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There was an xkcd recently that raises an interesting question, which I would like to pose to Productivity.SE.

The math of the chart is undeniable, so I am not asking "how much time is saved by doing things more efficiently", I have a chart for that now. Instead, I want to know what are the top choices for activities that I can shave time off of? Presumably, with this nice chart it should be easier to judge which activities give the highest payoff.

"Don't forget the time you spend finding the chart to look up what you save. And the time spent reading this reminder about the time spent. And the time trying to figure out if either of those actually make sense. Remember, every second counts toward your life total, including these right now.

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I'm having trouble envisioning how this is going to fit the Q&A format, but I'll leave it open a little to see what happens. – Jeanne Boyarsky May 15 '13 at 1:28
I honestly had a hard time deciphering that chart, but I did think it raised an interesting point. – Tortilaman May 18 '13 at 17:50

Instead, I want to know what are the top choices for activities that I can shave time off of?

Uhm, internet procrastination? Some people could easily save hundreds of hours each month just by that. Focus on those things that take most of your time.

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Interesting take on my question, I guess my intention was to target activities that are productive. I like this answer though because it captures the "negative space" of my intention ( – Jordan May 14 '13 at 12:35

I think the model does not account for the price of the context switching between tasks. If you have lot of routine tasks, the sum of the time spent on them will be much less than your work time. Switching between them costs time and energy.

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If you spend more time maintaining/developing/filling-in the mechanisms of the tracking system than actually accomplishing something of value - it is waste (Lean Thinking - philosophy).

There is a point of negative return based on optimizing processes/tasks which are within standard deviation differences each time the task is run...waste (Leading Lean Software Development - book).

As an efficiency super-freak myself, one of the key ways I've improved (and kept my sanity) is by only modifying those things which cause me pain/suffering/annoyance - and not going too far down the rabbit hole of over-optimizing. The rabbit hole usually revolves around trying to optimize the optimizations without asking yourself whether this is really something of value to be working on in the first place. For example, if you spend 7 days trying to devise a more efficient way to write a college paper that would have only taken you 2 days to write in the first place - you have just produced waste (Opportunity Cost - Economics).

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