Statistical Thinking and Productivity




Hideko Yamashita said in her book, DanShaRi (a decluttering philosophy towards simplicity, meaning “deciding”, “releasing” and “leaving”. It’s mostly used in tidying home, but it’s also a deeper philosophy) :

Most people don’t know what’s needed to live the life they want. (My literal translation from Chinese Edition)

It strikes me. I know I want to sleep well, eat well, exercise well, work more proactively, maintain my relationships well, look more beautiful, and live in a cozy home. I want to be more productive, more in control! And she is right — I don’t know or I am not thinking consciously what’s needed to live the life I want.


It feels good to be challenged this way. What’s needed to live the life I want? How do I find out? A tool that worked for me is —— Statistical Thinking.


Statistical thinking helps you tell if it’s possible or if it’s just wishful thinking.

Take 10-hour study time as an example. Supposing you are a full-time student.

Do you know the following data?

  • How long does it take to shower with washing your hair? (sorry, I am a she. Washing hair takes longer)

  • How long does it take to shower without washing hair?

  • How long does it take for breakfast?

  • How long does it take for dinner?

Suppose you have those data.

Let’s break our day down and relate it to our schedule:







What picture does the above analysis give us?

To study for 10 hours, we need to keep our daily life really simple! Just 1hr study - 10min break schedule.

To decide if a 10-hour study is wishful thinking, we need to decide if we accept the schedule above and also to what extent you can adjust to make it happen.

The data and breakdown analysis allows you to look at where you can tweak to achieve your goal. Maybe you need to have a SuperFridge, a concept mentioned by Dr.Fogg as an example in his book Tiny Habits to allow him to eat healthier and more efficiently. Maybe your 1.5hr before-bed self-care procedure will only take 3 times a week or one time a week, the rest of the days are going to be 30-45min. So you know you can study 10hr for 4 days and maybe 8 for the rest 3 days.

Finding a role model really help me as well when I decided I need to study 10hr a day this semester. Check the "study with me" video of James Scholz on YouTube. He has 300 recorded live stream videos posted already from 2020 to 2021. So you can open any one and start with him. It will be really helpful to look at his introduction and his schedule. Role Model gives you ideas of how you do your own statistical thinking and finds a schedule that’s suitable for you. Even if you want to focus on something after work, it would be a good example to look at.


Statistical thinking helps you calm down when feeling pressurized

When you feel pressured, like time pressure, or peer pressure, statistical thinking helps you keep your breath, make decisions, and focus.

Let’s take textbook reading pressure as an example.

  • How many pages can you read in one hour if it’s a certain professional textbook?

  • How much time do you need to take notes for one chapter?

Suppose you know your current data :

  • average 4~5 pages per hour;

  • 1.5 hours to take notes for each chapter;

You have 45 pages for two chapters, you can start our breaking down process now:







Now relating to our daily study: we need to put down 8.5 hrs per day from sitting down to study to calling it a day.

The above two calculations are my personal experience. When this semester started, I have the syllabus for Neural Network in data mining, Experimental Design, and Digital Marketing including doing this website. I felt pressured because my goal is to understand not only how to do, but also the math and concepts required behind it.

Three courses mean I need to put down six days of studying each week. Now I know I can do it. I can handle the study. What I need to do is to put down the time and watch my progress. As you go along the process, there will be ups and downs. And I kept watching how many pages I read during the 1-hour session to watch my progress on one hand and collect my data on the other hand. This also brings me to my third point.


Statistical thinking helps you measure your progress.

During the 1 hr studying sessions, I found out my reading speed. I can read 15 textbook pages per day at the start of Jan. I can read now 20 - 30 textbook pages per day. Of course, I am investing more time since the semester started in Feb and my concentration ability increased.

Strictly speaking, my reading speed when I read Tiny Habit is 30 pages per hour. One page is like 300 words on my iPad. So my speed is 150 words per minute so far (300*30/60=150). According to the WPM by Age and Grade Level created by Hasbrouck, J. & Tindal, G. (2017) – Brysbaert, M. (2019), I am a starter in middle school. I am using it as my reference now.


Statistical Thinking and Productivity

I may have bored you with the processes. Thank you for reading till here. I want to tell you that’s the time you need to take for yourself.

If you are like me, not naturally sensitive to data, Let’s spend some time asking ourselves questions, collecting data about ourselves, and analyzing data.

Statistical thinking brings calmness and the feeling of being in control. It helps us know better what to take in and out of our schedule. As we know more data about ourselves and our life, those become certainties we can plan. And it leaves us more strength for uncertainties.


I made an infographic for the anatomy of Statistical Thinking based on the process I said above.