Pretty picture: The Real Cost of Productivity

Actually it’s an infographic. It’s a big infographic, or maybe I just mean loooong. Here’s how it begins:
It’s by a firm called SignNow and it goes on and on and on. Take a gawp at the full thing on this page about it from

And here’s how Todoist begins describing it:

We all know that wasted time costs companies money, but what isn’t always clear is exactly how much. That’s why we were interested in reviewing this newly released infographic sent to us and created by eSignature brand SignNow, which specifies exactly how much money and time are wasted by some common distractions, diversions, and interruptions. There are some pretty surprising numbers, including:

Executives average 23 hours per week in meetings, of which 7.8 hours are unnecessary and poorly run– a total of 2.3 months wasted per year.
The search for lost and misplaced materials accounts for nearly 38 hours per week, per employee. Annually this amounts to a full working week!
64% of employees visit non-work related websites every day at work
The full range of statistics compiled by SignNow may shock you, but there are many things you can do to help reduce these costs and stay productive, such as:

The Real Cost of Productivity and How it Affects You – David Trey, (14 October 2014)

Even if you just scroll down through it, it’s worth a look.

New on the App Store: Bundles of Apps

We’ve had box sets of films and TV series since there were any boxes to put them in yet it’s taken billions of downloads of a million apps before we’ve had the advantage of bundles of them.

The idea – new to the revamped App Store in iOS 8 – is that you can get four or so apps from the same developer and save a little bit of money over buying them separately. Only a little bit, but.

Go to the App Store today and you’ll see a banner ad for app bundles. Take a look.

But easily the one that leaps out at me is the Omni Group bundle. The Omni Productivity Pack contains:

• OmniFocus 2 for iPad
• OmniOutliner for iPad
• OmniPlan 2 for iPad
• OmniGraffle 2 for iPad

Currently that bundle costs £94.99 as opposed to a total of £111.93 if you bought them separately. So that’s a saving of £16.94 which is not to be ignored. But in each case this gets you the standard edition of the apps and it costs more for the Pro versions.

But look at me: I already own OmniFocus and OmniOutliner. For people like me, Apple’s borrowed its pricing model from TV series: I can “complete my bundle” for £53.01. To buy the apps I haven’t got, OmniPlan and OmniGraffle would otherwise cost me £69.98. So that’s a saving to me of £16.97.

I don’t need either OmniPlan yet or OmniGraffle maybe ever, but these are the kinds of savings the new idea brings and that’s got to be good.

Using your travel time

It’s been a long time since I drove very much at all. There was a time where, for several years, I would drive from Birmingham to London and back on a day at least once a week. But that would be a three-hour drive in the morning, leaving around 5am, and a four-hour drive back in the evening.

Plus I’d do eight to ten hours work in the middle.

So that was, what, help me count here: up to 17 hours away from my home office. And all but a ten-minute lunch break of it spent working.

When I got my first book contract, it obviously came with a deadline and I could not afford to lose 17 hours on a London day each week. I also obviously couldn’t afford to walk away from the eight to ten hours paid work, even if I hadn’t enjoyed it. This was Radio Times, easily one of my favourite writing jobs in my career.

But I could reclaim at least some of the travel time. If I gave up driving and instead went by trains or coaches – very often coaches because, wow, the price of trains that early in the morning – I could write. Not all the time. Once or twice on a train coming back I’d take a look at the crowd with me and feel wee bit uncertain about getting out a couple of thousand pounds of computer equipment. And sometimes I’d just be too tired.

Quick aside? The train from London Euston to Birmingham New Street goes via Birmingham International where there is the airport and the National Exhibition Centre. Amongst very many other things, the NEC hosts rock concerts. One night, I fell asleep on the train and woke up with my face pressed against the window.

And on the other side of the glass were a group of AC/DC fans pressing back and grinning at me.


I forget how long this went on for but it was probably three months. The book was published in November 2012 – it’s BFI TV Classics: The Beiderbecke Affair and I am deeply proud of it, I feel honoured that I got to be the one to write about that – so this would be late 2011, maybe early 2012.

But what I remember with total clarity was that when it was done, when I had delivered the first draft and could go back to driving, I had saved slightly over a thousand pounds in petrol.

Now, that’s not an accurate figure for saving because it doesn’t account for all the money I spent on trains and coaches. But it was a shock of a figure. Shock enough that to this day I refuse to let myself think about all the months of petrol I’d paid up to then. At least ten years with at least once such drive per week. You add it up, I feel ill.

