Find the Minimum Necessary Change

The Minimum Necessary Change or MNC was a thing in Isaac Asimov’s novel, The End of Eternity. Be careful of that link: like so much of Asimov’s work, the book has astonishingly vivid and great ideas but they’re written like he’s still in school.

Still, I read it when I was in school and the MNC stuck with me. The End of Eternity is a time-travel novel that features an organisation which fixes problems. If there’s a war that kills billions, they track it back to its cause, to the specific moment, the earliest speck of a pixel of its beginning, and they change that.

I think one example is delaying someone on their way to a meeting. If you could fix their car to stop working and they therefore never get to that meeting, you can imagine how that small act could be the trigger for massive changes. Say the meeting was an interview: you don’t go, so you don’t get the job, so your life is changed.

The MNC was the minimum necessary change to make big things happen.

And I’m thinking of all this in part because it’s fascinating how a dreadfully badly written novel can still stick with you all these years later. But more because Lifehacker has a feature on finding the Minimum Effective Dose. It’s the same thing, sort of.

In medical terms, the “minimum effective dose” or MED is the lowest dose of a pharmaceutical that causes a significant change in health or well-being for a patient. To find the perfect balance of productivity and time management in your life, Dr. Christine Carter suggests you find the MED for everything you have to get done.

There’s no point in burning yourself out on things that can be completed with far less effort. You can find your MED for everything: sleep, checking email, working out, various work tasks. Once you’ve figured out your MED for the tasks you do everyday, you’ll feel less stretched out. You might even find time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do, but never felt like you had time for. Determine your MEDs, stick to your dosage, and realize that overdosing doesn’t mean that you’re getting any more done.

Streamline Productivity with the “Minimum Effective Dose” for Tasks – Patrick Allan, Lifehacker (6 March 2015)

Read the full feature for what Dr Carter has to say.

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