The Productivity Paradox!

I remember the times when I was a young student, in 2nd grade I think when people used to debate about whether the newly upcoming Smartboards would radicalize education and would transform the way students learn.

A similar excitement buzzed through our own household when we got our first computer with an internet connection. I thought my grades would skyrocket now given the fact that I have a massive store of information and valuable data right at my fingertips. I have never been more wrong. My grades in fact DROPPED after Internet came to our home and my focus DRIFTED from my academics onto other things the Internet offered.

And I know many of us have experienced this. Why does is our productivity remaining stagnant(even dropping) when the computational capacity of PCs have been increasing and the prices of chips have been falling down over the course of past two decades?

That forms the basis of the Productivity Paradox. According to Stanford, Productivity Paradox is “the peculiar observation made in business process analysis that, as more investment is made in information technology, worker productivity may go down instead of up. This observation has been firmly supported with empirical evidence from the 1970s to the early 1990s. This is highly counterintuitive. Before investment in IT became widespread, the expected return on investment in terms of productivity was 3-4%. This average rate developed from the mechanization/automation of the farm and factory sectors. With IT though, the normal return on investment was only 1% from the 1970s to the early 1990s. ”

More research into this topic across many MNCs and other global companies revealed the fact that workers tended to procrastinate more than they used to get the job done. With increasing computing power and increasing internet speeds, it became easier and easier to access sites that are a distraction from the actual work. According to the popular academic blogger Matt Might, “The transaction cost to from productivity to procrastination has become close to zero”. It only takes a few second to jump from a doc file that you’re working on, onto reddit, with just a few bunch of clicks.

So, how is this information useful for me?

So you ask.

As I mentioned, it’s got everything to do with how easy it has become to get lost into the dopamine jackpot that is the Internet these days. You’ve got 24×7 entertainment Web2.0 sites like YouTube, HULU, Netflix and social sites like Facebook, Twitter and you name it. Don’t get me started on Gaming now.

So, it’s SUPER EASY to switch from doing something productive to get into any one of the above procrastination hell hole. You need to realize that.

To counter this problem, you need to make it harder for your brain to switch from the thing you’re working  on to procrastinating. You need to gradually increase the transaction cost for the switch. You can do that by using website/app blockers like ColdTurkey for Windows, SelfControl for Mac, StayFocusd for Chrome and LeechBlock for Firefox.

And, to give further strengthen this, have a WORK ONLY computer, preferably with the internet disabled for all the offline tasks. Don’t install stuff like Steam, Netflix on this computer. Use this for getting work done.

If buying a new computer seems like an expensive option, what you can do is create an Administrator account and ask someone else to set a complex password (and tell them to remember it/write it down.). You create a limited account for all of your work related stuff and tell the one with admin account to disable the internet etc. according to your needs.

Ultimately, you need to realize that you’re only cheating yourself if you try to bypass all of the blockers that YOU have set for YOURSELF. Because I used to take bypassing the above blockers *as a challenge* (yeah, I was really stupid) myself earlier. Don’t do that.

That’s about it.

The Internet is a necessary evil. You can’t live without it but it’s also super easy to get lost online. Be mindful of your browsing.

And, even I’m not perfect. I’ve done all of the above stuff that I’ve mentioned but I’m still susceptible to relapse. Maintaining your focus is a continuous battle and it’s always on YOU.

New post next week. Until then.




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