Don’t Use a lot Where a Little Will Do

Of all the constraints we face, the constraint of time and a finite lifetime are ones we cannot escape. With these constraints in mind, the focus then should be on increased productivity where we get the best with the least amount of opportunity cost.

Opportunity cost is the sacrifice being made. What you have to give up to get something.

The Law of Diminishing Returns

If one is busy, they are often viewed as doing productive work. We can all call to mind several instances where this is not always the case.

All action runs up against the law of diminishing returns. The law of diminishing returns states that in all productive processes, adding one additional factor of production, while holding all others constant, will at some point yield lower incremental per-unit returns.

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The Law of Diminishing Returns

The goal as illustrated above is to stay in the green.

The Minimum Effective Dose

Arthur Jones was the founder of Nautilus, Inc. and MedX, Inc. and the inventor of the Nautilus exercise machines.

His ideas focused on moving the public’s notion of bodybuilding and strength-training exercise away from the Arnold Schwarzenegger school of training, which involved hours in the gym using free weights, to high-intensity training. 

This led to the concept of  The Minimum Effective Dose (MED) that has been popularized by Tim Ferris in his book The 4 Hour Body.

The Minimum Effective Dose (MED) is defined as the smallest dose that will produce the desired outcome.

A popular example used to illustrate the MED concept is that of boiling water. Ferris illustrates is as follows:


“To boil water, the minimum effective dose is 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) at standard air pressure. Boiled is boiled. Higher temperatures will not make it “more boiled.” Higher temperatures just consume more resources that could be used for something else more productive.”

The logic is clear. If boiled is boiled, why spend value time and energy trying to make it more so?

There is a lot to be done and time is not allocated in corresponding equal measure. Jones and Ferris have focused on health but all aspects of life can be viewed and optimized through the lens of the minimum effective dose.

Beware of the pursuit of excellence where excellence has no reward. One should always give their best, but mindfully so. Sometimes, less is more.

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