And unless you graduate from Harvard Business School, you will never learn it…
What this article is going to show you is how you can increase your productivity at a level that sounds impossible. Yes, you can actually quadruple your productivity with this hack.
I said it, 4x your productivity.
The Opposable Mind
If you attend Harvard Business School, you would be required to read “The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking” by Roger L. Martin, a dean at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
What this book details is how people can unlock their brains to “see” the world differently. And leaders MUST see the world differently, otherwise we are doomed to repeat the same conventional mistakes of the past.
How to Unlock Your Brain
If you haven’t read the book yet, some of what you will read may sound impossible, but I assure you that everything you will learn actually works in real life.
The key to unlocking your brain and your full potential is being able to mentally overcome “what you have been told.”
It is true, our minds hold us back more than we like to imagine. That’s why one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of your own success is YOU.
What Dean L. Martin has done in his book is show us how to forget what we have been taught and look at our lives, projects, dreams and goals in a brand new way. This new way has no limitations placed on us from the beginning.
Answer the Following Questions:
- Do you have trouble with time management?
- Do you have trouble with organization?
- Do you have trouble staying on task?
- Do you have trouble seeing projects through to the end?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, the reason is your mind. And when the issue or obstacle is our own brain — there used to be not much we could do about it. Except, now there is one way to overcome our own psychological and personal limitations.
A Better Way to Think
Why would we want to be more productive? Isn’t “hustle” culture a negative thing for our mental health? First, being more productive doesn’t always mean working 24/7. In fact, if you can increase productivity in the same amount of time, you would decrease stress, anxiety and burnout.
Think about that for a minute, if you could do twice as much work in the same amount of time, wouldn’t you have less work to do the next day? Wouldn’t your weeks be less stressful?
There’s an old adage, “work smarter, not harder,” but the problem with this saying is that it usually means cutting corners. What if you could do more without sacrificing quality in less time?
You would want to learn how…
Finding the Right Path
For my first example, I am going to use a typical college student and the end of the semester crunch to turn in papers and finish reading assignments. Anyone that has attended college has experienced this end of semester stress-fest.
Why is it so stressful? First of all, there is a hard deadline attached to papers and assignments. Second, writing papers and reading assignments takes time. When you put the two together, it can create a very stressful situation.
How could we use the Opposable Mind to unlock a student’s potential and get 4x more work done in the same amount of time?
For argument's sake, let’s say the college student has four papers to write and the deadline for all four is in 7 days from today. If we follow conventional wisdom and what our K12 school system taught us, we should tackle each paper separately.
In other words, let’s do one assignment at a time.
But that logic is flawed. Here’s what the Opposable Mind strategy says: Instead of looking at the four papers as four separate projects, combine them into one larger project all due in 7 days. In essence, we have taken four small projects and made them into one larger project. Here’s why this works?
When we combine all four papers into one larger project, we can divide up the tasks differently. Let’s assume that there are reading assignments attached to each paper that need to be read before we can write them. Thus, on Day One, the Opposable Mind strategy suggests we should read everything on Day One.
That’s right. Read all of the assignments on Day One. Since we are focusing on reading on the first day, we can also concentrate at a higher level on note taking and highlighting. And we will have to, since we need to come back to those notes and highlights, in order to write our papers later on.
Looking Back at the Stressed Out College Student
Let’s look back at the typical college student again. Remember, they were taught doing each paper separately was a better idea. Therefore on Day One, they began reading the assignments directly related to the first paper. If they read fast, they can begin writing the paper on the same day, but if they do not — at the end of Day One, how far did they get?
Our Brains Are Sometimes the Obstacle
What’s the biggest difference between the typical college student and the student that uses the Opposable Mind strategy? The only difference is the way they “think.” That means, our brains can be the biggest obstacle standing in the way of our own success and achievement.
It doesn’t help that most adults think this way, so the typical college student believes they are doing the “best” they can. When you think you are doing all you can do and you still fail or fall behind, how does that affect us? You guessed it, we begin to doubt ourselves and our abilities. We begin to question whether there is something either wrong with us or the system?
What does the student following the Opposable Mind strategy think? They are focused, they are not stressed out, they know they are following the right strategy to get all four papers done on time. Does this student doubt themselves? The answer is no.
What’s the only difference between the two students? The only difference is the way they “think.”
The student following the Opposable Mind strategy has completed all the reading assignments, with notes and highlights on Day One. Thus on Day Two, they begin outlining all four papers.
Here again, it’s important to highlight that this student has not begun writing the papers. The reason the Opposable Mind strategy beats any other thought process is because it does two things at the same time — 1) it keeps moving the project forward and 2) it sets the person up for success.
When you need to write four papers, the aspect of that assignment that should take the longest and need the most time is the writing component. The Opposable Mind strategy works because it sets the student up for success by getting all the research and note taking done beforehand. Thus this student can focus and concentrate on writing for five consecutive days.
In stark contrast, the typical college student is doing repetitive skills over and over again. They are reading some of the articles on Day One and then doing some writing on Day Two only to repeat the same tasks on Day three and four. The problem is they are not maximizing their time at all. By the end of Day Five, the typical college student realizes they are running out of time.
Crossing the Finish Line
Maybe you aren’t convinced yet. You still believe your way of thinking is better and can get more done.
