Advertising
Advertising

Game Show Time Management

Game Show Time Management

I’ve got it! This came to me on the ride to work this morning. We have systems for executing our tasks. We have Getting Things Done, which tells us to sweep our heads, capture the details, do our work in the right contexts, and keep the flow going. And I always say that what we need over this is a framework, to help direct our thoughts and mindset towards what matters most to us. 7 Habits, for example, tells us to organize and execute around our priorities. Use Covey’s methods to get your priorities straight. Use Allen’s methods to execute properly. It’s perfect in the larger picture stuff.

But what about those tasks where all things are equal? Maybe they all matter equally, all need to be done, and all meet the same context requirements. What to do? What to do?

Game Show Time Management

The part of the game show we’re going to consider is the lightning round. Near the end of various game shows is that spot where the contestants are thrown a bunch of questions, and they have to answer them in rapid succession. The pressure of speed makes for better tension, and that’s why they do it on TV. But here’s the part we should steal.

Advertising

“Pass.”

Abe Lincoln was shot in which theater? …. Pass! Michael Jackson wore his glove on which hand? Right! Abe Lincoln

Task Pass

Take your list of priorities, and the tasks assigned to a certain context, and put them in your own personal lightning round:

Advertising

  • Copy a new WordPress install
  • Build header art – PASS
  • Burn new FeedBurner feed
  • Edit WordPress install – PASS
  • Build MySQL database
  • Build header art

Now, there are some ways to implement that technically. You could set the task to recur. (Can you set a task to recur faster than daily? You must, right?). You can throw nag SMS at your cell phone for the ones you are most likely to let slip by passing too many times.

Maybe it’d be great to implement a “3 Pass” rule. You can’t pass more than three times. That way, procrastination-only passing will be shoved away.

Scoreboard

Lots of people like to keep tabs on how they do with their tasks. Sometimes, we do this by leaving completed tasks on the list for a while with a strikethrough. What if you threw scoring against it? What if you decided that completing a task with only 1 pass is worth more than completing a task with 2 passes? Would it change your behavior?

Advertising

Lightning Round

I’ve spoken about Time Quilting before, as a means to finding usable time by sewing together scraps of time from various parts of our day. Parents do this well, snagging a few minutes while your son is taking a nap, and another ten minutes while they finish their couscous and lentils. This ties well into the Game Show Time Management premise. If you’ve got 10 minutes to do something, you’ve just set up your own personal Lightning Round right then and there. See how much you can get accomplished in the brief time provided. Pass on things that seem likely to scuttle the ship, and set those for time frames when you can really get at the problem.

I think this will help you develop a better landscape of time. You’ll understand when you consistenly get a few hours uninterrupted. (If you know where this time is, protect it like it’s GOLD, because it’s worth more than that). You’ll also learn how to better instrument your time for those moments that used to be for throw-away tasks. Reading a magazine is a great way to unwind, and occasionally provides you with some insights, but what if you converted that time into four more things you said you wanted to get done, but that were too insignificant to schedule?

Put This Into Action

Advertising

Take the following concepts and try overlaying your current productivity system for a week:

  • In same context situations, rapid-fire review your tasks as a lightning round, and see which you choose to execute. Count up passes.
  • When executing a task and completing it, mark 0, 1, 2 for how many times you Passed before you executed it. If there’s a 3, review.
  • Turn 20 minute scraps of time into lightning rounds. See how many tasks you accomplish. (Similar to Merlin’s dash concept).
  • Scoring: Give yourself 10 points for every task completed at 0, 5 points for 1, and 3 points for 2. Subtract 10 for anomalies (more than 3 passes).
  • At your weekly review, consider how you used your Lightning Rounds, consider your scoring, and see if this changes how you execute your priorities.

Your Feedback

This is just a premise. I haven’t tried it yet myself (but plan to launch a trial starting Monday). I’d love your feedback. Please send in comments on the premise as you understand it, and then, as things move forward, please give feedback (I’ll do a check-in post in about a week) on if it worked for you, or what side-effects you encoutered.

It might prove to be neat.

–Chris Brogan needs a perfect blend of simple interface but flexible-for-multitaskers web-based time/project/task software, keyboard heavy preferred. Have a suggestion? Let him know. Chris writes at [chrisbrogan.com] and is launching an audio and video podcasting production company at Grasshopper New Media.

More by this author

7 Uses for a Virtual Machine When Emailing Think Press Release Mail, BrainDump, Mail, Do Stretch Goals Matter You Had me at Insane

Trending in Productivity

1The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It? 210 Best Time Management Books Recommended By Entrepreneurs 3What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating) 46 Simple Steps to Make Progress Towards Achieving Goals 5Secrets to Organizing Thoughts and Ideas (So You’ll Never Lose Ideas!)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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:

Advertising

  • 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.

Advertising

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

Read Next