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The 5-Step Guide to Starting an Online Journaling Practice

The 5-Step Guide to Starting an Online Journaling Practice

The times are changing and, while journaling used to be the sole territory of pen and paper, now you can use a whole range of tools and software to create and store your entries online. Digital journaling is a different entity to pen and paper journaling, and it comes with its own advantages and drawbacks. If you take the time to explore your chosen online journaling tool and set it up properly, however, you will have a convenient and feature-rich way to store your words, videos and images online.

1. Use the BJAT tool to discover which online journaling app is right for you.

The BJAT tool by Sam Lytle from Easyjournaling.com will help you work out which online journaling app is right for you. The tool uses a number of criteria, including how many journals you want to keep, whether you want to be able to back up your data via the cloud, what kind of social media integration you want (if any) and whether you want to be able to export your notes. It then takes your answers to these questions and presents a list of suitable journaling apps that meet your criteria as closely as possible.

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2. Familiarise yourself with the tool of your choice.

This might sound like a basic step, but all too often it’s tempting to jump in and start writing, without exploring the different features that each tool offers. Many journaling tools give you the option to add images, audio clips and even videos, which can all enhance text-only journaling. You might not use all of these tools, but knowing the features that are available will help you make the most out of the journaling tool you choose.

In addition to learning more about the different features of your tool, also check whether the developers offer mobile versions of their apps. More and more companies are now offering iOS, Android and Windows apps that sync with your browser app. These allow you to create and upload notes on the go so you don’t always have to be stuck behind your computer to journal.

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3. Customise your security and sharing settings.

Most online journaling tools give you the option to customize your privacy settings and share links to your entries on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. If you don’t want your online journal entries to be visible to the public, it’s important to ensure your privacy and sharing settings reflect this before you start posting.

Additionally, some web apps give you the chance to encrypt your journaling notes (sometimes, for example with Penzu.com, this feature is part of a premium membership option). If you want to add an extra layer of security to your journaling notes, encryption hides your journaling notes within scrambled code, so they are invisible to prying eyes.

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4. Check your commitment.

Now you have the technical side of setting up an online journaling practise over and done with, it’s time to look at the habit-formation side. In the long-term, this is just as important as choosing the right online journaling tool, as your motivation and commit will be what keeps your online journaling practice going.

Make a commitment to use your new online journaling tool on specific days each week for the first few weeks. Choosing the same days each time will help integrate this new habit into your daily routine. During this period, notice which time of day is best for you to journal. Some people get most benefit from journaling first thing in the morning, while others find it more helpful in the evening or at lunchtime.

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5. Export/back up your notes on a regular basis.

Even if you’re happy keeping your journaling entries in your chosen online tool for now, you might want to export them at some point in the future. Backing up or exporting your entries so that you have your own copy of them is good practise anyway as it means you’re not totally dependent on the developers’ servers to keep your entries safe. Some tools allow you to export your entries as an RTF (real text format), some will back up your notes in the cloud, and others let you email your daily entries to yourself. Familiarise yourself with your tool’s backup and export functions from the beginning, then set a regular time (for example, the beginning of each month) when you will back up the previous month’s data so you don’t forget.

What are your tips for starting an online journaling practice? Leave a comment and let us know.

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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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