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12 Ways to Upgrade Your Weekly Review

12 Ways to Upgrade Your Weekly Review
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    Fans of GTD will already be familiar with the weekly review. Weekly reviews are designed to give you uninterrupted thinking time each week. Instead of tackling the big questions of your life between coffee breaks and morning commutes, you can set aside time to do a review.

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    Weekly reviews are a great concept and I’ve used them faithfully for the past few years. But I’ve found just setting aside time to review isn’t enough. Without any structure for your review, these weekly sessions don’t accomplish much. Random musings of the week aren’t as useful as specific ideas for tackling the next seven days.

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    What Are Your Mental Bottlenecks?

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    A bottleneck is a term used to refer to the limiting step in a process. If you have enough fabric to make 200 shirts, but only enough buttons to make 20, the button sewing is your bottleneck. Mental bottlenecks occur when a lack of ideas or planning keep you from doing your best. Overspending because you didn’t plan out a budget or wasting work time because you didn’t organize your week are both examples of mental bottlenecks.

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    Weekly reviews can help you overcome mental bottlenecks. With a structured review you can prevent wasting time and energy in the week ahead.

    Weekly Review Tips

    Here are some ways you can upgrade your review to overcome mental bottlenecks:

    1. Time Off Review. Carve out when your downtime will be during the week. By deciding when your time off will be first, you prevent work from expanding to fill your entire week. Don’t let your energy levels get down so low that you can only function on caffeine and adrenaline. Try to pick a day where you won’t work on major projects, and move your work to morning hours instead of in the evening.
    2. Weekly To-Do. Write a list of all the tasks you want to accomplish in the next week. A weekly to-do allows you to squeeze in activities that don’t scream with urgency, but have long-term importance. Weekly to-dos also help set the pacing for your week so you can see how much work you need to split up for each day.
    3. Goal Review. Go through any written goals you have and write out what you did to work on them in the past week. Spending time to carefully review your goals each week can help you stay aligned.
    4. Optimization Review. When you use a traditional goal setting + to-do list approach, every activity becomes either a multi-month project or a short task. Weekly optimizations help you find the middle ground. Brainstorm a list of short projects that would take less than a week, but could have long-term significance. Then pick one of these short projects to work on next week.
    5. Expenses Review. Tally up all of your expenses for the past week and compare this to your monthly budget. Keeping track of your spending on a weekly basis can make for easier purchasing decisions later. If you know you’re going over the amount you wanted to spend, you’ll know to cut back on non-essentials in the following week.
    6. Habit Review. I have several habits that I do my best to run each week. Exercising, waking up early, staying organized and batching my internet usage are just a few. Reviewing these habits can help you pinpoint possible trouble spots before they start. If you’ve missed a few days from the gym, you can make a point of going next week so your habit stays conditioned. Habit reviews can also help in deciding what new habits you might like to change in the future.
    7. Learning Review. What books did you read this week? Doing a quick review of the major ideas you’ve picked up in the last week can help in two ways. First, it can help you anchor in that knowledge. Second, it can help you see how much you are learning. If you read little in the last week, you can set aside more time to read in the following week.
    8. Social Review. What social activities will you be doing in the upcoming week? A lot of social events are spontaneous, but knowing when you want to visit with friends or family can make organizing your work easier. If you know about an event ahead of time, it can help schedule your work to avoid conflicts later.
    9. Entertainment Review. Beyond just work, what fun and interesting things would you like to do next week. Boredom is usually a lack of planning. By picking out potentially interesting activities for the next week, you already have a list of things to do when you get some free time.
    10. Dietary Review. Track everything you eat for a week. Measuring everything is a lot of work to do all the time. But occasionally doing a weekly dietary review can help you see exactly what you’re eating. It’s easy to delude yourself that you are “mostly healthy”, until you track the numbers and see a lot of junk.
    11. Character Review. What did you do last week that went outside your comfort zone? If you keep drawing blanks to that question week after week, you’re stagnating. Decide to do something that will make you uncomfortable next week.
    12. Productivity Review. What system of lists, calendars and schedulers are you using? Going over your productivity system can help you find holes where information is slipping out. A regular review can also point out places where you are keeping lists and folders that go unused. Reviewing your system keeps your life simple and stress-free.

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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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