By: Dr. Roslyn Kunin
For many Canadians, there never seems to be enough time in the day. Taking the long view, time stretches to infinity, but, within the scope of our lives, it is much more limited. It has no substitutes and it cannot be re-used or recycled.
Lack of time is the excuse we give for not doing all the things we would like to do or that we have to do. We each have only 24 hours in a day and, like land, they aren’t making any more of it. Unlike land, unfortunately, you can’t buy it.
We can, however, make much more effective use of the time that we do have, both in our personal and our working lives. There are lots of suggestions for making better use of time at the individual level, but it is in our collective working lives that the inefficient use of time is doing us the most harm. Not a lot is being said about this and less is being done, it seems.
Productivity is the measure that is used to determine how effective we are in our working lives. There are many yardsticks of productivity, but the most basic one is output per hour worked.
By this measure, Canadian productivity has been lower than that of the United
States, our biggest trading partner, for at least the last three decades. What’s more, the gap is widening. Although productivity has been rising in Canada, it has been creeping up at a rate of about 1% per year for the last decade. Meanwhile, in the United States, productivity has been charging ahead around double the Canadian rate.
Why is it so important for Canadians to be churning out the greatest amount of goods and services each hour that we work? Because the wages we earn and our standard of living depend upon it. No one can afford to pay anyone more than the value of what it is they produce. If our output is just creeping upward, our incomes and our standard of living can do no better.
And how do we improve our productivity to make better use of the working hours that we put in? We make use of a resource that is widely available and often underused—our brainpower. We have the smarts to develop, adapt and implement the technology and systems that will allow us to become more productive and prosperous.
Now all we need to do is to find the time.