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One of the Best Goal Setting Exercises

One of the Best Goal Setting Exercises

Someone very smart once said, “How we spend our days is how we spend our life”. Life doesn’t usually change overnight (as much as we would often hope it would). It changes, because we make little tweaks in our daily habits. Sometimes we do it intentionally. But a lot of times we just kind of start doing something differently, considering it to be insignificant minor change, but these small actions add up to huge life changes over time.

This partly explains why the goal setting exercise that we’ll talk more about in this post is so effective. But before we get to it, let me explain what I mean by “minor changes” leading to huge results.

Small steps matter

Nutritionists say that it’s enough to eat 250 calories less per day to lose 26 pounds a year. 250 calories are 2/3 of a Chocolate Chunk Cookie at Starbucks. This means that by not changing anything else in your daily routine except for eating 250 calories less a day will get you much bigger results than fad diets or irregular gym workouts.

The same is true for the finances. According to the Money Mag’s Millionaire Calculator there is no need to win a lottery in order to become a millionaire. It’s enough to save $5 a day for 40 years and you’ll hit a Millionaire status!

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When you think about it, putting aside a tiny part of your salary a day or passing on a cookie is do-able. And it pays off in the long run. But for some weird reason very few people actually do it.

The way we pick, set and pursue our goals is largely to blame

When we decide on what is it that we want to achieve in life, we rarely think ‘small changes over the serious period of time’. Usually it’s the other way around – ‘massive action, over the next two weeks’ (usually followed by the long breaks of inactivity and procrastination).

However, there is one very simple, yet powerful exercise that helps us to shift focus from short term-gain to smooth and steady long-term results. And no, it’s not the usual – picture what your life will look in 5, 10 and 20 years visualization.

The goal setting exercise I’m about to share with you is much more realistic, effective and creative. It’s called…

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The “Average Perfect Day”

The name gives the game away really. All you have to do is sit down, turn the soft lounge music on and ask yourself one question – What I want my Average Perfect Day look like?

perfect-day

    Take a piece of paper or open a blank document on your computer and write down your perfect schedule for the day.

    • What time do you wake up?
    • What do you do once you are awake?
    • Do you kiss your beautiful spouse?
    • Do you open the windows and head to the beach to do your 20 minutes of Sun Salutations and 10-minute meditation?
    • Do you say “Thank you” for all the blessings that you’ve been given?
    • Then what do you do?

    Write it down as detailed as possible, following your average perfect day step by step. Another key here is to focus on the word “average”. It shouldn’t be a day where you go on vacation, get married or bump into Johnny Depp while shopping at an antiques flea market.

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    It should be a day that you would re-live over and over again, without getting bored, exhausted or overwhelmed.

    If you dig deeper, you’ll take away quite a few insights from this exercise. First, you’ll clearly see little habits that you can start instilling today to get yourself closer to your vision of Average Perfect day.

    Some of the changes may seem bigger and more overwhelming. It’s okay. Just by having a clear goal of what you want your day to be like, will have your subconscious mind working to get you there. You’ll notice the opportunities that you haven’t seen before, you’ll do things a little differently and your set of circumstances will change, creating different, more positive outcomes.

    Start with the smallest changes and work your way up

    Pick something simple, that doesn’t require you to move to a foreign country or change your career. Begin by saying thank you for your blessings. Spend 10 minutes meditating. Read a bedtime story for your kids.

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    We all have enough time, motivation and determination to stick with one tiny habit for 30 days (that’s the time it takes to make it automatic). Then you can move on to the next little goal and so on.

    Go ahead and do it right now! This is one of the most powerful goal setting exercises ever and it can be eye-opening in terms of setting the right priorities. Why? Because how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. It’s really as simple as that.

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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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