This article, by Justin Baiocchi, was originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 11 April 2015.
Some time ago a friend sent me an email link to a story about an American ‘life coach’ who claimed to have invented a fool-proof method to increasing your productivity. His message was that you needed to divide every day into 96 fifteen minute intervals and focus on one specific task for that fifteen minutes before moving onto a new task in the next fifteen minutes. He advocated using a timer to mark the start and end of every fifteen minute interval (which made me wonder how much sleep you would get with a timer going off every fifteen minutes during the night, reminding you that your fifteen minutes of sleep was over and it was now time to move on to your next fifteen minutes of sleep). His ‘revolutionary method’ came with a trademark and was of course copyrighted, though it seemed to me to be very similar to the common sense approach of finishing one job before moving on to the next.
Tracking and measuring every minute of your day, even while sleeping, has moved on to a whole new level with the advent of fitness bands, also known as activity trackers. These unobtrusive gadgets provide a wealth of data regarding how far you’ve walked, your heartbeat, calorie consumption and even whether or not you had a good night’s sleep. By downloading the data captured by the fitness band to your phone or computer, it’s possible to scrutinise your movements during the day in minute detail. The principle behind these devices is that awareness of your daily activity levels might be useful tools in the fight against the evils of modern living – processed food, lack of sleep and a sedentary lifestyle.
When it comes to investing however, constant measuring and checking of your investments is not necessarily a good idea. Yes, you should take an interest in how your superannuation is performing; yes, you should give your finances an overall health check at least once a year; but should you check the stock market or the value of your investments every fifteen minutes? Not really. There is a healthy divide between paying too little attention to your financial situation and paying too much attention. In the short term, the daily movements of individual shares and investments are of little import, it’s the longer term trends and movements you need to think about. Too often the real message gets lost in all the noise created by a 24×7 news cycle. In the modern, connected, ‘always on’ world of today, switching off for a while is hard to do, but it may be more productive than finding something different to do every fifteen minutes.