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Productivity maybe . . . but for what purpose?

Productivity maybe . . . but for what purpose?

Why choices about what to do with the time and effort you save are more critical

    One reasonable definition of increased personal productivity is creating the ability to do more with less effort and in a shorter time. Nothing wrong with that — at least until you ask what you will do with the time and effort you have saved.

    Not so many years ago, many people — including governments and businesses — thought that a rapid increase in individual and corporate productivity would lead to an explosion of leisure time; that we would all be working only two or three days each week, with the rest earmarked for leisure. There were concerns about how people would spend all this free time, and whether it would produce fresh possibilities for businesses, or some kind of social unrest.

    We know now, of course, that it didn’t happen. Far from working less, people are working even longer hours, despite all the increases in productivity over the past few decades.

    Why didn’t it happen?

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    I think the answer lies in the question that I started with: what do you do with the time and effort saved by increasing your productivity? Do you spend it; and, if you do, what do you buy?

    That question remains critical for all of us.

    The rise of consumer-driven economies . . .

    One way of spending the time and effort saved by greater productivity, of course, is to produce still more. That’s become the orthodox approach. As productivity rises, you don’t allow employees to work less, you use the effort freed by improving processes and systems to add to production. By this definition, for an organization to be more productive means to increase output indefinitely; preferably reducing unit costs at the same time. In personal terms, it means doing more and more and increasing your earnings as a result.

    Where is all this extra production to go? People must buy it to keep the whole cycle in place. That’s what has produced a society in which people work longer and harder in order to buy more; and an economy that depends on this process continuing — even increasing. If growth is driven by consumption, consumption must increase — not just by increasing overall wealth, but by encouraging all of us to buy more and more, regardless of need.

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    Of course, one way to speed up the process is to make credit as easy as possible, so that mere income no longer limits what people can buy. We’re seeing the result of that answer today, and it isn’t very comfortable.

    . . . increases the need for consumption-driven individuals

    At an individual level, the same process drives those who work long hours to increase their income; then spend it on consumer goods and expensive, designer labels. In many cases, the possession of the latest, flashiest, and most expensive product becomes an end in itself: a display of personal power and success, much like a peacock spreading its magnificent tail to demonstrate dominance. It has to be this way, since all the time allocated to working and earning leaves no time for spending money on vacations or leisure time or anything that cannot be purchased in an instant.

    Easy credit allowed such people to leverage their spending power, running up huge debts in the process. Some did it for display, others as a means to earn still more by riding on the back of the explosion in house prices. Then still more people copied them, especially by buying real estate, whether as a home or an investment.

    For a while, they were all the darlings of the economy: the driving force behind boom times for corporations and shareholders. Now things have gone wrong, there are fears that, by stopping such manic spending, consumers will drive world economies into a painful recession. If people don’t consume, companies can’t produce, and the entire cycle comes to a halt.

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    It’s all about choice

    Let’s bring this down to the personal level. Suppose you increase your own productivity, either by using one of the many techniques available or just by becoming more focused and better organized. You can now do what you used to do in less time and with less effort.

    What will you do with the “savings?”

    • You can “spend” them — by working just as much, or more, and increasing your monetary earnings. You will then have more cash, but still less time to enjoy it: the typical position of most people today. This answer honors the notion built into the Puritan Work Ethic that idleness causes moral hazards and work is good in itself. It’s what the US economy has become dependent upon.
    • You can spend them on leisure. You can keep your output (and probably your earnings) at the same level and devote the extra time to something else, whether that’s pleasure, volunteer activities, family time, or simply hanging out and enjoying life. Some people will label you as idle and lazy, but you don’t have to accept either description. Your choice will, however, depress activity in any consumer-based economy — and the earnings of a good many corporations as a result.
    • You can save them. Yes, you can “bank” your extra time — even invest it.

    How do you do this? By allocating the time to something that will bring you “interest” in terms of future increases in earnings, productivity, or enjoyment.

    This something is called learning. Time spent on learning will improve your ability to do whatever you choose in the future. It’s the equivalent of a corporation using productivity savings to finance research and development that will itself result in new products and fresh ways to become still more productive.

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    That won’t help the consumer sector of the economy in the short-term, but it will boost long-term creativity and add to activity in the education sector. It will also likely improve the chances of the nation leading the next wave of economic activity, based on products that haven’t yet been invented.

    Think about it carefully

    The choice of how we spend our productivity savings is crucial for the way we will live in the future, both at the personal level and for society as a whole. It’s worth taking some time to think about it quite carefully.

    As with all savings, there will always be people eager to take what you have and use it for their own short-term gain. My strong suggestion is that you hold on and make your own decision. As today’s financial woes have shown, jumping into simple answers and spending productivity gains right away can leave you with an almighty hangover.

    Photo credit: Artful Scribe at Morguefile.com

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    Last Updated on June 29, 2020

    How Does Setting Goals Lead to Success?

    How Does Setting Goals Lead to Success?

    As well as being the founder of Lifehack, I also help people on a one-to-one basis through life coaching.

    I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years now and have helped hundreds of clients reevaluate their lives and turn inertia into progress and failure into success.

    A common theme I’ve noticed with many of my clients is that they don’t have any definite goals to aim towards.

    This has always surprised me, as goal setting is frequently recommended by self-improvement gurus, performance coaches, and business leaders. It’s also something that I learned at university and have implemented successfully in my life ever since.

    If you’re similar to the majority of my life coaching clients and you don’t have any definite goals to aim for, then you’re missing out on what is probably the most powerful personal success technique on the planet.

    The good news is—you’ve come to the right place for help with this.

