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Personal Productivity: How to Increase Your Satisfaction in Living.

Personal Productivity: How to Increase Your Satisfaction in Living. By John W. Kendrick and John B. Kendrick. Armonk, NY, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1988. 194 pp., bibliography. $35, cloth; $14.95, paper.

John W. Kendrick, who has distinguished himself over the decades through his analyses of firm, industry, and economy wide productivity, turns his attention in this excellent book to the productivity of the individual. He and his son, John B. Kendrick (an account executive at an advertising agency), provide a plan for raising personal productivity both at work and in the use of leisure time. Inspiring the Kendricks to undertake this effort was the judgment that most people currently realize "only a fraction of the satisfaction they could be getting from their lives."

One of the major contributions of the book is the authors' index for measuring changes in personal productivity. The Kendricks' measure has two components-inflation-adjusted Full Personal Income ("Full," because it includes such items as the imputed value of unpaid work) and a "Satisfaction Quotient" that reflects changes in the degree of satisfaction that the individual receives from work, family, and recreation.

While the measure of personal productivity is a most useful concept, I disagree with the authors' formula for its calculation. According to the Kendricks, if one's income increased 1.8 percent and his or her satisfaction rose 2.9 percent, then personal productivity would have increased 4.7 percent. It seems to me that if there are two components of the productivity gauge, the overall increase should be a weighted average of the changes in the two elements-that is, somewhere between 1. 8 percent and 2.9 percent. The authors acknowledge that "it is not essential to combine the indicators of the quantitative and qualitative aspects of personal productivity growth." I believe that the indicators should be combined, but I disagree with the authors' method of combining them.

What advice does the book offer for increasing one's personal productivity? Some of the suggestions are what one might expect to find in any self-help book. Thus, the Kendricks exhort the reader to think positively, to exercise regularly, to "give yourself pep talks," and, when possible, to simultaneously do two things or more.

What is different in this book, however, and what makes it a valuable contribution, are the authors' ideas on how to apply principles of economics in order to increase one's effectiveness and satisfaction in life.

For example, the Kendricks urge the reader to apply the principle of comparative advantage both in the workplace and in the home. On the matter of choosing a career, the authors advise: "People who are below par in everything can still benefit from choosing an activity in which they have the least comparative disadvantage."

How should one decide how much time to devote to work, and how much to reserve for leisure? The authors offer the answer of the microeconomist: work for pay up to the point at which the additional income is worth no more to you than is the additional nonmarket time." Because such reasoning underlies much economic behavior, the Kendricks predict that the labor force participation rates of individuals age 60 and older may rise in the future, as a result of the tightening that has occurred in Social Security retirement provisions. It will be interesting to watch for such a development, which would represent a reversal of the long-term historic trend toward earlier retirement.

The authors turn to microeconomics again, in explaining how a consumer should allocate expenditures in order to maximize satisfaction: "buy... each of the commodities you consume up to the point at which the last dollar spent on each (including the value of your time) gives equal satisfaction." Also, as some items increase in price very rapidly, you should try to shift some of your purchases away from those goods toward substitutes whose prices are rising less than the CPI, or are declining." I was appalled by the authors' suggestion that long-distance telephone calls are an expenditure item on which people may want to cut back. According to CPI data, the cost of interstate calls has fallen almost 30 percent in the past 5 years, and so the authors' satisfaction-maximizing principle implies that consumers should increase their use of long-distance service. As a candidate for cutbacks, long-distance calls would be a poor choice.

Among the many useful suggestions in the book are the setting of short- and long-term goals, the use of daily "to-do" lists, and the keeping of expenditure logs. I recommend the book most headily.

Edward Steinberg Economist, AT&T
COPYRIGHT 1990 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Steinberg, Edward
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1990
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