Why Do We Keep Insisting On Killing Productivity?

Gran Canaria - Up in the AirAs you may have noticed already, the last post that I put together over here in this blog was a bit over three weeks ago, so, once again, it looks like that quiet period is now over and it’s a good time again to resume my regular blogging activities. I know that plenty of folks out there may have thought that I have given up on blogging altogether, again!, after such a long time not writing much in it, but far from the truth! Coming back in full force and perhaps with a new direction for the blog as well, which I will explain in an upcoming new entry. However, I am sure you are all wondering what have I been up to then in the last few weeks, right?, and what prohibited me from coming back to the blog and keep up with the regular schedule. Well, how can I put it? Hummm, how about when a combination of business travelling, planned obsolescense, lack of consideration towards others’ own health, and @elsua v4.0 decided to kill my own productivity?

Indeed, in such pretty demanding times, where more and more is expected from us, knowledge workers, where we are continuously asked to produce more with less, where remaining effective, if not even more productive, has taken a new meaning for all of us, it seems like we are doing a pretty bad job at getting rid of productivity killers and help us get better at what we are already doing. And I am not just referring to the things we can do ourselves to avoid those productivity killers, since I am sure we all know how we could get rid of each and everyone of those!, but talking about those that have been inflicted upon us and for which we do have very little to do to overcome it; but perhaps now it’s a good time to get rid of the silliness of it all.

Cutting through the chase though, the main reasons why I haven’t been capable of resuming my regular blogging activities, as well as pretty much all of my external social networking interactions out there on the Social Web, and perhaps internally as well, has been due to 4 different productivity killers that apparently all decided to kick in at the same time, i.e. that period of three weeks!, and for which one has got very little to do about it all. Although, again, perhaps we need to start doing something about it. And here is why. Here are those productivity killers that I wish we would all know how to address them and get rid of them:

  • Business Travelling

After having seen, and experienced!, the future, as a result of a short visit to Helsinki, Finland, I am no longer too sure that I would be capable of putting up with being stuck at an airport, or in a hotel room, or at a conference venue, where the Internet connection is just not up to the standards of what one would expect to keep being productive. For example, on my way back home from Paris, after a wonderful Enterprise 2.0 Summit event, I was stuck for almost 5 hours in Barcelona airport, plus another 3 hours from Barcelona to Gran Canaria. And throughout all of that time I couldn’t manage to get a decent connection in order to do my job. That, right there, is already 8 hours of lost productivity! Yes, 8 hours that no-one is paying for!

Now, as most folks out there may have seen it for a long while, in a good number of European countries things are starting to become a bit dire, with regards to the financial crisis, high unemployment rates, lack of decent jobs, etc. etc. Our governments keep telling us that we need to go through these little sacrifices in order to make it. They keep telling us that we need to work more hours, increase our productivity and perhaps become more conscious of the time we spend at work. In short, they keep telling us we need to be more productive. Yet, time and time again, they keep neglecting and ignoring the fact that traditional work is no longer the vast majority of the knowledge work happening out there. It’s no longer a physical location, or a place, or having a set of tools. It’s actually a state of mind. Work happens around you, wherever you may well be, and with whatever the tools you may have at your disposal, whether it’s your laptop computer, your smartphone or your tablet.

