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Last Updated on February 25, 2018

Reading With Purpose Can Change Your Life

Reading With Purpose Can Change Your Life

As a person working in the advancing, quickly moving online industry, I always try to take the time to slow down and get lost in a book. Yes, there are many resources where I can get information instantly. But these little tid-bits of information filter through, and get lost in the abyss of the subconscious. It leaves me feeling empty, because regardless of the constant flow of information, it’s hard to have a firm grasp on any of it.

There is so much out there distracting us between entertainment, media, and social networks. Our attention is constantly getting interrupted. We tend to choose these little crumbs of instant gratification over the true gratification of indulging yourself in a fine piece of literature.

But when I read, I give myself fully to the book. Whether it’s a story, autobiography, or informative piece, I still allow it to take me elsewhere. I put myself in a frame of mind where I am involved with the processes being described, and am able to get a firmer grasp of the information being shared.

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If your brain does not have to process the information presented, then the information will be lost. So actually reading that small excerpt will ultimately be a waste of time. But if you focus your attention and take an interest in the fact or scenario at hand, such as when you are reading a book, it is likely you won’t forget it.

Reading is the only way you can travel without leaving

Search engines are my best friend. I consult Google countless times a day, and I will bet that you do too. But these tools are designed to help you to solve the most common or shallow issues. When it comes to issues such as life decisions or interpersonal problems, a search engine cannot provide you with a solution that is solid and useful. It can direct you to some archives from people who may have similar experiences, but even those answers are typically shallow and just convey that someone else has the same issue.

In a book, you are able to work through the issues alongside the main character, almost as if you are processing through it yourself in real life. That is, because you are in a way. Whenever this issue arises in the future, you will know exactly how to handle it because you have already experienced that frame of mind.

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Reading is the only way that you can travel without actually going anywhere. It is the only way that you can experience someone else’ life while still remaining yourself. It gives you the opportunity to “mentally travel” as you picture the places and people being described. You are able to experience the hardships of people from a culture very different from yours, understanding how they perceive and handle life. Experience it as your own pain and joy as well because you are a part of the journey.

You can get that sense of transcendence from movies as well. In a sense, yes. If you really throw yourself into the plot and imagine yourself as a part of the story it is possible. But so much is lost because the film makers have already visualized the ideas and feelings for you.

Reading is an investment that will leave your mind rich

Committing to a book is certainly a test of will. The average book will take between 5-10 hours to finish depending on your reading speed and interest in the material. 10 hours is a lot of time, make sure it is spent wisely.

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If you are truly invested in the material, you will absorb and internal the information without even realizing it. Many of us don’t have 10 hours to spend reading, nor could our eyes and minds stay focused for that long. So breaking it up into 1 or 2 hour sessions is just fine, as long as you stay consistent.

Keep it in mind that if you take too long of breaks in between reading sessions, you are going to forget the previous material and need to backtrack. Think about how often you can remember things you read a month ago? When you are not reading constantly , not only will you lose focus and interest, you will have to pay much effort to reconnect the bits and pieces in your mind. It’s better for you to adjust your reading time so you will be committed to read every day.

Ready to take the mental adventure again? Here are some mental notes to find the right book

There are loads of books covering the same topic, so you have lots of options to find one that really appeals to you. You just need to find the genre and writing styles that you prefer, and it is a bit of a snowball effect from there!

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I have grouped books into 3 categories that you can choose from based on the benefits that can be attained from reading them:

1. Pick something that can strengthen your skills

These are packed with knowledge that are consolidate over the years as you read on about this topic or trade. There is scientific evidence that reading for 1 hour per day about a particular field will make you an expert on the subject within 7 years.

2. Go through success stories and learn about the struggles and failures

These will walk you through the challenges and struggles faced by some of your most successful idols. It will help you to humanize the process and realize that the head haunchos are really just people, and they falter too. And now you can get an insider’s perspective of how they turned their obstacles into opportunity.

3. Allow yourself to experience lives that are completely different from yours

The best thing about reading is that you can vicariously live lives that aren’t your own. This will give you insight on other’s life experiences, and help you to be more understanding about people. Reading about the process of other people’s struggles and experiences will help you to prepare yourself in the event that something similar happens to you in the future.

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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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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