Saturday, August 27, 2022



I recently recalled a 2006 Davis Cup Tennis match between India and Pakistan. A 5 match series was tied 2-2. Indian captain Leander Paes, a doubles specialist by then, took a call to play the decisive last match against top Pakistan player- Aqeel Khan. All was going well for Leander when he won the first 2 sets. Things took turn when he started getting symptoms of cramps. He lost the 3rd set and his situation deteriorated by the time 4th set started, which he ended up losing 6-0. He took a medical break, came back and put up an extraordinary display of grit and determination to win the last set and the tie 6-1. Leander was later asked about the 4th set where he got a bagel (in Tennis parlance, losing the set 6-0), I remember being astonished by his response that he played that game with sub-par performance deliberately so that he could preserve his energy (till he got medical attention and stayed fresh before the start of decider set) and also stretch his opponent a bit more.
I felt astonished because we are tuned to always hearing that the sportspersons are wired to give their best every moment. But sometimes, as Leander showed, it is prudent to take a view of larger goals and not put 100% to win smaller events along the journey.
The context with which I got reminded of this match was when I recently read about Shreyas Doshi LNO effectiveness framework (source in comments). This framework is based on the premise that time management is more about effectiveness than about efficiency. It calls for breaking down work tasks into 3 categories that I summarize below (and also in my sketchnote)
- LNO stands for: Leverage Neutral Overhead tasks.
- Leverage tasks 10x your impact. Neutral tasks get you 1x results. Overhead tasks are like necessary evils.
- The framework asks you to plan your focus, spend your energy and decide your level of perfection depending upon the category of the task. For Leverage tasks- do a great job. Ok job for Neutral tasks. Just get the overhead tasks done.

High leverage activities gets you more bang for your buck. A few examples: Getting product vision/strategy right, automating a daily part of your work, mastering public speaking. Thinking about leverage helps you factor opportunity cost into your decision making. As a rule, the highest leverage activities have the lowest opportunity cost. For Leander (in above example), preserving his energy in the 4th set and getting to medical help faster was an act of high leverage.

All your tasks are not created equal. All of us start our day with limited bank of energy. The fine act of categorizing the tasks and being intentional about our focus, energies, perfection on select (high leverage) tasks can help us create more impact in lesser time.

What do you think ? Do share examples from your career where you can seen the concept leverage work.

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