Governments keep failing at understanding and embracing this new dynamic where for most of the road / air warriors out there work happens while we are on the move! On the train, on the plane, at a hotel room, at a conference venue, meeting up with customers, etc. etc. And when a whole bunch of us have made the transition into an always-on work environment relying on the cloud to deliver what we need, we just can’t afford failing at not having a decent connectivity. We just can’t be effective and productive enough if the external world doesn’t catch up with us! If governments would finally truly understand that. If they’d want us to be rather productive they need to help us stay connected, regardless of wherever we may well be! Now, you may be saying that I am a dreamer, asking and longing for such state of things for always-on work, the reality though is that I am not. Finland, and I would venture to state that for all of the Nordic countries, for that matter, keeps showing us, and leading!!, the way. And, let’s face it, it’s working! Look at they financial crisis in all of those nordic countries. See? Nothing. They just keep working! They may have other problems and other issues, but lack of productivity is no longer one of them. And I bet that pervasiveness of a strong broadband penetration has got a whole lot to do with it. So if they have managed to make it, why can’t we, the rest of Europe, follow suit? Couldn’t we learn something from them? Aren’t we all part of the EU after all? Shouldn’t we help each other raise our common stakes as productive European citizens? Something tells me we got a lot more to win than to lose, don’t you think?

  • Planned Obsolescence

But just as I was on my way home, when I arrived and turned my MacBook Air on, the unexpected, as usual, was about to happen. And again far too soon! Indeed, on the top left of my MBAir a funny rattling noise started to become more and more worrying and after some initial diagnostics I eventually found out the MBAir fan finally ceased to stop working. Oh, yes, MBAir machines *do* have fans as well. Oh, yes, MacBook Air machines are also very much trapped in this 20th century non-sense that we all know as Planned Obsolescence. I have been having this machine for a bit over a year now, exactly one month after the guarantee expired!, and bang! The fan is now history. After calling Apple Care, as well as the Apple Store where I bought it, it looked like it was going to take me quite some time to have it fixed and eventually returned back to me, and quite pricey, too! So, falling, once more, for that silliness of planned obsolescence, I decided to give myself a treat (Seeing a very special date coming up for yours truly, which I will mention shortly…) and purchase a new MacBook Air 13”, which is the machine I have been using in the last couple of days.

But it wasn’t the machine I originally got when I bought it. Somehow, at the shop where I bought it they mistakingly gave me the 128GB hard disk model, vs. the 256GB one, which is the one I wanted. And that basically meant that I had to go through 2 different installations over the course of one week in order to be up and running once again. And I did. I tell you, there is something out there on getting new shiny objects, but, more importantly, something that I have noticed myself over the course of the last few years as you get a new machine time and time again. Going minimalist. That’s right. Every new machine that I have been getting in the last few years I have gone one level deeper with regards to the amount of Applications, Software, Documents, Pictures, Files and what not I may have got on my machine to the point where minimalism has taken a new meaning for me. Yet, it was two different clean installs that I had to do over the course of a single week and that added, quite a lot, to the productivity drains I have been suffering from in the last few days, and those of you who may have done such recent move would probably confirm this as well.

The key question though that I keep coming up with is when is the world finally going to come to terms with waking up and making a successful transition into becoming a full, sustainable, circular economy and leave behind those economy models that not only keep getting us in trouble, as we have seen, witnessed and lived over the last 4 years, and still going strong!, but at the same time, they keep destroying the most precious gift given to us, human beings, next to our life: our planet. When are we going to get rid of that pernicious obsession with wanting to own stuff. What’s wrong with borrowing, lending, making good use of stuff you need and then letting it go, with learning to live just with what you need, not what people keep implanting in your brain that you need? When are we going to fully understand that the resources we have got around us are finite. And we, too, are finite. That one day, if we don’t change our mentality, and start living more meaningful, respectful, purposeful and sustainable lives, we would be the ones that need replacing, that our long awaited planned obsolescence is very much overdue and that Earth will dispose of us, just as much as we are doing of her at the moment. Yes, please, let’s stop, and get rid of!, the non-sense of planned obsolescence and help us keep productive with what we have for longer periods of time. Planet Earth would be a much better place to live in, for sure!

  • Lack of Consideration of Others’ Health

Ok, moving into the third productivity killer for yours truly in the last couple of weeks. This one, in particular, is the one where I am planning to become a lot more aggressive to try to address it on my own terms, since I think it can be done easily. If you have been following my internal and external social interactions, to the point where I may have shared across some of them, you may have noticed how last week, the entire week!, I have been recovering from a rather nasty flu that I got from a good friend of mine, who, apparently, was just recovering from a severe bronchitis himself and he thought things were back to normal. Well, they weren’t! Because that flu knocked me down the entire week like you wouldn’t believe it.

