Note: As I wrote last Friday, I took yesterday and today as Think Days. What a worthwhile experience! I’ve got lots to share with you about the process, and I’ll have a full write-up on Friday.

I once spent several minutes trying to troubleshoot a piece of electronic equipment that, as it turned out, was not plugged in. We’ve all made mistakes like this—looked for an advanced problem without checking the basics first.

Last week, I finished a couple of undergraduate courses: Basic Statistics and Experimental Psychology. I took them because I was interested in the subject matter, but also because I’m considering additional graduate work in psychology. It was a bracing challenge: I may be a productivity nerd, but taking two college classes with a family and a full-time job was a real challenge.

I’m happy to report that I earned As in both, but I’m especially proud of the A in Statistics.

Not good at math? It’s simpler than that.

The last time I got an A in a math-y class, Bill Clinton was president. Since grade school, I’ve believed that I’m just not “good at math,” that I don’t have that kind of mind. It turns out that the solution was much simpler: I wasn’t putting the time in.

I don’t know how much time I spent on previous math classes, but it wasn’t much. In fact, I took Basic Statistics in college, and I recall investing no more than a few hours a week. I passed with a D.

This time was different.

I tracked every minute I spent on Statistics material this spring, and in the final analysis, I averaged ~16 hours a week (class time not included). This was probably a little excessive, but I was committed to learning the material backward and forward, and what do you know? It worked. Putting the time in did the trick.

Yes, good time management is important. Yes, efficiency is crucial. But when we’re struggling to succeed in some area, let’s check the basics first.

Are we putting in the time?

Are you sure it’s plugged in?