Strive for efficiency and economy

You have the leisure to read about my article, this is thanks to our society strive for efficiency and economy. Otherwise, I would be spending most of my time hunting and farming to produce food for survival instead of having the luxury to write this essay. Due to the improvement of our country productivity, I could spend time pursuing my interest.

Using the mantra of continuous improvement, our society is transformed from rural tribes to the modern city as an economic powerhouse admired throughout the world for the efficiency of its production and the quality of its products. The miracle of economic bloom is a result of not only the hard work of the people but also the robust system in finance, legal protection of property and capitalisation. Without innovative ideas as a foundation and infrastructure, we would still living in poverty and struggling to live.

Therefore, I shall contribute to society by boosting our productivity. As a leader, I could make meetings shorter and more effective. I need to regularly review which meetings are truly needed and which can be delegated, and to let go of ones they were accustomed to in previous roles. I should take a hard look at meeting length as the length of meetings was often a matter of organisational or personal habit or both. I could revisit the standard meeting times and an eye toward shortening them. Doing this can significantly enhance team efficiency. One hour meetings could often be cut to thirty or even fifteen minutes, such that we can spend more time on quality work.

Besides, I shall not look at productivity for its own sake, but also need to understand the economy. Imagine if you were the most efficient manufacturer of seven-fingered gloves, even you have the highest productivity, it is a waste if it is not a big enough market for what you sell, you would not get very far. We would need to make the most important decisions to make which is what business to be in at the overall economy level before we optimise.

We know we are working harder as individuals, but more work does not lead to a healthier economy. They are not necessarily correlated, instead, we should focus on productivity growth, especially in developed economies. For example, South Korea puts in many hours a year at work, in contrast, that with France, where workers put in one-third fewer hours but generate twice the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per hour. Spain, the UK, Japan and other developed economies have hit sluggish times. The little upside for GDP growth even if labour markets recover more strongly than predicted because the employment gains are likely to be offset by slowing labour productivity growth.

Besides, today’s smartphone users check their phones many times a day, which is equivalents to two hours a day just opening and closing the phone. A single text message takes approximately a few seconds to read, can double error rates on basic tasks. Even worse, workers find that it took an average of few minutes to get back into the flow of the previous tasks. Our phones have become compulsions, rather than tools for efficiency.

The long-term impact of distraction on productivity may very well outweigh the benefits of added efficiency. We are battling an attention economy in which advertisers are incentivized to hijack our attention. I am guilty to be almost constantly online, checking my phones for messages, alerts, or calls. I shall silent my phone to get back my attention on quality work, such as writing this essay.

I could spend my resources and energy that doing something productive to create real wealth. If the Facebook post information will become irrelevant by the time I am ready to use it, do myself a favour and stop seeking it out by opening social media app.

In addition, being a leader, my productivity is sometimes less important than the productivity of the whole team. Often, this means I pay the price of communication overhead. Instead of wasting everyone time, I could represent the team and communicate.

Collaboration was the principal concern and I could improve the productivity of my meetings. Over time, meetings in the company had been taking longer and longer, yet the decision making was getting worse. Many in the group had been attending this kind of meeting for years and everyone realised that something was fundamentally wrong. Most of them were bored, and yet not one employee was willing to speak up and point out what the others know but did not have the guts to publicly admit. Not only were the meetings sucking the energy out of everyone, but they were also eating up the better part of a morning. We could suffer less and be more productive by simply setting agenda items upfront.

Sometimes I do not have a choice about how busy I am. And when I do have a choice, taking on additional responsibilities may be fine, as long as it is done for the right reasons. The problem is that sometimes I pile on more and more activities for the wrong reasons, not because I am passionate or believe in something, but because I was told to, or am expected to, or like the idea of doing so. Consequently, I end up compromising on my productivity, creativity and happiness. Instead, I could strive for efficiency and economy by simplifying my life. Commit to doing less rather than more sometimes.

Sometimes, I spent a lot of time reading books and learning new things, but if I did not study with the right method, it would be a waste of time as I may forget most of the content already. If I learn something new but not getting a satisfactory result, it is unproductive learning. I need to be able to digest, absorb and use the new information, be able to explain to others in simple terms and study efficiently.

I could measure my progress in a study by output instead of input. It is more important to see how many new problems I would be able to solve with my new knowledge, instead of how many hours I spend passively reading books. The ultimate goal to strive for efficiency is to achieve values.

By Victor Leung

Experience in software development, consulting services and technical product management. Understanding of business and technology with an MBA in Finance and a Master degree in Computer Science. AWS Certified Solution Architect with experience in building products from scratch and serving as a charismatic leader.

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