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Work Less And Get More Done With These 3 Life Hacks

Work Less And Get More Done With These 3 Life Hacks

In today’s hectic information-filled world, it is hard to find the time to relax and enjoy life. Whether you are a 40-hours-a-week employee or an overworked entrepreneur with his or her own company, we all struggle with a number of physiological issues, varied stressors, and all types of anxieties. While attempts to becoming a healthier entrepreneur might escape you, it is no surprise that you will face some challenging difficulties, such as time management and eliminating habitual time-wasting routines.

If you are constantly feeling overwhelmed with your seemingly endless to-do lists, maybe it’s time to look over your daily work routine. Here are 3 life hacks that can help transform your work habits.

Use The Automated Time Waster Test

Co-Authored by both Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, this first life hack comes from their book, Think Like a Freak. This concept is very simple and can be added to any work routine. If you have employees, ask them to bring a pack of brown-colored M&M’s to work. This helps to check how good they are with following instructions and paying attention to details.

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The following true scenario perfectly illustrates why M&Ms work well.

The rock band Van Halen’s live show boasted a colossal stage, booming audio, and spectacular lighting. All this required a great deal of structural support, along with electrical power and the like. Thus, in the 53-page rider to their already-existing music contract, they gave point-by-point instructions to ensure that no one got killed by a collapsing stage or a short-circuiting light tower. But how could Van Halen be sure that the local promoter in each city had read the whole thing and done everything properly?

Cue the brown M&M’s. Within the contract, a provision that all brown M&M’s should be removed from candy bowls was included. As lead singer David Lee Roth tells it, he would immediately go backstage to check out the bowl of M&M’s. If he saw brown ones, he knew the promoter hadn’t read the rider carefully and that “we had to do a serious line check” to make sure that the more important details hadn’t been botched either.

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You can use this simple idea when screening potential vendors, sub-contractors, freelance applicants, and more. You will save yourself tons of productive time by letting your “garden” (aka any situation involving other people) weed itself without your direct input.

Solidify Systems For Both Work And Personal Life

A good company is always in need of solid systems set in place in order to work effectively and efficiently. This can also be said about personal work systems created by yourself. This can allow you to minimize distractions and reduce your workloads.

David Allen suggests to:

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  • Utilize to-do lists to organize tasks onto other physical mediums.
  • Break larger tasks into smaller, actionable productive practices.
  • Avoid “burning out” by accomplishing smaller collective tasks.

Properly scheduling your time is also a vital and crucial personal skill. Having an employee-shared calendar with blocks of time dedicated to certain productions can help incorporate less stress when completing tasks. You can even schedule available hours for yourself so that employees know when to confer with you if necessary.

Choose Your Battles Wisely

Whether expected or not, daily challenges will occur during the course of your company’s lifespan. From updating routine billing equipment to securing your company’s sensitive data, there’s always something. However, you as an entrepreneur should choose your battles wisely. Help reduce minor work complications by teaching your team how to solve problems themselves rather than relying on you to give your team immediate guidance.

A recent experiment conducted by Ryan Honeyman examined his consistent habit of checking his work email. Reducing his interaction with his work email to just once a week on Monday afternoons has yielded some very interesting results.

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Ryan noted that:

  • Problems tended to answer themselves via conversations between other employees.
  • There was a 30%-40% increase in efficiency towards more pressing tasks.
  • He felt less stressed and better rested.
  • There were improved relationships between himself, his business relationships, and his employees.

While this experiment might seem a bit too on the extreme side, it does provide a great illustration as to why leaders should reduce their mentality of “always on and available,” which is not a necessity to be a good competent company leader. Each of us in our leadership role has only a finite amount of time. While we may be tempted to battle through every conflict because we feel we are “right,” battles can take an enormous amount of time and personal energy that would be better spent doing something else. Choosing our battles wisely may actually make us much more effective in winning those battles that are important to us. Selecting those situations where the consequences really matter to us will allow us to do a better job of preserving our energy, relationships, and our peace of mind. To do this, we need to carefully assess each situation and seriously reflect on the hacks listed above.

Featured photo credit: Flickr/highwaysengland via flickr.com

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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