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10 Ways You Can Find More Time To Think

10 Ways You Can Find More Time To Think

People are juggling a lot these days: work, school, spouses, kids, chores, socializing and more. With all of these commitments, it can seem impossible to find the time to just sit down and think. However, time to think is important for maintaining optimal mental health. It also allows you figure out any problems in your life and do some soul-searching, if necessary. If you’re finding yourself short on time, try these 10 ways to fit thinking into your life:

1. Make the decision to make time.

If you’re going to make time to do more thinking, you need to commit to that decision. That means actively making time to do it. If you just say that you’ll make time, it’s likely that it won’t happen. Step up and make the decision that this is something that you want to do.

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2. Schedule it in.

Step two is scheduling that time. Try finding gaps in your calendar that are pretty consistent from week to week. That way, you’ll be able to schedule it in regular increments of time.

3. Write it down.

It might sound silly, but if there’s a problem that you want to think about for a while, write down what that problem is. Once you get to the point where you can sit down and think about it, remind yourself of what that issue is. This will keep the problem fresh in your mind, which will enable you to have a more informed thought process about it.

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4. Seek silence.

Even the most focused of people cannot think well around noise. It’s distracting and eats into thinking time. Try to find a time and place that is quiet and peaceful. Think of this as a time to meditate on whatever you want. This allows you to really focus all of your energy on the task at hand.

5. Be comfortable, mentally.

Many people are uncomfortable with too much time to think because they are afraid of facing their own thoughts. Don’t shy away from thinking. It’s important to be able to open up to yourself and think through things. This time is a gift, not a burden. Use it as a way to relax.

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6. Be comfortable, physically.

Laying down, sitting on a pillow, reclining on the lawn — find a space where you feel physically comfortable. This will enable you to have a pleasant experience and really get to thinking. Try to find someplace that will be comfortable for a long period of time to avoid distraction.

7. Talk to yourself.

Thinking out loud is very helpful to some people. Even if the only person listening is you, it can be great to hear ideas. It makes your thought process more concrete, and will help you reach a solution or answer more quickly than if you keep everything in your head.

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8. Take a break.

Midday breaks — such as lunchtime — are great times to think. Rather than working through lunch, take the time to gather your thoughts. Breakfast time provides another opportunity; in the morning, you can reflect about the tasks ahead and organize your day.

9. Exercise.

I find that workouts give me a great opportunity to think. This is especially true if you’re doing repetitive cardio, such as running. This involves little thought, which will give you more time to think about whatever is on your mind. The bonus is that thinking will take your mind off of the workout, which can make the activity seem easier.

10. Go on a drive.

Aimlessly driving around your neighborhood can be a great time to think. The car is quiet, and it’s a safe place to air your thoughts. Just make sure you’re not too distracted by your ideas, and pay attention to the road!

Featured photo credit: Kate Ter Haar 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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