Category: Learn

  • How hindsight can lead to worse insights (and how to avoid the hindsight bias)

    “Hindsight is 20/20.”

    So the old expression goes. But in reality hindsight is deceptive. Without the right protection in place, hindsight can lead to us making worse decisions in the future. 

    Here’s a quick intro to the hindsight bias and how to tackle it. 

    Hindsight bias

    What is hindsight?

    Hindsight is looking back at a situation and only then understanding it. 

    You realised things you dismissed were important, or what you thought was wrong.Like when you rewatch a movie knowing the ending or twist and scenes have a whole new meaning.

    And this is why hindsight can be helpful.

    With the benefit of knowing the end result, we can

    • realise mistakes we made
    • spot missed opportunities
    • and be better prepared for next time

    But hindsight can blind too.

    The dangers of hindsight

    When we look back, we can assume a moment of luck or chance was inevitable.

    Someone who just happens to be in the right place can look like a genius, or we can assume the strategy was correct when really it was just good fortune.

    When that happens, we learn the wrong lessons.

    So how can we combat hindsight bias?

    The best remedy is to consider alternative outcomes and explain why ours was the most likely to occur.

    The danger is that we can be influenced by other biases like the confirmation bias where we will ignore evidence against our beliefs.

    Conclusion 👨‍🏫

    Hindsight can help us learn from the past, but it can make us assume past events were inevitable.

    We should reflect on how different events could have gone and how likely they were.

  • Confirmation bias: One researcher called this the biggest limiter to our knowledge.

    What is the biggest interference on human reasoning?

    According to Psychologist Raymond Nickerson, Confirmation bias is a major contender (Nickerson 1998, 175).

    So what is it, and how can we overcome it?

    What is confirmation bias?

    Imagine you saw two sets of data, one that confirms your beliefs, and one that goes against them.

    Which would you trust?

    Confirmation bias is the fact that we are more likely to trust that which confirms our existing beliefs.

    That causes problems. We ignore data that goes against our beliefs and worse still, it causes us to seek data that confirms our beliefs and not look for that which disagrees with them.

    And marketers use it against you too.

    How marketers use confirmation bias against you

    As Zig Ziglar said

    “People buy on emotion and justify on logic.”

    – Zig Ziglar

    When we come to choose between two options, we are looking for evidence to back up our beliefs and the option we want.

    And confirmation bias means we find it.

    Marketers just need to give us excuse structures we want to buy what we want.

    How can we overcome confirmation bias?

    Badly. That’s the honest answer.

    Confirmation bias affects all of us to some degree, the best we can do is try to fight it by

    • Being okay with being wrong
    • Testing your beliefs
    • Trying to disprove your beliefs

    When it comes to purchases, that means laying out the clear criteria for your purchase as well as red lines.

    • What MUST it have,
    • What would be nice to have
    • What won’t work

    These criteria can help guide our decisions. But confirmation bias will still affect us.

    Conclusion

    Confirmation bias causes us to look for favour evidence we like.

    The best tool against it is to be humble and look for evidence to disprove our beliefs.

  • How marketers use the Anchoring cognitive bias against you, and how to use it in your favour.

    Anchoring is a well-known trick marketers use to convince people to buy. 
    But we can use it on ourselves to make better decisions. Here’s how. 

    What is anchoring?

    Anchoring is a cognitive bias where our perceptions change based on what we see something compared to — the anchor point.

    Marketers often anchor prices e.g.

    • $10 book or $99 course (expensive)
    • $1000 workshop or $99 online course (bargain!)

    So how can we use it?

    Create your own anchors to combat marketers

    Whenever you see an item with an anchor, write down alternative options to create new anchors. Why?

    Writing forces us to slow down and really consider the points. It puts a blocker on those impulsive thoughts and activates our slower thinking systems.

    Plus by adding a new anchor you can pull yourself in another direction.

    So now instead of the limited options the marketers wants to present you with, you have a whole new set.

    Make better decision by anchoring your options.

    So next time you see an offer compared with one other option, stop.

    Write down alternative options at different price points, ease of access, time required, etc. Then consider what you could do with the time, money, or hassle you’d save taking another option.

    Maybe the time that more expensive option would save you is of great benefit for you, but maybe you could use the money you’d say for another purchase that would benefit you even more.

  • Gates’ Law [Sketchnote]

    “Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.” – Bill Gates

    Gates law

    The works on a smaller scale as well. People often plan more than they can possibly manage to do in a day, but then underestimate what they can do in a week or month. This is due to our poor natural ability to predict how much time a task will take to complete so we calculate that we could complete more tasks. On the other side, we fail to take into account The compound effect which leads to incredible results in the long run (even if we don’t complete as many tasks).

    Improving our day to day predictions

    Two time management techniques can help us avoid overestimating what we can do day to day.

    • the big rocks system where we set only three main tasks to complete
    • Estimating the time of tasks before we attempt a task, and then time tracking to evaluate our predictions so we can improve our predictions in the long run.

    Making the most of the compound effect

    Understanding the compound effect should encourage us to focus on regular small actions (or Atomic Habits) that we regularly do and provide these compound benefits. If we do that, we can gain the long term benefits of tiny actions.

  • The Big Rocks Time Management Approach [Sketchnote]

    The Big Rocks is a Productivity framework to help you get the most important tasks done. It is sometimes called the Most Important Tasks (MITs) system.

    The analogy of filling a jar with rocks

    It is based on an analogy of filling a jar with rocks of different sizes

    • large – Important tasks that take a long time
    • small – less important tasks that take less time
    • and sand – small things that take only a minute or two.

