Here you will find Kate's photos and brain space. Mind the gap.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Increasing productivity (or "Ridiculously Simple Revelations")

Never have I consumed so much coffee. I didn't become a coffee drinker until after college, so I missed many opportunities there. I learned to like it in Costa Rica, as I knew I would have to, and it became a relaxing, comforting afternoon drink. When it's chilly and maybe a little rainy it's so nice to sit by a window (or in milder climates, outside) with a warm coffee. Now and then I smell a certain blend that takes me back to mornings in Guatemala. These things are all still true but I have additionally stumbled across a concept that was heretofore unknown to me: coffee as drug. I am now a daily coffee drinker and sometimes I worry about that. I know people the world over drink coffee daily but no one in my house growing up did (and this was pre-Starbucks so I feel like I would know). So it is a new experience, psychically speaking.

All of this is a circumspect approach to today's topic: how freakin' busy I am. I have never in my life fallen asleep in a class, and that has not changed recently. However, I do get some extra-long blinks in. You know, the kind where you blink, and 20 seconds later you open your eyes again? Yeah, that. That's where the coffee comes in.

As I touched on in my last entry, right now we have class upon class, mandatory speakers and workshops and events, work study, internship searches.... and that's on top of normal-people things like laundry and shopping and getting the oil changed. It is truly insane. We'll have been in school for six months before it lets up, and what then? I'm not sure what to expect. Fortunately, though, my experience around that busyness has changed. At first (and I'm counting -- "at first" was three months ago) I was sure that I was just in a state of shock. Surely I was just out of practice, and they were just front-loading the career management stuff, and I wasn't used to doing homework and it would get better. Then I started to realize it wasn't going to let up. And in fact it got worse. I had indeed adjusted, but then they piled more on. And while it's been hard and I've complained and my work has not been as good as I would have liked, I get it done. That's the amazing thing: I've gotten it all done! And not so shabbily, either. So what I've learned is I'm not too busy. I'm just busier than I've ever been before.

The truth is I'm lazy. I'm ambitious but not motivated. My parents both have this incredible work ethic that I somehow missed out on. The good news is my Birkman and Myers-Briggs have both picked up on this, but frame it as "visionary" and not "lazy." I'm happy in my head imagining awesome things but I get so involved that I forget to put them into action. This is a skill I am working on. I feel like I have come a super-long way in this regard over the past three months and indeed over the past year. Making my way to business school is a big step. But sometimes I get so disheartened at how far there still is to go, when I already feel I've come so far. And to think about this I turn to my old pal Vilfredo Pareto.

Mr. Pareto is known for his eponymous Principle, or the 80/20 law. He says that for many phenomena, 80% of consequences can be accounted for by 20% of the causes. For example, 20% of words in a language are used 80% of the time; 20% of a population holds 80% of the wealth; 20% of professors account for 80% of the boredom, resulting in 20% of my classmates consuming 80% of the beer. This concept was introduced to me because it is used in management to increase efficiency and utility. These guys go nuts for this stuff. I have used the chart to illustrate this principle. On the x-axis you will see the causes that detract from my productivity. The bars show the frequency of the problem, and the line shows the percentage of the consequences that would be affected by addressing the problem.

As you can see, 20% of my problems -- time management and ignorance -- account for 80% of the consequences -- that is, not getting done what I want to get done. It would best behoove me to address these issues rather than, say, e coli, because they will affect so much of the result. In fact, on arriving at school, I was immediately forced to deal with time management and ignorance, which is why I felt like I've made so much progress. I wouldn't say I've yet acheived the 80%, but it's still a noticable difference. It also shows why I feel like I have so far to go. Few causes have helped a lot of the results, which conversely means that the remaining few results stem from a larger number of problems. This makes it harder to get to from 80% to 100% than it was to get the first 80%.

Operations guys will tell you that there is always, always, always room for improvement. And they're right -- there is always more toothpaste in the toothpaste tube. I think part of me keeps waiting to be grown-up, to be excellent, to have arrived. The other part of me knows that there will always be room for growth, and I am both nervous about and excited by that. Now that I've made some kind of sense out of this (c'mon, you can't get any better than a chart), I feel even more excited about what I can accomplish. I'm coming up with some solutions, which I may share later, no matter how much you fight it.

Besides, coffee's good for you, right?


Blogger Kate said...

omg Kate, this is the most boring blog of all time. No offense.

3:39 PM

Blogger Anand said...

No Kate..It was not.. you wrote down what we feel about the course.. the 6 month 3month is what I felt too.. gosh..talking about work ethics..I think we are GenX dont dare to compare it with mom and dad.. About Time Management.. I don't understand how few of our IMBA overachievers get their time from.. always I am trying to learn the secret.. It was nice to see that you finally got some time to update your blog..kewl!! keep it up...good one kate..

3:47 PM

Blogger Christopher said...

Bagged spinach and Richard Simmons, LOL! Great post kate!

6:15 AM

Blogger David said...

Thanks for the recap! You have done a lot for not being a motivated person.

7:08 AM

Anonymous Your Dad said...

Just keep working.

1:53 PM


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