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What’s Your List Type?

What’s Your List Type?
List

    Like a lot of productivity geeks, I love lists. Lists are what keep us sane during those crazy project filled days (or keep us from doing any real work). Just google “make a list for productivity” and check out the results.

    One thing I’ve found interesting is that most folks tend to fall into 4 distinct types of list makers. Now, like most type profiles, there is some overlap, and some have more than one. But a few months back, I began keeping an eye on how different people make lists. What I found is that the real productivity boost comes from identifying what type of list you prefer, and using it to your advantage.

    For example, I know a lot of people who love mind-mapping. But I hate it. I know, that’s blasphemy to some, but it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve struggled for years to make it work. As an artist, it just made sense that mind-mapping would be my preferred way of capturing information. Conversely, I worked with a very detailed, analytic type guy who loved mind-mapping. Every other area of his life was very rigid and straight-laced. But when he made notes, his mind-maps were a thing of beauty. Controlled chaos you might say.

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    So I began taking a look at how different people make lists, and how they fall into 4 broad categories – lister, mapper, clumper, and jotter. Now keep in mind, there is nothing scientific about this. It’s based solely on my own observations. But every person I’ve worked with and applied a list type to found that it fit them – and that they had always been that way.

    The Lister

    The most common type is the straight list down the page – the lister. Bullets or checkboxes may vary, but listers usually prefer an orderly grocery-list style.

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    The Mapper

    Mind-maps are a very popular style of capturing and organizing information. Some strict mind-mappers wouldn’t even consider them a list. But the basic elements are there – organized information, put in a format to easy digest.

    The Clumper

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    Similar to a map style, a clumper tends to put info all over the page, with specific groupings. Notes on one topic in one area, to-dos in another, but all set out in clearly defined “clumps” throughout the page.

    The Jotter

    Jotters tend to just throw info on a page in no easily discernible order. But being a jotter myself, I know that there is some order to the randomness (a paradox, you could say). Jotters like the undefined structure, which allows for lots of different types of information to be captured at once.

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    And You?

    Which type best fits you? Do you have a list style that you’ve had most of your life, or have you grown and changed over the years? Just like any type exercise, knowing the basic archetype of our habits and work-style is extremely valuable in helping us be more productive. By learning something as simple as how you prefer to make lists, you can save a bunch of time messing around with things that don’t work. Then the next time some smart-ass says “you know, you really should mind-map your notes,” you can tell them “no, thanks, I’m a clumper.” Then don’t tell them what it means. Because a confused smart-ass is a fun thing to watch.

    Tony D. Clark writes, draws cartoons, designs software and websites, and spends a lot of time talking others into working from home, being creative, and doing what they love. His blog Success from the Nest focuses on helping parents who want to do meaningful work from home and have more time for their families, and their dreams.

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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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