Algorithmic Thinking: Powering Your Communication and Free Time

Algorithms power our digital world.

They can be deployed in your personal life as well.

Algorithms relieve the cognitive burden of decision making for repeated situations. Leaving you to focus on new problems and acts of creativity.

But first, what is the definition?

a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

I personally like how excel defines the “IF” statement (seen below). Look at the situation, if it meets certain requirements give me one output, if it doesn’t give me another.

Let’s look at two ways you can apply algorithmic thinking to your personal life:

  1. Communication
  2. Free time

Algorithmic Thinking For Communication

I’m sure you’ve had an email communication with someone where it takes several back and forth emails to get anywhere.

Perhaps you’re trying to coordinate a date to meet with someone. You ask if they are free on Tuesday, “No, how about Wednesday”. You aren’t free then, and the message continues…

There is a saying attributed to the SEALs, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” When you step back and communicate thoroughly, algorithmically, it is smoother.

Let’s get more concrete.

You’re the more experienced person on your team and the junior teammate runs into something new.

They ask for your help.

You could dash off a quick message: “have you checked x”? Which may or may not be the solution.

Or you could say:

“X is the most common thing you’ll need to look at here. If that doesn’t work, look into Y. If neither of those work out please send me Z details so I can point you in the right direction.”

By slowing down to apply an algorithmic approach you reduce the back and forth significantly. This is the communication equivalent of measuring twice to cut once.

Algorithmic Thinking For Free Time

If you’re like me, you want to be good at several things. Maybe you’ve narrowed it down to the essential few. Putting good daily habits in place to move you in the right direction.

This means intentional daily habits take up most of your time.

But what about unexpected free time? The baby is asleep early, house is clean, and meals are prepped…it’s 8pm. What do you do?

This is where having a systems approach comes in handy. The skills I’m developing are writing and Jiu-Jitsu. So I have a rule that if there is unexpected downtime Sun/Tue/Thu I study Jiu-Jitsu. The other days are dedicated to copy work. This means your newfound time won’t slip away to YouTube, but instead goes towards YouUniversity.

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