Stanley Bing on Productivity, Feb 9

I’ve been a dedicated subscriber to FORTUNE magazine since the mid-late 1990s when I first had my own firm. I’ve never wanted it for the investment advice … but rather the stories about people and their work and lives. Stanley Bing writes a column on the last page of every issue, and his one from December 11 last year was particularly good. Since it’s available on the Internet, I’m going to take the liberty of pasting in the bit I really liked:

The 0% Solution
The third development having an impact is that life is getting more distracting and interesting. Where we used to have our noses to the grindstone every minute, now we do a million things of marginal value to productivity while appearing to be working. We are at the small end of a funnel that has had a bunch of variables poured into it, including:

* Too many meetings, the results of management philosophies that value consensus, the search for which is perhaps the greatest productivity killer on the planet.

* Too many digital devices–iPods, BlackBerrys, cellphones, all pouring extraneous crud into our noggins. You know what’s productive? A guy with a legal pad and a pencil, locked in a padded room until his work is done.

* Too much Internet. The other day, instead of reading a spreadsheet, I watched a bulldog skateboarding around a parking lot on YouTube. Then I enjoyed a video titled “Bizarre English Lessons for Japanese Tourists.” After that, I went down the hall and hung out with a couple of guys who were bidding for a Pez dispenser on eBay. Then it was time to go home.

As if all this were not enough, there is a fourth factor at work: the notion of productivity itself. What does it mean in this environment? As a nation, we’re making fewer and fewer tangible things. And the most productive among us are often the most indolent.

It’s now possible that some wonk who went to bed at 6 a.m., woke up at dusk, and spent the entire following evening playing with his PSP could become the next multi-trillionaire when his mental vapor coalesces into an acquirable idea. How does one measure productivity like that?

What different thing could you do that would make a significant difference to your productivity?

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