It was also shock enough that I could not go back to doing it again.

So from that day on, I stuck to trains and coaches for my London work. I sold the car, even.

We still have a car: Angela has one and I use it when necessary or when we’re both going somewhere, I will usually be the one who drives us. Gives her a break from all the driving she does in her work.

Today it was necessary. I dropped Angela off at a place this morning, drove to a couple of jobs, then to a Theatre Cuppa gathering in the early evening and back. Then Angela was off to a production meeting for her theatre work (you cannot believe how proud I am that I can say that to you, I just find the very words delicious) and I was off to a Writers’ Guild committee meeting.

My meeting was quite short but it then took me an hour and a half to get home by bus. I’d driven 170 miles in about six hours today, the last 10 miles were a 90-minute series of bus rides. And those bus rides had more adventure in them. I got to see stand up rows between passengers and drivers, I somehow got to see one woman passenger flash another one even as I actually couldn’t quite see why. The flasher was not complimenting the flashee.

But I missed a lot because I was writing. I wrote nothing all day except some notes at the various places I drove to so I was behind. But on these buses, while keeping an eye on timetable information through my various iOS travel apps, I got to write.

I didn’t enjoy that it was 90 minutes, I didn’t enjoy the drizzle as I got off the last bus. But I got things done and so instead of feeling knackered and pointless tonight, I feel I’ve got on with something and that I secretly deserve to watch the first episode of Community, Season Two, which the finest of fine people has just loaned me.

There are 24 episodes in this season. That’s my productivity destroyed for the rest of the week.


It’s a discussion that comes up a lot. I’ve even joked about it in my book, The Blank Screen (UK edition, US edition). Every time it happens, it’s started by someone who dislikes Apple and they always say:

Macs are overpriced

And I or probably anyone who likes Apple, tells a tale something like mine:

My previous Mac lasted me seven years. I still use it for some jobs. Over that same period, X or Y replaced their PCs three times. Tell me what’s the better value.

I’m not sure which disappoints me more: the ease with which I come out with all this stuff or the ease with which people say Macs are overpriced. It’s the word overpriced: if they’d said expensive or just straight out that they cost more than PCs, I’d be nodding along with them. Well, there’s the stuff about MacBook Air knockoffs, how they still aren’t cheaper. But generally, Macs are more expensive than PCs.

It’s just that word overpriced.

That really disappoints me.

You can get a word processor for free now. So people call ones that cost £6.99 overpriced. They mean it costs more, they think it’s expensive – seriously? £6.99 for something you’ll earn your living using? – but they say overpriced. The word is used because it sounds better than calling the cheaper one cheaper. It implies a professional judgement: all things have been considered and that one is overpriced.

Anyone who disagrees has been consumed by the cult of Apple whereas you, the one making this overpriced judgement, are the sole voice of sanity.



Macs are cheaper than PCs therefore Macs are overpriced

Shoes are cheaper than cars therefore cars are overpriced

Hey, they both get you where you’re going, don’t they? But you look at that second one, you think I’m a smartarse, and you know shoes can’t do the same job as a car. That’s actually what I think when I look at the first line: PCs can’t do the same job as a Mac. You can disagree and there is every chance you will, but it doesn’t matter: that’s how I see it when I’m spending the money. All that matters is what you, specifically you, need. You’re thinking money matters too and it surely does, but:

If you love PCs and Windows, you have oodles of choice and you’re going to get a very cheap computer. I can’t see a single thing wrong with that.

If you don’t love PCs and Windows, why would you buy one? When you don’t like them, then the sole reason is price and I can see only wrong things with that. You’re choosing, you are electing to buy a computer you know you won’t like. That’s not a saving over a Mac, it is a waste of money. It’s one of the worst wastes, I think, because you then have to live with it every day you’re working.

I’m sure I’ll buy another Mac some day but when I do, I will be pricing it against what I need it for and what it will do for me. I won’t be comparing it to a PC.

I do thoroughly believe that you need to get the computer that works best for you and if that’s a PC, that’s a PC. I think I’m in a fortunate position that I’ve worked extensively with both so I know what works for me.

Buy a Mac, buy a PC, it’s completely up to you. But can we skip the bollocks about overpriced vs cheap and just get back to work?