What I’m Reading: A Factory of One

What I’m Reading: A Factory of One: Applying Lean Principles to Banish Waste and Improve Your Personal Performance, by Daniel Markovitz.

I’m a productivity system junkie, so when Nora Riva Bergman recommended A Factory of One alongside my favorite productivity book, Getting Things Done by David Allen, I had to check it out.

The book looks at what lessons businesspeople can take from the auto manufacturing industry, given its focus on production and efficiency. The author analogizes business operations, even those in the professional service industry, to the manufacturing line in an auto factory.

One lesson that struck a chord with me was premised on a quote from the 19th c. psychologist, William James:

Habit is the flywheel of society, its most precious conserving agent. The great thing, then, is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy. We must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can, and guard against growing into ways that are disadvantageous to us as we guard against the plague. The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automation, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their proper work. There is no more miserable person than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of deliberation. Half the time of such a man goes to deciding or regretting matters which ought to be so ingrained in him as practically not to exist for his consciousness at all.

Markovitz explains that every time we shift our attention, we suffer a cognitive impairment, costing us production and function. We should try to minimize the number of shifts in mental process that we make in order to optimize the quality of our work.

My takeaway is that I have been checking email only once per day in the afternoon for the past month. This has greatly improved my concentration in morning hours.

I would recommend this book to those who already have a productivity system in place that they would like to fine-tune. A Kindle copy can be rented on Amazon.

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