    If you start with the sand, then the small rocks and finally the big rocks, you’ll discover that your jar can’t fit everything in. That means that one of the most important tasks you have will not get done in a day.

    But if you start with the big rocks first, then the smaller ones and finally the sand, you can fit everything in.

    The reason the real example works is because the smaller rocks and sand fill the gaps between the bigger rocks. When you put them in first, they form a compact layer with the rocks sticking out.

    It’s the same with our time.

    When we put unimportant tasks first, they consume our time, energy and attention from important tasks.

    How the Big Rocks system works for Productivity

    Like the rocks in the jar, you should start by planning when you will do your most important tasks.

    You need to make time in your day to focus on them. Once you have prioritise these tasks, you can let the smaller tasks fill in the available gaps left.

    In practice, I find that some smaller tasks don’t get done and fall by the wayside. But as they are less or unimportant, it doesn’t matter.

    How to apply the Big Rocks Productivity System

    1. Every morning (or the night before) set the three most important tasks that you must complete for that day.
    2. Estimate how long each task will take to do.
    3. Block time on your calendar to do them
    4. DO what you planned.

    That final point is the trickiest, especially if you have limited control over your time. But my experience has been that prioritising and trying to follow this approach has benefits even if I suddenly find that my time table is ruined for the day with unexpected meetings.

    Give the Big Rocks Time Management System a Go

    Now you have all the information you need to start doing this system. You can do it with a digital app but I like keeping a small, index card size piece of paper on my desk. It provides a constant reminder all day long.

    Give it a try and let me know if it helps.

  • How I listen to and take notes on Podcasts

    I’ve listened to podcasts for years. Although I’ve changed podcast apps (and the shows I listen to) more times than I care to remember, in the last couple of months my system for how I listen to and take notes on podcasts has undergone the most significant change since I first started 14 years ago.

    And it all centres around a new a podcast app and how it works with Readwise.

    Table of Contents

      My old system for listening and taking notes from podcasts

      how I used to listen to and take podcast notes

      I suspect most people had a similar approach to my podcast listening system.

      • I used a podcast app on my phone (My weapon of choice was pocket casts as it has a Mac app as well as a phone version)
      • I listened at 2x speed (I blame Ali Abdaal for this)
      • If there was an interesting point, I would pause, grab drafts and take a note. Sometimes I would re-listen to make sure I got the important parts (especially if it was a quote).
      • At the end of the episode (which I might listen to over several days) I moved the note to Obsidian and cleaned it up.

      When I take notes from other sources such as reading a book I try to summarise from memory, but with podcasts and audio books, it’s difficult to return to the key point and check the information.

      When I heard about a potential solution to my podcast note taking struggles, I was excited.

      Enter Airr.

      Airr Podcast App

      airr podcast app logo handdrawn

      Airr is a podcast app designed for saving key moments from episodes. It provides a large button (or a triple tap of a headphone button) to save an “Airr Quote”. You can tailor how long is saved by default and you can edit any Airr quote later so it matches the moment you wanted to save.

      This makes it easy to go back and find key points that you want to remember later. And thanks to Airr, I have a new podcast listening and note taking system.

      How I listen to podcasts now

      How I now listen to podcasts

      For pure entertainment podcasts, I still use pocket casts, but for informational podcasts, I have moved to Airr. This means I can only listen with my phone, but that’s an acceptable compromise.

      • I still play episodes at 2x speed (sometimes only 1.5 if it’s very dense on information).
      • If there’s an interesting quote or point, I either
        • Triple tap the button on my Beats flex
        • Press the Air Quote button in the app
        • or use a Siri shortcut by saying “Hey Siri, take an Airr Quote.”

      Once the podcast is over, It’s time to start the note taking process.

      How I take notes on podcasts now

      how I now take notes on podcasts

      With my Airr Quotes, I have a starting point for my notes.

      Either immediately or at the end of the day, I start my note taking process.

      • I go back to each Airr Quote and adjust it to capture the text I want. Then I give each Airr Quote a title.
      • My Airr Quotes are automatically saved to readwise. This is both my integration layer and resurfaced as my saved notes later.
      • Thanks to the Readwise sync with Obsidian, these quotes are saved to my Obsidian vault when I reopen the application.
      • In Obsidian, I review the quotes and make add a summary about the episode I’ve listened to.
      • Next, I create Atomic notes in Obsidian based on the key points or ideas in the episode.

      This new system allows me to enjoy episodes more, take better notes with specific quotes (I can even share the audio if I like) and helps with creating notes. Plus, it works similar to my other note taking processes thanks to Readwise.

      However, it is not without faults.

      My problems with Airr

      I have experienced a couple of frustrating issues with Airr that I haven’t experienced with any other podcast app.

      These includes

      • Airr logging me out randomly so I have to log in multiple times a day
      • Saving an Airr Quote using the Airr Quote button in the app has caused the episode to end and be marked as played.

      The second is certainly not something I experience a lot as I tend to use other methods to take an Airr Quote, however both can be very frustrating.

      Alternative podcast note taking options

      There are two alternatives that might be worth considering. One is Snipd, another podcast app that also integrates with Readwise and allows you to save clips. I have no experience of this app so I can’t vouch for it.

      The alternative is to use a system like Ev Chapman in her video below.

      While I would like to try her system, I have been a pocket cast user for a long time which doesn’t include the option to save a clip from an app.

      I know this is ironic as I moved to an alternative podcast app anyway, but the built in quote system works very well in my experience and doesn’t have a stop-start process that Ev’s system would be.

      What about you?

      Have you found a different system to take podcast notes? I’d love to know and see if I could steal some inspiration from it. In the meantime, I’ll stick to using Airr.