I’ve always had a thing for maths. The complexity, the simplicity, and the beauty of numbers. They are the key that unlocks so many different doors in this world. Without maths we’d still be drawing with sticks in the dirt. It is the only language that spans all humanity and units us. So when I first laid my eyes on fractals I was blown away. How could some simple math result in images with so much depth and detail and that never ended? It was truly a boggling moment. There is a lot we can learn from fractals that applies to every aspect of our lives.
Fractals are defined, in a sentence, as a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. What this means is that when you look at a fractal, then zoom in, it becomes impossible to tell how far zoomed in you are since what you end up looking at is the same as the original. I know, mind crunching stuff.
So what has this got to do with productivity? There are a couple of things I’ve found.
1. Keep Breaking it Down
Probably the most significant feature of a fractal is that no matter how much you break down even the smallest part of it, it ends up looking and behaving the same as when you first saw it. Each time you zoom in and look closer you understand more about just how important each level of detail is. Relating this back to productivity, it should be apparent that breaking down your agenda into the smallest digestible nugget and using all those pieces together will give you a much better, more detailed result than if you just try to approach the task as a whole. It’s about dealing with that most hideous of monsters, Overwhelm, in a systematic way. Refine, refine, refine, and keep refining until you can do so no more. Consider building a car. It’s simply not practical to have “Build Car” on your todo list. It makes much more sense to deconstruct this task into a set of instructions for yourself. In doing this, the path to the completion of the task writes itself and all you need to do is read the instructions and go alone for the journey.
2. Never Lose Sight of the Big Picture
As well as breaking down your tasks, it’s important to keep a focus on what the bigger picture looks like. What is the result of doing whatever it is you’ve set out to do? What is the impact on you and your environment? Why bother at all? It’s been spoken about many times before, but it should be stressed again – when you’re working through your tasks (as broken down as they now are), it’s super important to zoom right out now and then and make sure that the picture you see now is the same as what you had envisioned. Constantly take stock of each activity to ensure that it is indeed helping you to accomplish your goals and tasks.
3. Repeat What Works
A fractal is a pattern that is what they call “self-similar”. Basically, this means that it repeats itself. When you look at the fractal as a whole it’s hard to comprehend the detail that has gone into what you see. The same can be said of you! When someone else looks at you, what do they see? Do they see someone that takes on only the simplest of challenges because they’re “easy”. Or do they see someone that can take a behemoth of a challenge, and knock it over on time, every time? Do they see someone that has the bigger picture in mind and knows the path that will take them there? It’s all about getting to know yourself. A fractal is a repeating pattern. It’s time for you to find your pattern and lock it in. This is what defines your process for completing projects of any size. There are loads of articles and books around on establishing a systematic workflow and while I do agree with many of them, it’s up to your individual working habits and personality to define one that works for you. Only you can define your pattern. Look at what projects you’ve done in the past and critically assess them. How did you work? Were the successful? What were the problems encountered? Then try to identify any patterns in the way you handled all those challenges. People love prodictability. So if you can establish yourself as a predictable, repeatable machine, you’ll get an amazing amount done, on time, every time.
4. Be Colorful!
The other thing about fractals images is that they’re colorful! Never forget who you are and what you represent. Define and work through your tasks the way that only you know how. Your personality shapes everything! The people around you, the work you take on, your relationships and environment. Be a fractal and take on a colorful disposition and you will reap the rewards!