Compound Effect

I recently read the book “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy. It was an easy read and most of it wasn’t new to me as I’ve been studying the topic of achievement and goal setting for a few years. The biggest takeaway I got from the book was that small changes can have huge effects when applied consistently over time. This is good when we have good habits, but terrible when we have destructive habits.

I relate everything to health and wellness, it’s my passion. A great example of the compound effect in terms of food is that one extra 150 calorie cookie a day means 54,750 calories added to your diet each year! In the library there are many ways we can make small extra efforts that could potentially yield big rewards. Something I think about often is what our users get out of their interactions with us and our services.

This morning when I was on the reference desk a student asked if I could help her find an article from a citation in the back of her Psychology textbook (everyone in her class is doing this right now). There are several ways I could have approached this:

1. Quickly pull it up on my own computer and send it to her.

2. Quickly pull it up on a student computer so she could print/email it.

3. Walk her through the process while I controlled the mouse/keyboard and print/email it for her.

4. Walk her through the process while she controlled the mouse/keyboard and have her print/email it.

5. Walk her through the process while she controlled the mouse/keyboard, help her print it so she wouldn’t print any extra pages and confirm that she could do it again if needed.

As you can see, each option takes an incrementally greater amount of effort but one could argue that those small improvements will drastically improve her experience at the desk. I estimate that option 1 would have taken about a minute depending on computer speed. What I actually did (option 5) took about 3 minutes. To me, the extra two minutes is worth it because I know that student had a positive experience. She found her article, learned a new skill, and saved 20 cents.

The reference desk is an easy target for this thought exercise because it provides multiple opportunities that have a direct impact on a person. This might be harder to see doing other tasks, but small efforts yield big rewards in most endeavors. It’s easy to get caught up in a routine when we complete our job tasks. We are usually either on autopilot (copier is that way) or focused on long term goals/projects. Spending a little bit of extra effort on the small tasks is a good way to mix things up and to eventually make big changes.

If you are a fan of personal development topics I’d like to suggest the School of Greatness podcast. The host, Lewis Howes, is a former pro athlete who is now a “lifestyle entrepreneur”. He interviews people from many different backgrounds, but asks each one for their definition of greatness. One of his recent guests, Josh Shipp, defined it as “intentional consistent incremental improvement”. Short and simple, but something we can all achieve. How will you make a small change today?

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