Productivity Boost – A few ways to get things done!

So it’s been a little while since my last post. I’ve been stuck between trying to sort out a multitude of things, working the current job and applying for new roles. Something that struck me shortly after the last post, was that one way to get something done effectively or accomplish goals (however small they may be) is to condense life and make it simpler. But I’m not saying that you should cut down on activities, friends or other things (though in some cases this may help). There are actually two awesome little tricks that can give you the productivity boost you need in order to get things done:

Productivity Boost #1: Complete all your chores at the same time.

Of course I don’t mean that you should clean the bathroom, do the laundry and vacuum the place at once, but grouping them together can actually save time. Why not make a list throughout the week of chores you have to complete? Then you designate a time when you will tackle them all at once, such as on a Monday evening or Saturday morning and try to complete them in that allotted period of time.

There is a reason why the likes of US Presidents try to minimize their decisions to an absolute minimum and filter out all the unnecessary decisions such as picking a suit, tie and shirt in the morning or deciding what to eat for breakfast. They do this because there is a certain amount of decision-making capacity in everyone’s day which can easily be exhausted. So by avoiding having to decide on the “small stuff”, they can focus on the bigger decisions. In this case on how to best run their country.

Although I’ve always been a proponent of ironing all of the coming week’s shirts, I’ve taken it to an extreme by ironing all of the coming two week’s shirts on a Sunday afternoon/evening. That way, each weekday morning when I wake up I can just hop straight into my prepared work outfit. I also feel happier with the fact that I have ironed all the shirts for the coming week and that one task is already completed. There is an awesome sense of satisfaction that appears when I complete a task and know that I don’t have to do it for another two weeks.
Additionally, I’ve also started doing my laundry and (try) to clear my room at the same time (though the latter task, I often don’t finish 🙂 .

Productivity Boost #2: Make a list

Although this could be a blogpost by itself, I should add that I’m a huge fan of making lists. I often tend to forget the things I need to accomplish and find it very annoying when I think I’m done, only to realise that there is a task outstanding. To avoid this, I make lists and cross each job off as I finish it. Ticking something off always makes me feel rather happy, and I start on the new task with uncommon elan. As such, I think it’s definitely a core part of boosting productivity to keep a list as you’re tackling your chores.

Having completed chores earlier frees up evenings and mornings to do more productive and worthwhile things.  At the same time I feel like I do not have to worry about having to do chores (or feel bad about putting them off).

Anyhow, next time you feel like you need a productivity boost as you have some chores piling up, why not make a list and tackle them all in one go? You may just feel happier after having ticked off the last task on your list 🙂

Happy Monday!

How to put an end to queues

Imagine you arrive at the airport and you are way too early for your flight. You check in, walk through security and find yourself to be the first person at the gate. There’s another 1hr to go before your flight leaves and you sit down near the counter that will guide you towards the plane in an hours time. You position yourself so that you will be the first in line to board. Just under an hour later, the announcement is made that the flight is ready to board and you leap up to take the number 1 spot. You feel really happy about yourself and can’t wait to be seated in your squishy airplane armchair.
But hang on. The ground crew walks right past you and up to the very last person in the queue and asks for their boarding pass. They tell them to follow them back to the counter and allow them to board the plane. You cannot believe what is happening… ‘I was first in line!’ you think to yourself. ‘How could they have not seen that?!’ You tell yourself that the passenger was probably a VIP or something. But then it happens again, and again and again. You are now furious and think that the airport staff have made a grave injustice to you.
Will you think twice about getting to the airport early next time? I bet you will, and these Danish researchers have had very positive results when testing the ‘last-come-first-serve’ method. It’s more efficient and will prevent bottle necks from being created. A huge improvement to the very common ‘first-come-first-serve’ method.

In a ‘first-come-first-serve’ scenario, there is a lot of incentive to arrive early and form a queue, as one will be the first person to enter whilst later arrivals will have to wait for their turn, thereby forming one or many queues. The researchers argue that on a ‘last-come-first-serve’ basis, there is no incentive to arrive early and start a queue, causing rational agents to want to arrive on-time or later (i.e. anything but arriving early). And it also makes complete sense on a common sense basis. Why would you rock up early if you’re going to be a lot better off arriving on time or later?
In an airport, passengers having checked in and passed through security would be able to take their time a bit more, maybe browse the shops, read books, generally could be a little bit less rushed about life pre-boarding. It is rather silly when I think about the times I have sat at the gate staring intently at the airport staff with an excruciatingly painful expression on my face, jumping up and racing to be at the front of the queue when the counter opens. Judging by my many competitors in this race, I’m not the only one who thinks like that.

Airports would love to trial the ‘last-come-first-serve’ method as this would mean people spending more time in money in shops, filling the airport operators coffers via increased rents for shops. The natural losers of this scenario would be the budget airline industry which loves to charge extra for speedy boarding. A whole way of earning extra revenue gone, because rational people would refuse to queue right?
Looking at life in general though, wouldn’t you feel like you had more time if you knew that arriving late would mean you would be let in straight away? If you knew that arriving late to the cinema or that really popular restaurant where everyone has to queue, would not be an issue because you’d be let in straight away (or would at least be first in the queue (for lack of a better word)). For one you wouldn’t have to rush (unless e.g. you’re actually close to missing the film) and could do something you enjoy for those extra 15-30min you would otherwise spend queueing.

