Sunday, March 29, 2009

The mathematics of effort and results

If you start to value your time, you'll realise that being a perfectionist is a very silly thing to do. Why is that so? Effort is not equal to results. In life, I've seen countless examples of people who seemingly put in minimum effort but reaped maximum benefits. This is also known as working smart, not working hard.

I can't agree more.

While showering, I've derived the mathematics of effort and results. It is actually an exponential graph (I'll spare you the equation because it's the form that matters, not the exactness) which looks something like what I've attached below.

Initially, a little effort will reap a lot of results. However, as more and more effort is piled on top of previous effort, the results increment gets smaller and smaller, until it finally plateaus off. The main idea here is that the results reaped is not exactly linear to the effort that you put in.

Here are some examples that I can imagine:

1. A student gets 40 marks out of 100 for his test. He puts in a 10% more effort, he gets 60 marks out of 100. He puts in another 10% more effort, he gets 70 marks. He puts in another 10%, he gets 75%. To reach 90 marks, he'll have to put in a lot a lot more effort than the initial 10% effort that pushed his grades from 40 marks to 60 marks.

2 A woman had a weight of 70 kg. She tries to jog and her weight drops to 60kg. To lose the next 10 kg, she'll have to run harder and faster than before.

There is a region in which the sweet zone is found - this is where the effort put in is reaping the maximum results before the increment tapers off to a plateau. It's your job to define it and find the balance point yourself. If you value your time, just don't be a perfectionist - the effort that you put in to perfect your act might be better spent on other more value-creating actions.

That being said, there are some activities where maximum effort must be put into before a sizeable result can be observed. But once reached, the result will shoot up exponentially without requiring further effort (as shown below).

This kind of activities require patience and usually involve some kind of leverage on either time or money or both. It is also your duty to find and do such activities and work towards that final exponential increment.

I can think of a few examples too:

1. Trading/investing in the stock market. The initial outlay of effort is tremendous, to say the least, since the 'effort' usually involves financial losses as well. However, once the sweet spot is reached, the results will exponentially increase without you putting in a lot more effort.

2. Setting up a successful business. Key word is 'successful'. The initial time and money used to set it up is discouraging in the early stages of the business, but once it starts to take off, the sky becomes the limit.

Have you been doing your part to allocate your time and effort wisely in order to place a higher value on your life-energy?


Createwealth8888 said...

Hi Brolp,

I like Inverted Pyramid approach to growing wealth through ivesting/business ownership instead of working in the corporate world (Pyramid)

la papillion said...


Yes, I also agree. Working for others is to be the slaves holding the inverted pyramid for others :)

PanzerGrenadier said...


There tends to be a learning curve in everything.

When I first started working, everything was new and I had to learn from scratch. As I earned more experience, I could do the same things with less effort and it became 2nd nature to me.

Over time, as I moved into more of a managerial role, I look for ways to maximise leverage, i.e. make use of 20% of techniques and short-cuts to achieve 80% of desired outcomes.

Be well and prosper!

la papillion said...


Hoho, managerial position would require leveraging, yes :) Thks for sharing :P