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A Case for the Wednesday Weekly Review

A Case for the Wednesday Weekly Review

If you practice Getting Things Done®, the productivity method authored by David Allen, then you should have at least heard about the “Weekly Review”. Hopefully, you are also practicing it as well.

According to GTD, your weekly review should consist of an evaluation of your outstanding involvements. It’s a time to empty your mind, process your inbox, and review not only your Calendar but also your various “GTD buckets”: actions, projects, ticklers, someday items, and reference material. Most of us set aside one to two hours for the weekly review, in which the main benefit is to cultivate your trust not only in the GTD method but also in the tools you’re using to implement the method.

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I speak to a lot of GTD’ers, and discovered that many of them fell off the GTD wagon many times. When we drilled deeper we found that a very large majority of them (close to 90%) did not do a weekly review. Digging deeper still, we discovered that nearly all of them scheduled and planned to do their reviews on the weekend: there, my friends, lies the problem.
No matter how ambitious we are, as soon as Friday afternoon raises its head, most of us are thinking about play—not work. GTD may be the best productivity method in the world, but the weekly review is not play, no matter how you spin it.

After speaking to many users, we turned inwards and realized that many of us in the office who were not consistent had, in fact, scheduled their reviews on the weekends. So we decided to change: with the exception of one person who does his review on Friday, the rest of us scheduled our reviews on Wednesdays. Wow, what a difference a few days makes. During the week, I’m in “work” mode: I’m highly focused on my targets, working on my projects, and gaining momentum gradually as the week progresses. I usually peak on Wednesday. It turns out that’s the ideal time for the weekly review.
The best part, of course, is that this way my weekends remain mostly about play.

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1. Use Weekends to Recharge

Your creativity is fueled with the fires of experience, but you can only be productive if you rest. It’s a simple equation and it means that you need to spend your weekends doing the things you love, not reviewing various tasks and practicing your GTD.
I found that I ruined my weekends when I spend them dragging myself back to what I was doing during the week: it felt like a ten-ton hammer was looming over my head during the weekends. So, scheduling the reviews on Wednesdays turned out to be perfect; being rested and in control is a great combination.

2. Accountability Buddies

Having accountability buddies who will remind you to do a review is great. Hopefully, you are not the only one at the office that’s practicing GTD; if you are, your next action is to get a GTD buddy at work.
If your colleagues at work are practicing GTD, it’ll be easier to keep on top of the weekly review. Sharing your GTD ups and downs will help create a dialog in the office, and it’s much harder to miss a weekly review when others are talking about their successful ones. Think of it as your GTD support group.
So, yes, telling your buddies at work that you need a little push to do that review can help you—nobody can push you while you’re at home (except your spouse and you don’t want that).

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3. Stay Focused

Most of us ride the same productivity curve during the week: we ramp up on Mondays and are running on full cylinders on Tuesday and Wednesday, but by Thursday morning we start to lose our steam. The mid-week review is great way to refocus and re-energize—by reviewing what we have accomplished and what is still on our plate, we get both a tap on the back and a kick in the behind.
If you’re doing your weekly review on the weekend, and it’s working, then as the old saying goes “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” However, if are missing your weekly reviews, if you’ve fallen off the GTD Wagon, or perhaps you feel lackluster on Thursdays and Friday, why don’t you give it a try? Let us know what you think!

Featured photo credit:  Elderly and young men, working in very different fields of activity via Shutterstock

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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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