Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Through a Hacker News link
to a post on
work-life balance, I have had the good fortune to become acquainted with
the thoughts of Matt Might on the subject of productivity (Search that word on
the page until it comes up as a heading.). I haven't had a chance to read much
of what he has written, but what I have seen so far has impressed me. Might
starts off his postings at a general level and then offers more specific
advice, often supplemented by further insights and advice from his readers.
As an example of why I'll spend some more time at Might's blog, consider his thoughts on the subject of avoiding the kinds of artificial scarcities that can waste time and hamper productivity. Might starts off with the principle:
[W]e reflexively view duplication as inefficient.Might soon follows with specific examples. It is worth noting that his thinking is, properly, guided by the principle as applied to a particular person's context:
In reality, there are situations where duplication can be rational:
An artificial scarcity arises when the cost of duplication
is less than the lifetime opportunity cost of traveling with or to a good.
To determine whether or not you have an artificial scarcity, you first need to consider the cost of travel to or with that good; you then need to consider the cost of duplicating that good near points of use.At the risk of sounding like I am patting myself on the back, I reached similar conclusions to Might regarding laptop power adapters, as well as staging certain things in multiple locations to save time. That said, I still had not explicitly thought of these in the more general terms of avoiding artificial scarcity. Accordingly, I had not come up with some of the applications of the principle he has. For example, his idea of keeping a small toolbox of frequently-used items, like scissors and screwdrivers on each level of a multistory home is somethng I'll implement soon. Might has, at the very least, helped me reach his level of generalization (thereby increasing the number of opportunities for me to save time) sooner than I might have otherwise.
For example, what is the cost of packing up a laptop power adapter and carrying it with you versus the cost of having an extra adapter at the office?
[Because opportunity costs are involved, artificial scarcities are relative: what is artificially scarce to my wife may not be artificially scarce to me, and vice versa.]
When you only have one copy of any item, you either have to remember to carry it with you, or pay a steeper transit cost to reach the item.
For example, the cost of traveling with the adapter combines the mental burden of remembering to take the adapter with the opportunity cost of time spent packing and unpacking and the space lost in your bag.
Suppose you spend a minute each day packing and unpacking the adapter. Within a year, you've lost about six hours to just packing and unpacking your adapter.
Do yourself a favor and take a look at his ideas on productivity as soon as you can.