    In this article, I’ll explain exactly what goal-setting is and how you can put it into action in your life. As you’ll discover, it’s a key that can open many doors for you.

    An Introduction to Goal Setting

    Goals can be big, small, short-term, long-term, essential, or desirable. But they all share one thing: They will give you something to aim for.

    This is important. As just like a ship without a destination, if you have no goals, you’ll end drifting aimlessly.

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    Goals give you purpose. They also give you drive and enthusiasm. In other words—they make you feel alive!

    If you’ve never spent time setting goals before, then here’s what I recommend you to do:

    1. Take some time to evaluate all areas of your life (health, career, family, etc.).
    2. Determine which of these areas need a boost.
    3. Think of ways in which to achieve this (for example, if you want to boost your health, you could eat less and exercise more).
    4. Set some definite goals that you would like to achieve.
    5. Write down these goals, including the date you want to accomplish them by.

    Now, before you get started on the above, I want to make one thing clear: Goals are not wishful thinking!

    By this, I mean that while your goals should be ambitious, they shouldn’t be unrealistic or verging into fantasy land.

    For example, wanting to be promoted at work would be a realistic goal while wanting to be President of the United States might not be. (Of course, feel free to prove me wrong!)

    If you’re new to the world of goal setting, then I’d recommend you start with easy-to-achieve goals. These could be things such as eating a healthy breakfast, walking more, taking regular breaks from your screen, and sleeping early.

    These simple goals might take you a month or so to achieve, including making the daily practices a habit.

    Once you’ve successfully accomplished these goals, you’ll find your self-confidence grows, and you’ll be ready to set yourself some bigger goals.

    Here are a few examples that you might want to choose or adapt to your personal circumstances:

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    • Run a marathon
    • Buy a new car
    • Learn a new language
    • Travel around the world
    • Change career
    • Retire early
    • Write a book

    I’m sure you can think of many more things that you would like to achieve. As the famous Shakespeare line neatly states: “The world is your oyster!”

    Now, the trick with big goals (as I’ll show in an example shortly) is to break them down into small, bite-sized chunks. This means you’ll have a big end goal, with smaller goals (sometimes referred to as objectives) helping you to gradually achieve your main aim.

    When you do this, you’ll make big goals more achievable. Plus, you’ll have an easy way to track how far along the road to your goal you are at any given point in time.

    Let’s see this in action…

    Going from an Idea to a Global Success

    Everything starts with an idea.

    And there appears to be no shortage of good ideas in the world. But there is a shortage of people willing to put these ideas into action!

    This is the essential step that will move you from being a dreamer to an achiever.

    Back in 2005, when I first had the idea for Lifehack, I really only considered it to be a platform to record some of my productivity and self-improvement techniques. I’d developed these during my time at university and as a Software Engineer at Redhat.

    However, based on the number of views and positive feedback I received on the first few articles, I quickly realized that Lifehack had the potential to be a popular and successful website—a site that could help transform the lives of people from all across the world.

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    It was at that point that I decided to set some goals in place for Lifehack.

    The way I did this was to set specific targets for different areas of the business:

    1. Number of articles published
    2. Amount of time spent writing and promoting the articles
    3. Number of new readers
    4. Number of new email subscribers
    5. Revenue generated from ads

    For each of the above, I set weekly, monthly, and yearly targets. These targets were realistic but were also ambitious. In addition, I wrote down the necessary steps to take to achieve each target within the specified time frame.

    This goal setting had a powerful impact on my motivation and energy levels. Because I could clearly see what needed to be done to achieve each goal, I found a purpose to my tasks that made them exciting to complete. Each small target achieved took me closer to accomplishing the bigger goals.

    For example, my initial goals for writing articles were for just five a week, which equated to 20 per month and just over 100 per year. However, as I dedicated more and more time to Lifehack, I found I was able to exceed my initial goals.

    This led me to increase the numbers. Of course, there’s a limit to how many articles one person can write. So when the readership began to exponentially increase, I started to hire other writers to help me out with the site’s content.

    From my initial goal of just over 100 articles per year, I’ve used goal setting to help Lifehack publish more than 35,000 articles to date. This is now the largest collection of original self-development articles in the world.

    And in terms of readership—this has skyrocketed from a few dozen in 2005 to several million in 2020.

    And of course, I have many new goals for Lifehack, including expanding our range of online courses.

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    My original goal has always remained the same though: To change people’s lives for the better.

    Goal Setting Can Transform Your Life

    If you haven’t yet experienced the incredible power of goal setting, then now’s the time to get started.

    Build a definite picture of what you want to accomplish, break it down into small, achievable steps, and then start taking action!

    You’ll be able to change all areas of your life using this method, including boosting your health, improving your relationships, and transforming your career. You may also want to use goal setting to start a new hobby or plot a path to a prosperous and peaceful retirement.

    So please don’t wait for success to drop in your lap (which it is highly unlikely to do). Instead, decide on exactly what you want, then make a plan to get it. This is the secret to lifelong success.

    Legendary motivational speaker and author Paul J. Meyer said it well:

    “Goal setting is the most important aspect of all improvement and personal development plans. It is the key to all fulfillment and achievement.”

    Final Thoughts

    Now, let me leave you with five questions that will help you think about your future:

    1. What would you like to be doing in 3, 5, and 7 years?
    2. What things make you happiest?
    3. How can you share your knowledge and experience?
    4. Who can help you achieve your goals?
    5. What would you like to be your legacy?

    Take plenty of time to think about these questions. When the answers come, you’ll be able to start building a picture of how you’d like your life to be—and what goals you need to set to make this picture a reality.

    More Tips on Setting Goals

    Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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