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Start a Project You Have Been Putting Off in Just 5 steps

Start a Project You Have Been Putting Off in Just 5 steps

No matter what professional field you are in, chances are that there exists a project you have been putting off for weeks, months or even years. We always have plenty of excuses to keep putting it off and the more time goes by the more creative we get with our excuses. Here are the simple steps to get started:

1. Identify ‘Why’ you are putting this project off?

Are you short on time? Not enough hours in the day? Are you not sure how to start? Is the project too demanding in terms of mental energy and concentration? Are there financial restrictions? Are you simply being a melancholic perfectionist reluctant to start without a complete plan? It takes bravery to admit to yourself why you are not going forward with a project you want to pursue in general. Good news – you are not obliged to share this information with the world, unless sharing it would help you overcome your challenges.

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For example, I find that I often procrastinate writing my thesis when I am overloaded with a large amount of smaller work projects. My brain simply runs out of ‘RAM’ and I am unable to concentrate on my writing.

2. Take a ‘Very Small Step’ towards eliminating that obstacle.

It is completely unrealistic to expect that you would get rid of an obstacle that held you back for months/years overnight. Start out with taking a series of very small steps. The progress will follow immediately. For example, if you have been planning to get fit but sports seem intimidating to you, start off by talking to people who love sports. Find out what they enjoy about being active.

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Intimidation rises from lack of information or from previous negative experiences. Taking a step as simple as discussing your goals with others will put you at ease and encourage you to start making progress.

3. Give it 5 minutes of your ‘Undivided Attention’ every single day.  

You might not make an awful lot of progress, but you will form a HABIT of working on your project every day. Aim for only 5 minutes a day, and with time you will find yourself wanting to extend that time. For example, anyone (whose health conditions allow it) can take a 5 minute walk in the morning or after work. Anyone can spare 5 minutes during the day or before bedtime to immerse into planning or thinking through one specific detail of a project.

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4. Set very specific ‘Super-Short-Term’ goals

It is often very difficult to establish a completely coherent plan of tackling a long term project. Also, meeting long-term goals can take up a lot of time, and waiting for the first ‘fruits’ of your labor might be discouraging. Instead, set as many short term goals as you can, and then break them up into even shorter-term goals! Be as specific as you can. For example, a short term goal might sound like “Find out how to register your own company”. A series of specific shorter-term goals would sound like: “Google search ‘how to register a company’”, “search the CRA website for further information”, “Call CRA to find out the rest of the details”. The more specific your goals are, the easier it will be to complete them fast. When we know what we are doing we tend to be more confident and we are less likely to put things off.

5. Use the mindset of “Eyes fear – Hands do”

“Eyes fear – hands do” – that’s how they say it in many Slavic cultures. In English it simply means ‘Just DO IT!’ Chances are that the project that you have been putting off is not composed of very dangerous tasks, so in fact there is nothing to be afraid of factually. The fear that we often feel before approaching a problem is steaming from our own expectations that we set for ourselves. Instead of beating yourself up that your project might not come out as ‘perfect’, tell yourself that if you will not get started it will not exist at all!

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Featured photo credit: mariyaboyko12.files.wordpress.com via mariyaboyko12.files.wordpress.com

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Mariya Boyko

Mathematics teacher, curriculum developer

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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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