Keeping up with the speed of productivity


Recently released research from British bank, Barclays, looked at rising global productivity. On the surface of it, the introduction of technology over the last 150-ish years, since the invention of the lightbulb has brought on some very significant gains.

We’re now well and truly more productive than ever before.

About 150 years ago humanity’s output per hour was around 100 units of productivity. We’re now approaching 3000/hr. Yes, you read that correctly. We’ve improved our productivity around 2900 units per hour, which over time averages out to about 19-20 units a year.

However, it probably won’t come as any great surprise to you, especially if you’re a small-business owner, that the speed of that productivity is increasing rapidly. Rather than just increasing a paltry 19 units each year, over the last 20 years, we’ve gained nearly 62.5 units of productivity an hour (thank you, Google).

So no, it’s not your imagination – keeping up with the speed of productivity in life and your small business is getting harder and harder. The last 20 or so years of technology, on the back of the 130 that came before it, has made it so that we’re available 24/7, we can do things faster, better and often cheaper than ever before. You just need to be able to keep up.

And that’s where we humans have problems. We simply can’t expect to keep functioning at a speed 62 times faster per hour each year than not so long ago.

Moore’s Law, where computer processing capacity doubles every one to two years (although it’s slowed a little lately), definitely doesn’t apply to the human brain. Human brain processors are lightning fast, but when you put them under continued stress, they’re likely to give you that same spinning wheel of death you see on your computer before it falls over and requires a reboot.

So what’s to be done if you’re in a business that requires you keep up? Which let’s face it is all of us!!

  • Make fewer decisions on a daily basis – even if it’s minimising some basic decisions like what you wear or eat each day, that’s likely to help your brain’s processor not spin its wheels
  • Use a paper list – sounds simple, but keeping too many things constantly at the front of your mind is like having too many tabs open on your computer’s browser. Get all that brain draining stuff out of your head and onto a piece of paper, not only saves your brain capacity, it might also mean less things fall through the cracks.
  • Have someone else do your basics – like answer your phone calls. Every time you have to switch between takes hideous amounts of your brain’s processing capacity. So much so you’re likely to lose more than 20 minutes every time you lose that single focus – which could add up to hours of lost productive time a day. Having someone else do something as basic as answering your phone allows you to batch your tasks and stay focused.
  • Take a breaks during your day – our need to keep up has us super-glued to our chairs, seemingly ‘just in case’. Every so often you need to close your brain’s browser, do a quick reset and you’ll be good to go again. Get up, go for a five minute walk. Your brain and body will thank you for it.
  • Schedule longer breaks – start putting a plan in place that allows you to take a vacation, every six months minimum. Having someone already looking after some basics, can help a lot there.

Roland Farrugia, Virtual Services Advisor, Serviced Offices International