This winter season I have been having one cold and this one flu. So I guess it’s not too bad. The problem though is that, for me, this was the first time in my life that I had a flu, that I remember, that involved fever, muscle aches, apathy, strong headaches, and what not. And, as such, it required a whole lot more taking care of it and curing it than anything else than I can remember. And I am finding it a bit too ironic that I was in Helsinki with a whole lot harsher temperatures and extreme winter, followed by Paris cold weather as well, and eventually 3 weeks later, the lovely sunshine got me and knocked me down for the entire week!

But why am I using the heading over here as lack of consideration of others’ health? Well, mainly because if that friend of mine had decided to stay home for a few more days a bunch of his friends, me included, would have been spared from a rather miserable week. One were my own productivity suffered quite a bit, just as much as that one from other folks, too!, because of him not being considerate enough that while he may have been feeling better, he obviously was not well enough just yet, because some of us got the flu virus after being in close range with him, while celebrating a special event I will talk about shortly.

And this is what I meant that some times, specially, when you are not feeling well, but you feel you need to carry on with the world around you, it’s probably better for you to stay inside and spare that rest of the world some better times. I stayed home the entire whole week last week and will probably do so for most of this one as well. Sometimes it’s better to recover in isolation, getting well taken care of, than just being out there, trying to pretend like nothing is happening and bang! get everyone around you infected with the odd seasonal cold / flu. Believe me, the fact that we may not see you for a few days does not mean that we have forgotten you at all. Quite the opposite. The fact that you have helped us remember one of those unforgettable weeks of you dragging along all the way, surely is going to leave a mark, because I have come to the conclusion that if you can’t spare from your cold / flu, we may as well do it ourselves. So next time we meet up F2F and you tell me you are recovering from a cold, flu, or whatever else, don’t be surprised if I rather walk away from you, or ask you to stay away till you get better. No, I’m not being anti-social. I am just asking you to be aware that just because you are sick it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone should be sick along with you. And since you don’t seem to be conscious / aware of it, we may as well do that for you. Not to worry, when you feel better, we will be paying for the drinks to celebrate your comeback!

Oh, and if you have got to go to the traditional office to do some work, you may want to think about it twice, as well. Last thing you would want to do is to knock down your entire business for a few days, dragging along, just because you decided not to stay home for that little longer. Some times, it’s worth it staying home. Remember, whether you are there or not, the business will continue. If you get everyone sick, that may be another matter. Spare them. Spare us, please.

  • @elsua v4.0

And, finally, the last of those productivity killers that has prohibited me from being much more active in the Social Streams out there in the last couple of weeks. But, not to worry, this is a fun one! One that although it takes a long while for me to admit, it’d only seem to be happening every 40 years! And the reason why it was a productivity drain was more than anything else because celebrating it meant being outdoors, more than indoors working along.

Yes, that’s right, as some of you have noticed in several other places, a bit over a week ago, I reached that lifetime milestone of 40 years of age. Or, as I decided to call it, I just became @elsua v4.0. As you can imagine there were lots of celebrations on the side for such achievement and, while I have got a blog post coming up on the topic, where I will reflect on a few things I have learned over the course of those 4 decades, I decided that since it’s just such a special lifetime achievement, and given the recent issues with that nasty flu, I’ll be celebrating it throughout the whole year! Here and there, and right in between! Why not, right? What are the chances of being 40 again, don’t you think?

Oh, yes, that, too! I can now then vehemently state how those younger generations making extensive use of social networking tools for both personal use as well as for business use, are actually not that young anymore. And how we may be much better off switching the discourse from that generational divide into embracing different working styles within the workplace. That’s what it is all about!