In some cases in the real world, the ‘last-come-first-serve’ already exists. Think about last-minute travel where in certain situations you can nab flights for less than 50% of what they would have cost 3 months ago. Usually any kind of fire sale also follows that model, where the fire sale purchaser can often get prices far below what a normal shopper would get. These examples are inherently risky though, as for example you are not guaranteed to get a seat on a flight to your destination of choice.

I find this type of research fascinating as it questions basic assumptions with fairly basic questions and causes us to at least contemplate different perspectives and ways of doing things. Ultimately, I doubt that we would ever adopt a ‘last-come-first-serve’ methodology in a widespread manner. Mankind has the potential to drop one of the most annoying aspects of every day life. We could put an end to the queue! However, the ‘first-come-first-serve’ way of operating is seen as fair despite being less efficient and arguably more stressful. Moreover, humans are probably so utterly conditioned to forming a queue that I could imagine people queueing anyway (in a ‘last-come-first-serve’ scenario) regardless of the fact that they would be at a disadvantage to late comers. After all, it is very apparent that humans are not rational agents as much as we may think we are. There are examples all over.

Happy Monday!

Credit Cards – Satan or Saviour?

Credit Cards! Some people liken them to Satan himself, whilst others see the plastic card as an indispensable item in their everyday lives. Naturally, this depends entirely on what type of person one is. Are you a spendthrift that can hardly keep your wallet in your pants? Or are you cautious saver, guarding your pennies like Scrooge McDuck?

The downsides of credit cards are scary. Debts can quickly spiral out of control as fees are stacked on top of existing debt and sky-high interest rates can cause everything to escalate rather quickly. With variable interest rates starting at 15% APR* on most cards and going into the high double digits, it can become very hard and expensive paying down the debt.

*APR stands for “annual percentage rate”. It essentially takes into account the cost of interest and any fees associated with this interest, so essentially gives you the all in rate that you need to pay upon taking out this involuntary credit. But bear in mind that the percentage advertised can fluctuate as it is a variable interest rate and will depend on what the market rate is at any one point in time.

The long story short with credit card debt is never to even get into debt in the first place. Always pay off your card on time! And if you accidentally miss a payment, pay the balance off as quickly as possible. There are many alternate ways of accessing credit if you require it (eg bank loans). Credit cards will almost always come with the highest cost involved.

So now that we’ve touched on the negative aspects of credit cards, let’s focus on the positives:

1. Cash flow – One of my favourite aspects of credit cards is that it helps your cashflow. The label on the tin says it all: credit cards give you credit. Whether you’re running a business and only get paid by your clients 30 days after delivery of your product or whether you do a massive shop on the first day of every month. Credit cards give you a bit of leeway in planning your expenditures and income that debit cards or cash transactions just cannot offer. My credit card cash flow came in really useful when I was booking flights to Asia earlier this year. I could offer to book for my friend and myself so that we had seats next to each other on the flight. And I didn’t have to pay the bill until 20 days, after my friend had paid me his share. Moreover, if you’re entertaining clients regularly in your day job, it also gives you more time to get those receipts together and manage all your expenses in one go without feeling rushed or stressed about the liquidity in your bank account.

2. Points –  Not every card has a membership reward scheme and so this paragraph doesn’t apply to all credit cards. But one other aspect as to why I like using my card is that for every purchase I get points from my card provider. These points can be accumulated and later be exchanged for goods (earphones, iPads etc) or can be exchanged for flights when transferred to any of the major airlines frequent flyer programmes. The most prolific points provider here in the UK is undoubtedly American Express.  The key here is to not overspend just because you’re getting points. A good rule  of thumb regarding AMEX points is that one membership point = 1p or 1/100 of a pound. When taking into account that most purchases equate to 1 point per pound spent, it’s not really worth overpaying just to get the extra points. But then, it’s also nothing to snuff at especially when considering the huge sign up bonuses. The Gold card for example does not have an annual fee in the first year (normally £140 per year) and comes with 20,000 points if one spends £2,000 in the first three months. Not shabby.

3. Extra perks – This section is about the various perks that come with a lot of credit cards. Whether they offer insurance on cancelled or delayed flights booked with the card, preferential Foreign Exchange rates on overseas purchases or free entry to a few of the many airline lounges available under an airlounge card, these offers can be quite valuable depending on how often you might use them.

4. (Re)building a credit rating –  Credit cards can aid in building a credit score. If you’re looking to purchase a home (though hopefully not as a first investment), these cards can help in showing lenders what a great little borrower you are because you’re repaying all your bills on time :).  As we discussed above, a credit card’s disastrous effects on a rating are well-known if repayments are late or are defaulted on. However, there are also a few cards which aid in rebuilding of an individual’s credit rating. They’re not cheap but serve a purpose in demonstrating “creditworthiness” after consistent use of the card and repayment of debts.

There are undoubtedly many benefits associated with credit cards, however, it depends to a large extent on your spending habits. Can you realise these benefits without dipping your foot into the dark pool of card debt service? The key is to keep spending ideally tighter (if you tend to binge) than when you are using cash or debit card.  And always pay off your bill on time!

Happy Tuesday!