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Are You Making This Major Daily To-Do List Mistake?

Are You Making This Major Daily To-Do List Mistake?

Odds are if you’re reading this post, you probably use some kind of daily to-do list system in your life, right? The question is, are you using that system to it’s maximum potential? Are you getting everything done on that list each day?

If you’re like a lot of people, you use a daily to-do list and you may even check some things off each day, but you may be making a mistake that many people make that causes a HUGE problem not only in terms of productivity, but also in the fundamental way you organize your thoughts.

Don’t feel bad. It’s a common mistake, and I’m here to help you fix it.

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Consider this question for a moment. What does your daily to-do list contain? Is it sufficiently broken down into manageable tasks and tasks only? Can you realistically complete those tasks in a maximum of a couple of hours each?

If not, you may be making this mistake as well. And it may be drastically affecting your life.

How to Construct a Proper Daily To-Do List

A daily to-do list should be composed of small tasks that don’t take more than a couple of hours at most to complete. Otherwise, they have no place here.

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This is where a lot of people go wrong. They use daily to-do lists as a reminder of the things they need to work on, but their use of lists ends there. They fail to ever separate the large projects on their lists from the small tasks they need to accomplish in the first place.

The result is often a major short-term focus, and is a huge reason why a lot of people in this world fail to think in a proactive fashion. They think a day at a time, and never a step ahead.

See, by not separating out your long-term goals and projects onto other forms of productivity documentation, the only list you’ll ever have is your daily list, which at this point is only a reminder of things to work on. It’s not being used in a productive fashion to help you achieve your goals.

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Enter Your Long-Term Productivity Lists

See, a lot of people don’t realize that there are more types of lists than just a daily list that you can use to enhance your productivity. And not only will they enhance your productivity by allowing you to keep your to-do list more clean, but they’ll also allow you to be a much more of a long-term thinker, and will allow you to take control of your day rather than let your day control you.

Consider this structure of lists to arrange your productivity, rather than the typical “daily list only” approach that most people use:

  • The Master Goal List – Use a Master Goal list as a long-term list of 90 – 180 days to plan out what you want to accomplish in this time frame. What do you want to get done in the next 3 – 6 months? What are the things that are going to make a huge impact on your job or your life? These are the items that should go on your Master Goal List. This is the “What” and the “When” of what you want to accomplish.
  • The Weekly Project List – Use a Weekly Project list as a breakdown of the items on your Master Goal list. These items have a project focus as well, but are broken down into smaller subsets of the large items on your Master Goal list. This allows you to see what you need to work on from week to week to reach your goals and will allow you to start seeing how your daily schedule can be arranged.
  • Your Daily To-Do List – Then finally, use your Daily To-Do List to break down your Weekly Project List into small tasks that you can accomplish in just a couple of hours each. These tasks filter down from your other two lists to ultimately enable you to complete each project you wish to accomplish. Think of this list as the “How” of what you want to get done.

The Result?

It might seem a little strange to keep three lists, but look at what happens as the result.

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Suddenly, with the creation of your long-term lists, your daily list starts to mean something. It becomes free of long-term projects and you only include the small tasks that you need to get done each day to allow you to complete your projects. You’ll start crossing off everything on your daily list every day.  Then you’ll relate those back to completing your projects and eventually your ultimate long-term goals.

The result is your daily to-do list goes from being just a dumping ground of everything you have to do, to being a key driver of your productivity and success.

And that’s the ultimate goal of “lifehacking” – to enable you to get things done!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.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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