Minimizing Effort

July 25, 2021

The first time I bicycled to my friend's house 15 miles away I was proud of myself. Yesterday, when I biked 80 miles, it didn't seem hard or significant at all.

Practicing a task makes you perform better and reduces how much effort it takes you. It's easy for me to imagine performing better at things. It's hard for me to imagine things becoming easier. I systematically underestimate how much easier things can become.

I underestimated how easy programming would become once I got good at it. I underestimated how easy making friends would become once I got good at it. I underestimated how easy bicycling would become once I became good at it. I do this with literally everything.

Conscious attention is binary. Either a task requires conscious attention or it does not. When a task drops into the unconscious it takes zero effort. A task is hard hard hard hard. Suddenly it clicks. Everything is easy from there.

Performance and effort mostly go hand-in-hand. But they are not exactly the same thing. You can only optimize for one metric at a time. I have always optimized for maximum performance, not minimal effort. I wonder how much would change if I optimized for minimum effort instead.

What would this look like if it were easy?

Tim Ferris seems to minimize effort. He's really good at marketing, sales, dancing, meeting people and being happy.

Reversed advice: If your tendency is to minimize effort then it might make sense to try maximizing performance instead.