And, to conclude this rather long and extensive blog entry that will serve as me getting back to my regular blogging activities, I guess I’d summarise the main key learning from @elsua v4.0 throughout the last 40 years picking up on a superb mantra headline that my good friend Harold Jarche has been using for a long while and, which, to me, has taken a new meaning altogether just recently: Life in Perpetual Beta:

Be a Natural Enterprise (Slideshare link)

  • “Find the sweet spot: identify your gift, passion & purpose
  • Find the right partners
  • Research unmet needs
  • Imagine and innovate solutions
  • Continuously improvise
  • Act responsibly on principle”

Yes, indeed, it’s good to be back, sustainably productive and Hippie 2.0 once again! :-D

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4 Comments »

  • Andy Wolber says:

    You comment re: setup time required for new hardware resonated with me.

    I’ve spent THOUSANDS of hours helping people with the simple tasks of setting up new computer. A typical new system take at least a few hours to setup and configure.

    My response for my personal work environment has been to move ALL of my core apps and data to the web. I use a mix of 100% web (e.g., Google Apps), web-sync apps (e.g., Evernote), and streaming apps (e.g., Rdio).

    That way, all I need to work is a browser and bandwidth.

    Setting up a new system SHOULD be as simple as logging in.

    It isn’t — yet — for most of the world.

    I’m hoping we’ll get all the systems and vendors get there eventually. Google gets it: their ChromeOS is a bold step toward this world. Smartphones platforms are also moving toward a “store online, login to access your apps and data” model.

    I’m looking forward to a 100% web world… and to never having to configure apps, data and system settings twice.

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi Andy! I, too, dream of that world at some point in time! I, too, for that time when I don’t have to worry about the machine I am using at the moment, but also the kind of network connections that one can expect to be always there, reliable and stable, so that we don’t have any issue of grabbing out data. That’s still one of the reasons why I haven’t uploaded my entire archive of pictures I have taken over the years and why I still keep relying on my MacBook Air and security copies. I wish things were different, but we still have got a lot to do from a hardware and software, perspective, just as much as for the network availability!

      One day, for sure. Hope we will both see it :)

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  • Jack Vinson says:

    Happy birthday, Luis. Welcome to the 4.0. I’ve been here a few years, and it is working out okay.

    How do we measure productivity these days? Is it time spent in meetings? (No!). Time spent helping customers / clients? (Yes – somewhat). What else?

    One of these days, I will help you writer shorter and more blog posts. (Like one for each of these topics.) Will that be considered productivity? It will certainly help me get to the bottom of all of your blog posts. :-)

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi Jack! Thanks ever so much, my dear friend! Greatly appreciated! I knew you would be saying saying along those lines for v4.0 hehe Oh and glad it is working ok! Makes me feel much better as I am starting to enjoy these new interesting times! hehe

      Very interesting question, Jack, on how do we measure productivity. At this point, my simplest method for measuring it is by having the reassurance that I have done something gratifying that produces an output that continues to provide value, and, perhaps make a difference. And lack of that would be lack of productivity on its own. Like I said, perhaps a bit too simplistic, but right now the easiest way I have to measure it :)

      Ha! I am sure you would be pleased to know that I actually had 4 different blog posts put together for this one single entry, but I eventually decided to join them together into a single one. Wanted to have a fast pace into what happened last few weeks and thought about sharing them all as a single one, but not to worry, shorter blog entries are in the making! Hoping that would make the experience a bit more productive altogether!!

      Lots of stuff to comment on and share across, so going to try out a new approach where I will be sharing those shorter blog entries with the odd annotation here and there and go for it! New experience altogether! Let’s see how it goes …

      Thanks again for the heads up and for the kind feedback! Greatly appreciated and, please, if I do fail on writing those shorter blog entries, give me a shout, so I can keep on target and ready out for some help! ;-) hehe

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