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FAD: File, Action, Delete. Make Your Goals Happen.

FAD: File, Action, Delete. Make Your Goals Happen.

It is almost June and the question on my mind is whether or not I can really enjoy my holidays because my goals are on track. The summer sun is calling us outside while those in the Southern Hemisphere are snuggling up for winter. I always feel a sense of urgency around this time of year; the clock is ticking and I realise that I only have half the amount of time left to complete all the goals I set at the start of the year. Items on the to-do list need to be crossed off and I need to make revisions to actions that have not been achieving the desired results.

Summer holiday unplugging brings with it a revival in my thinking. My creative inclinations start blooming again, and ideas and plans start taking shape. Reflection is important during this period: looking back, looking forward and taking decided action. Knowing how to take decided action is key.

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My creative inclinations start blooming again.

Firstly, I do a brain dump of all the goals I am working on and all the new ideas that are swirling in my mind. I also bring my master list to the exercise. I then use the File, Action, Delete method to take action:

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File:

There are a number of reasons to file items from both my master list and my new ideas list:

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  • I will only need to take action at a later date.
  • I can only take action when I have completed another task.
  • I am waiting for someone else to get back to me about something.
  • I am still planning the action or gathering information about it.
  • I need to oversee activity related to the item but I am not directly involved.
  • I will ‘file’ these items by scheduling them into my calendar so that I remember to follow up on them. When the allotted date comes up, I will then either move the item into the action category or I will delete it.

Action:

Items can be actioned when:

  • I need to take action immediately in order to progress the activity.
  • All tasks that needed to be completed prior to this item are complete.
  • I am not waiting for anyone to provide further information or input on the item.
  • All research and planning around the item are complete.
  • There is a deadline attached to the item.
  • I action these items by immediately taking the next step that is required to progress the goal to its next phase. If there are too many items to action on the spot, I schedule them into my calendar over the next couple of weeks. If an items has been actioned immediately it also gets deleted from the lists.

Delete:

Items can be deleted when:

  • There is no longer a need to complete the item.
  • The item has passed its due date.
  • The item was an idea that never came to fruition.
  • The item requires action from someone else and is not related to you.
  • The item no longer interests you at all.
  • The item was actioned or filed.
  • The FAD method is versatile and can be applied to many areas of work and life. For example, it can be used to clear out an inbox. It can be used to clear out cupboards or storage spaces (with some modification to the language of course: store, use or throw out). It can also be applied to specific projects and their multiple action items. It can be applied to company restructuring when reviewing processes. It can be applied to a personal training regime.

There are many benefits to using the FAD method but I find the following three to be the greatest::

  • A continual sense that my goals and master list are achievable.
  • A very clear focus on what is most important, right now.
  • A sense of regularly de-cluttering which means I do not feel mentally burdened.

Have you used the FAD method before? Where can you see this method being applied in your work and life?

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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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