I've tried making daily to-do lists, keeping time logs, and using browser-blocking apps like StayFocusd to keep me from wasting time on the internet. Each has helped for a short period, then stopped helping when I got distracted or lost interest. The world is awash with productivity tips, tricks, and hacks intended to help people like me break our bad work habits. You can buy books, visit websites, and download apps devoted exclusively to the art of productivity. Personal productivity has become a large enough niche that the productivity site Lifehack can publish a list of "50 Personal Productivity Blogs You've Never Heard of Before," which is filled with shorthand like "GTD" (the method laid out in the 2001 productivity bible Getting Things Done) and "4-hour workweek" (the concept that helped self-help guru Tim Ferriss launch his empire).
The Labor Department said Tuesday that productivity declined at an annual rate of 0.6 percent in the first quarter after a 1.7 percent drop in the fourth quarter. The government first estimated that productivity fell at a 1 percent rate. Labor costs for employers rose at a 4.5 percent rate in the first quarter, even faster than the 4.1 percent gain first reported.
We explored the effect of tree species richness on tree volume productivity at the global scale using repeated forest inventories from 777,126 permanent sample plots in 44 countries containing more than 30 million trees from 8737 species spanning most of the global terrestrial biomes. Our findings reveal a consistent positive concave-down effect of biodiversity on forest productivity across the world, showing that a continued biodiversity loss would result in an accelerating decline in forest productivity worldwide. The BPR shows considerable geospatial variation across the world. The same percentage of biodiversity loss would lead to a greater relative (that is, percentage) productivity decline in the boreal forests of North America, Northeastern Europe, Central Siberia, East Asia, and scattered regions of South-central Africa and South-central Asia. In the Amazon, West and Southeastern Africa, Southern China, Myanmar, Nepal, and the Malay Archipelago, however, the same percentage of biodiversity loss would lead to greater absolute productivity decline.
When leaders face the challenge of scaling their teams, they hire people to replicate many of the tasks they were doing. Sure, you might be able to do the mundane aspects of your job, but you're better off hiring someone else to do it so you can concentrate on your more important value: thinking creatively and strategically about your product and company's future. In a sense, humanity has been doing the same thing for centuries: "hiring" people and machines to take over every mundane and repetitive action that consumes our natural human resources (work, energy, carbs -- however you want to frame it). Sure, you could walk half a day to get your crop to market, but if a truck will get you there in half an hour, you'll earn your revenue quicker and have more time to spend planting the next crop. From cars and industrial machinery to databases, algorithms, and office productivity tools, we have an insatiable desire to free our mental and physical energy for higher-order tasks.
Though it probably doesn't feel this way to those who spend their lives running between meetings, dealing with customers, or negotiating with suppliers, the UK isn't working hard enough. UK productivity--how much all of us produce over a year divided by how many hours we spend doing it--lags France, Germany, and the U.S. by up to 30%, according to the Office of National Statistics. And it's not just the G7's most productive three countries that outperform the UK. Irish, Spanish, Belgian, and Dutch workers all significantly outperform their UK counterparts. We should be freeing people to focus on adding value, not restricting them to transactional tasks that are better and more quickly performed by automation.