az_banner3Taken on its own, the information in this blog post is useless. There is simply no point in buying or reading books like this one unless you plan to actually put these ideas to good use. It’s when you begin to use the information in these chapters to change your habits that the whole subject of productivity comes to life.

So why do so many people buy books like this and never even read them? Or buy books like this and read them for extra knowledge, but without actually making any change? Well, one reason is that it takes a lot of self-awareness to be able to analyse and change your habits.

The whole subject of you and your habits is most likely not what you wanted to read about – people want ‘tips’, ‘hacks’ and ‘shortcuts’. You wanted secret magic formulae to make it all better. Sorry to break the bad news to you, but there’s no magic shortcut, no secret formula. The only way to make lasting change is to make the effort to change your habits.

The four-stage model of competence

The four-stage model of competence offers us a window into our own minds. It details the process of taking any piece of information or new skill, from something that we can’t do for love nor money right through to a learned habit or behaviour. The model suggests that we go through four distinct phases as we learn:

1. Unconscious incompetence

2. Conscious incompetence

3. Conscious competence

4. Unconscious competence.

Unconscious incompetence, for example, is when you look at somebody doing something and say: ‘Wow, how do they do that?!’ You can’t do it and you wouldn’t know where to start if you were asked to try. It’s like when you see a juggler or magician and their skills just amaze you (unless you happen to be a juggler or a magician …).

On the other hand, conscious incompetence describes the period in which you’re learning something new and failing. As you learn, you keep screwing it up, but at the same time you’re starting to analyse for yourself where competence could come from. You’re starting to see what you’d need to do to get good at it. Imagine you are learning a new language, and the sentence structures and some of the vocabulary are coming together. When your errors are pointed out, you kick yourself and say, ‘Oh no! I knew that!’

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