On Day Five, the typical college student has completed one paper and is working on paper #2. They still have two more papers to write, which also means they have four more articles to read with notes. How does the typical college student feel at this moment? Do they feel relaxed or stressed out? Can they function at their best or is the stress and anxiety starting to affect their judgment and skills?
The truth is that once we allow stress and anxiety to affect us, the cortisol levels in our body increase and our brain functioning decreases. So at the precise moment we want our brains to be at its optimal, our body chemical reactions decrease our brains cognitive functioning.
Here’s how you can avoid all of that. The student that used the Opposable Mind strategy did not feel stress or anxiety beyond normal levels during the semester. This student knows they have a good strategy to complete their work. They have finished all the reading assignments upfront on Day One. They know they have outlined all the papers on Day Two. On Day Three, they begin writing paper #1. On Day Four, they write paper #2. On Day Five, they can focus on paper #3 and on Day Six they write the last paper.
There’s still one more day before the deadline.
Let’s recap. The typical college student on Day Six realizes that they still have one more paper to write. They also know they have more to read. So far, it has taken more than one day to read and write one paper, but they only have one day left. What happens to the typical college student? Panic sets in.
Now that you have seen both methods in action, which way of thinking works better?
Which Method of Thinking is Better?
Do you want to be the typical college student anymore? Or do you want to become more like the student who follows the Opposable Mind strategy?
Which student had less stress? Which student finished the papers on time? Which student is ready to meet any challenge in life and career?
You Can Implement the Opposable Mind Too!
I know there will be critics of this article. If you have been following my account or social media, you already know I welcome criticism. I know that my thought process and theories contradict conventional wisdom. I am fully aware that how I think is — opposite what most people believe.
But maybe knowing that I use the Opposable Mind strategy, you can see how I can leapfrog over most people simply using a better thinking strategy.
Do you want to do more in less time? Do you want to leapfrog your competitors in business and in life? I know some of you are saying, “yes, yes, yes!”
Here’s a real world example:
The first example was simple to explain. Everyone of us has been in a situation where we had multiple assignments due and we felt overwhelmed.
Ready to see this thinking strategy at work in real life?
Solving the Time Management Issue
One of the most common obstacles people face is time management. Ever feel like there is too much to do and not enough time to do it? You are not alone, that’s how most people feel on a daily basis.
In fact, I helped solved the time management issue for a whole group of professionals. Using the Opposable Mind strategy, I helped nearly 5,000 educators overcome the time management issue.
Here’s what I did.
Teachers feel completely overwhelmed. I don’t think that’s news to anyone. Over the last decade over 1 million teachers have quit the profession for good because the job has become too overwhelming, exhausting and leads to burnout.
If we were to use “conventional wisdom”, there is no way to overcome this hurdle. Either a teacher works longer hours or they quit. And over the last ten years, the answer 35% of the time has been — quit! (Data from the US Department of Education.)
But what if we could use the Opposable Mind strategy? Could we solve the time management issue for teachers?
Remember that the obstacle in time management is having too many things to do and not enough time to do them. The one task that all teachers are required to do, but takes up too much time is lesson planning. If you aren’t a teacher, typically teachers spend at least 5 hours per week writing lesson plans. If you are keeping score at home, that’s over 200 hours per year spent on one job task.
Think about your own job or career. Is there one job task that you spend close to 200 hours a year doing?
In order to solve this obstacle for teachers, I needed to show the teachers how to outline 40 weeks of lesson plans in 30 days. By using the Opposable Mind strategy, I could help a teacher use the same five hours a week on lesson plans to write 10 weeks of lesson plans, instead of one.
That’s a 10x increase in productivity!
By using the Opposable Mind strategy it completely changes the teachers work schedule. It changes how they manage their time weekly. For some teachers, they could pre-plan all of their lessons prior to the first day of school. For other teachers, they could outline all the lesson plans per marking period in one week.
Can you begin to see the power of this thinking strategy in your job, career and life?
Reaching Beyond Normal Capacity
The reason the Opposable Mind strategy works is because we are unlocking our truest potential. We are no longer bound by conventional rules, boundaries and limitations.
If we reach an obstacle, we are no longer thinking — “how do I overcome this one obstacle?” The Opposable Mind strategy allows us to think more globally about a problem we face in life or at work.
I have been using the Opposable Mind strategy in my life since 2007. It has been a game-changer for me and my career.
Learn More With Leaf Academy
I hope that you learned a lot from this article. I founded Leaf Academy to be an online school for the average American to learn 21st century skills. Right now, you can begin your 21st century learning journey with 100% FREE access to a Leadership Skills mini-course.
Leaf Academy Home Page
He is considered an expert by K12 educators, as well as the NJ Legislature, which formally invited him to give expert…
If you go to my website at Leaf Academy, you can first download the Free report, “How to Make More Money with 21st Century Skills,” and then get instant access to the FREE leadership skills course. What you will find are five individual learning modules, each designed to help you increase your understanding, awareness and leadership skills.
About the Author:
D.Scott Schwartz, M.Ed. is considered an expert in education by the NJ State Legislature and leading educational experts. He is the founder of Leaf Academy, one of the first online schools for 21st century skills and an education think tank that researches best teaching and admin practices. In addition to that, he writes articles for Medium and hosts a weekly LIVE broadcast show on Instagram called “Tuesdays with Schwartz” which airs every Tuesday at 5pm EST/2pm PST.