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Forget Resolutions: If You Only Do One Thing to Get Ready for 2014, Do This!

Forget Resolutions: If You Only Do One Thing to Get Ready for 2014, Do This!
Many people, stuffed full of Christmas goose, spend the last week of the year mulling and ruminating over what worked and what didn’t and how they hope the next year will be better.

The problem is, without the right structure, there will be too many loose-ends, and too much unfinished business. Without new goals, and new ways of tackling them, 2014 will almost certainly be a Groundhog Day version of 2013.

Making resolutions without a good structure for reflecting on the previous year is like putting icing on a mud pie.  Sure, the resolutions look good, but the foundation is still muddy.

I’ve been using 12-day process with CEOs, celebs, and entrepreneurs for two decades called ‘Reboot Your Life.’  It takes just a 20-30 minutes each day and structures your reflections, ruminations and goal setting so that the past is in the past, and the goals, dreams, and vision for the coming year are do-able.   

“Reboot” is just twelve 30-minute sessions and adds up to less than a day.  Investing a day to make the next 364 outstanding seems to me a no-brainer.

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Nevertheless, people are people, holidays are holidays, and people want to chill.  I’m often asked if there’s a “light’ version?” (Why would you want a “light version” of something as important as this? Go figure.)

But here it is.  If you do no other “work” on 2014 this holiday period, do this:

Step 1: Create a list of areas of your life that you care about.

In one sense, you are “just” going to make a list, but there is a huge trap here: making this list is not a descriptive process, but rather a creative one. What do I mean?

You already have five or six things you care about: a job, friends, and maybe children, hobbies, and school. There is some value in listing those and setting goals, but the gold is to be found by looking more deeply. By creating a new category, you declare that you are going to pay attention to that category in a new way.

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Some examples are:

1)      You may not have a category called health or finance, but there are minimum levels of attention needed to live well (and long), and very high levels of excellence are possible in such categories.

2)      You may have other neglected areas. I sometimes find very successful people who neglect (not willfully) friendships or extended family due to their high-demand schedule.

3)      Adding an area can enrich your life. Perhaps ‘culture’ (maybe Bieber, maybe WWF, maybe Wagner,  or crafts fairs/ museums). Perhaps ‘being of service,’ or ‘learning something just for the sake of learning it’, or picking up a new hobby (or reconnecting with an old one).

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4)      There might be “stuff you just do” where you would be inspired by a new level of achievement or focus. Play golf? Take five shots off your game. Kids like sports or music? Find them the best instruction you can. Married? Make “Spouse” a category and make that category inspirational (to them). Enriching an area might be adding an absurdly distant goal (like me doing a 10k when my previous best distance was a 100m.)

5)      You should have at least two work categories: “Career” and “Job.” Career is the management of your long-term productive activities, which will include (at least) skills building, brand building, networking, and having a plan for either your next promotion or retirement. “Job,” meanwhile, is an uninspiring description, so choose another one that is more descriptive. If you are a “portfolio person” (as I am), you may have several. I have “Writer” and “Consultant” categories now.  When I ran a company, I had “Chairman” and “Rainmaker” categories, with different goals in each.

Some areas pretty much everybody has, some are areas people sometimes miss and are deeply enriching, and some can be quite specific to your life.  Here is a table of things to choose from, but make this specific to you!  You should come up with 8-12, some of which you already have.

‘Standard areas’‘Enriching areas’‘Specific areas’
Well-being, healthGiving backDream vacation
FinancesCultural enrichment (could be fine art, could be WWF)Habitat for Humanity service
FamilyCommunity serviceSecond home
EducationPoliticsInternational travel
Primary relationshipChurchSoccer coach
FriendsSpiritualityGolf league
Home (the house or apartment)TravelPTA role
CareerSports
JobHobbies

Step 2: Rate 2013 in each area on a scale of 1 to 10 in the next column of your page

If “10” is deliriously happy and grateful for every second, and “1” is “I would not wish this on my worst enemy” where are you?   Go with your gut, but take off the rose-colored glasses if you wear those, and take of the mud-stained glasses if you wear those. (There are people for whom “okay” actually means “horrible,” and people for whom “horrible” actually means “okay.”)  Get honest with yourself.

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Step 3: In each area, jot down a few words or a sentence that answers the question, “What does a ‘10’ look like?” (This should also take about 15 minutes.)

By doing this, you create a vision for excellence in each area.  This creates a clarity of purpose and a new level of ambition that can make every area of your life extraordinary.

There is more to do.  The “whole enchilada” is eleven more days like this, but this gets you in touch with reality, and gives you a general sense of where you need to go.  Most people who do just this feel a renewed sense of aliveness and passion.

.Productivity tip:  Don’t let this be something you will ‘get to’.  Just reading this will do you no good.  Block off 30 minutes in your calendar to do it this week.

And have a great 2014!!!

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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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