few months, but it was worth it.), and invested in new pillows. These changes are huge on the budget, but they made a huge impact. It’s not all about driving safety, closet organization, or sleep comfort. It’s about the effects of those positive changes:

  • Because I don’t have to spend 20 minutes 10 times a month stopping at a local gas station to fill up my tires before work, I gained back 200 minutes of my time and added that back to my mornings.

  • Without having hangers break constantly, putting my clothes away became incrementally less annoying and easier, so I stopped putting off the laundry chores as much. Now that I’m doing laundry regularly, I have nicer things to wear to work on a regular basis and more time in the mornings to get ready.

  • Because I’m sleeping better, I’m less fatigued by the end of my week. This increase in energy allows me to spend more time focused while I’m at work, increasing productivity.

Stop the Drops

Here is a simple plan for optimizing your life and stopping the drops:

Problem Solving Organization Chart
  1. Identify the things that annoy you or hinder you from being completely focused in your daily life.

  2. Organize them into three columns:

  3. Easy / Simple to Fix / Small Impact

  4. Medium / Will take some work to Fix / Large Impact

  5. Hard / Difficult to Achieve / Will change your life dramatically

  6. Set an achievable time frame as your goal for each column to be complete.

  7. 1 month, get to work!