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The One Hack You Need To Stop Procrastination And Achieve Your Goals

The One Hack You Need To Stop Procrastination And Achieve Your Goals

Accomplishing goals is challenging. To many people, the most common scenario is that they feel excited when setting goals and stick to their goals for a while. But as time goes by, they find the process of achieving their goals stressful and try to procrastinate with all kinds of excuses like being too busy, lacking the resources, discouragement from people around them etc. Have you ever wondered why procrastination and even giving up are the usual endings when pursuing your goals? It is not about you being not perseverant enough, but you setting your goals with the wrong approach.

The problem of focusing too much on numbers

When it comes to career planning, many people like linking their goals to numbers. I wish I can proceed to the management level in 3 years. I wish I can break the sales record of the company next quarter. I wish my salary can increase by 30% in one year. No doubt these numbered goals are concrete and easy to visualize so they are able to motivate you in the beginning.

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But let’s face the fact: whether we can achieve our career goals is not only determined by how much effort we put in our work. There are many factors we cannot fully control. So setting numbered goals is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, it gives us a clear direction; on the other hand, it traps us in a rigid boundary. Once we cannot proceed to the management level or break the sales record when the preset deadline is approaching, most likely we will feel overwhelmed and procrastinate what we are supposed to do. Worse still, we may feel deeply frustrated and deny our self-worth.

So instead of setting a fixed goal and thinking what concrete actions you need to take to reach the goal, you should ask yourself this more important question: What are the values behind the goal you set?

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Why focusing on values is a better approach

If we truly understand why we’re setting specific goals, then we’ll be better at incorporating the goals into our lives and building habits for them, and so we no longer feel exhausted from rushing to reaching our goals within a certain time frame.

If your goal is reaching the management level in your career, you should go deep to understand the rationale behind it. If your ultimate goal is to make your ideas as the driving force of the company’s strategies, then what you do is not only limited to demonstrating that you possess the qualities to make a great leader or competing with your colleagues for the titles. Instead, you will build the habits of grasping opportunities for your company, contributing more valuable ideas in meetings and bettering the communication and coordination between colleagues. In this way, you will not confuse your values (increasing your influence and contribution in the company) with the means (reaching the management level).

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Although setting numbered goals and coming up with corresponding strategies can possibly shorten your time on reaching your goals, the non-negligible side effect is that you do not enjoy the process and so procrastination keeps visiting you. When you try tweaking the approach to set your goals based on your values, you can see more options to realize what you want and by turning them into your habits, you’ll find the process more enjoyable and more sustainable.

Featured photo credit: Amanda Jordan via stocksnap.io

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Kyle Hiller

Author, Writer

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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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