Horse Sense #123

How Computers Steal Our Productivity

Charge Your Electronics Quickly

Turn your phone completely off and it may charge three times faster than if you have it on! If you need to leave it on at night, it will charge faster in airplane mode. In general, to charge your phone faster and make that charge last longer, turn off everything you do not need. Your screen and your various antennas require the most power, so turn them off for faster charging or longer battery life. Turn the phone completely off to save your charge when you do not want to be bothered during a movie. As an added benefit, something that is off keeps your information safer. There are many free applications that you can add to a phone or tablet to increase your battery life. They primarily rely on turning off things automatically when you are not using them.

Set Windows and Apple PCs to power down their screens and hard drives after a certain period of time. Doing this will save both energy and cooling costs.

Do Not Unplug That Drive!

No matter where you store your information, it will not stay written there forever. Ink fades. Paper degrades. Tapes and hard drives demagnetize over time. But what about solid state drives (SSDs) and USB sticks? As long as you leave them plugged in, they can maintain themselves and keep memory cells appropriately energized "indefinitely." [OK, nothing lasts forever.] Power off a consumer SSD, though, and Alvin Cox from Seagate showed the memory will likely be unreliable in about a year at 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Add 5 degrees Celsius, and it cuts that time in half. Put that SSD in a hot car and you might be lucky if your info survives a few days. Of course, tapes will melt and demagnetize and hard drives will not do well in a hot car either. Enterprise grade SSDs are often more tolerant of higher temperatures, but USB sticks are less tolerant because they have fewer data protection technologies and tend to use inexpensive memory. Put a USB stick into a pants pocket and even if your sweat does not damage it or your keys do not gum up the connectors, your body heat alone could nail your data.

Treat SSD and USB sticks like hard drives. Keep them cool and dry. Do not leave them to overheat or freeze in your car if you can help it. Generally, if the environment is one your child might play in, your electronics will be fine. Back them up if you want to keep your data.

How Computers Steal Our Productivity

People think that computers improve productivity. They do not. Computers are tools, like a hammer. They allow you to get work done, but productivity stems from the user of the tool, not the tool itself.

Too often, we make the mistake of thinking that because we *can* do something that we *should* do it. Doing *more* is not being productive. Producing something of value is productive.

Managers often want to rely on metrics to measure how well something is going in a business. But.... the measurements themselves have a huge cost that hinders productivity and may easily lower productivity. In 1981, I was asked to implement a payroll and personnel system that had many available features for a 1500 person division of a telephone manufacturer. An upper manager wanted to know who in the company had college degrees. He did not have a good reason as to why this would be important, but still wanted the information from everyone in the whole company. I tried to convince him it was not a good idea and finally got him to agree to a pilot program with just the 30 member engineering group. It took months to get the results from the engineers. As it turned out, these telephony engineers had a total of 5 degrees among them. Three were held by one guy, who had a doctorate in oceanography. One had a BA in English. Another had an AA in Electronics. No wonder they did not want to respond! The upper manager was incensed until I asked the simple question, "Are they doing a good job?" He agreed that the work they were doing was excellent. He then agreed that making the effort to survey everyone else and maintain that information would be misleading and lead to bad decision making. Even at best the information would be fairly useless. The data gathering project was cancelled.

When desktop publishing programs came out in the late 1980s, everyone thought they could become their own publishers. Of course, it was simple! Anyone could do it! With a fair amount of effort, people could produce something from one of these programs, but many of the designs were terrible. [To err is human. To really foul things up requires a computer.] Worse, people spent a lot of time making the message pretty rather than delivering the message. Horse Sense is sent in text format because it is the message that matters! In addition, text is more likely to get through various filters and to show up and format so that it can be read and understood at the other end. How much time do you spend trying to make something look good versus getting your point across? Unless those efforts help you get your point across, they are unproductive.

Managers and governments need to see every bit as a cost. Every time they ask for a piece of data, it has a cost to it. Demonstrating compliance to rules is expensive. Going through a checklist to help ensure consistency might be a good thing. But… Is it really a help or a hindrance? Will people want to ignore it or work around it? What happens if they do not use it? Should you save the checklist, or just the fact that it was followed (or just the times when it was *not* followed)? The less administrivia you have to perform, the more productive you can be.

Ask yourself....Am I doing this on my computer to be more productive? Could I do it better with a pencil? Does it even need to be done at all?

For those of you who love micromanagement, the comments above are not meant for you. (Grin)

If you want us to help you become more productive, give us a call. In that case, doing something *is* productive!

©2015 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse