Economic Productivity vs. “I Was Productive!”

The Year Has Begun

Ah! The sweet, piney smell of untapped knowledge from the crisp, new textbooks – or the fabulous sensation of purchasing a used book with all the crucial points highlighted from the previous owner. The unnerving feeling of walking on to the college campus for the first time in awhile, or ever. You think to yourself, “I’ve got to make sure I’m productive this year, but what does it really mean to be productive?” Is it diving into your textbook for five hours a day? Is it cutting back on the Netflix binge? Is it not having poker nights with my roommates? Maybe…

But first, let’s get to the question at hand, what is productivity?

You may hear people say, “I was being productive! I didn
’t get on Facebook all day!” or “I feel so productive reading GenFKD blogs all day!” I hate to be the bearer of counter-intuitive reality, but it probably wasn’t productive at all. Let’s get economical for a second.

The definition of economic productivity is: the amount of output per unit of input.

Two key components of the definition will determine whether you’re being productive or not. First you need an output. What is the result you’re trying to attain? Second, what are you doing to achieve those results? These are the inputs. So, although here at GenFKD, we appreciate someone reading our blogs all day, what is the output they’re trying to achieve? If the output is to become financially literate, have you become a pro after spending all day reading the blogs?

Sadly, probably not.

In order to achieve the required output or “product” you have to make sure the combination of inputs are just right. For instance, reading the blogs is a portion of the inputs, but if you don’t mix it up by maybe adding video animations or engaging in mock investing, it may take a really long time to become financially literate. If you don’t practice sticking to a budget every month and successfully increasing your savings or chip away at your debt, you may be far-stretched toward your goal.

This idea of getting the perfect combination of inputs for the maximum amount of productivity goes hand-in-hand with the law of diminishing returns. Oh no! Economics terms outside of the classroom? Never fear, an illustration is here.

Imagine watering a plant. A plant needs water to live, but if you water it too much, it dies from over-watering. It needs to be just right. That is the law of diminishing returns. There comes a point where that extra hour of study will do any good, maybe even mess up what you already have stored in your brain. That being said, watching Netflix and going out for drinks is necessary for you to maximize productivity. You can’t spend all your time with your head in the books or in your lab coat. Join the billiards or the bowling club. Allocate some time for the gym, if that’s your thing (I’m trying to make it my thing this year).

My Take

Many times people think being productive is engaging in an activity that is not mindless, such as: watching a documentary as opposed to watching Family Guy, or reading a nonfiction book as opposed to a fiction book. Maybe, allocating time to read GenFKD blogs instead of your Facebook news feed. But there is much more to it than that. Being productive requires a specific end product and the right combination of processes to achieve that end product.

So as we hit the ground running this year to take on college, let’s make sure we have an end product we want to achieve. Whether it’s getting an A in Calculus, getting more involved in your student organizations, making more friends, or all of that — try to dedicate the perfect amount of time to all of your “inputs” for each goal and don’t “over-water” yourself this year.

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