Usefulness to quickness ratio

Usefulness to quickness ratio
Photo by Jan Huber / Unsplash

On a recent episode of the Hanselminutes podcast, Scott and his 17 year-old son, Zenzo, were discussing among other things the use of tools like ChatGPT when doing homework.

Zenzo relayed a brief story about he and a friend who had an assignment which took 30 minutes of work. His friend used ChatGPT to help craft his work, while he himself did not. His thinking was that he probably got more out of the assignment, whether or not he was going to get a better grade. Effectively, whether this is cheating or not, using the tool in this way would not be worth it to him.

Scott offered up that he hasn’t pushed this “ethics ethics ethics” idea at home and wondered where it came from. Zenzo had what seemed like an off-the-cuff description of the “usefulness to quickness ratio”. Further describing how even though he could save 20 minutes, he probably would have spent that playing Minecraft or something else that wouldn’t help later on.

This immediately hit home. This was exactly the reinforcement I (didn’t realize that I) needed after posting about Splitting Excel data into columns last week. It was just so much more eloquent to suggest that the exercise has a high usefulness to quickness ratio…I wish I’d come up with it.

The full episode covers some good ground and I think it’s worth a listen (even if on 1.8x):

Applying more broadly?

I found myself wondering how applicable the “Ratio” is outside of the learning/AI example. I found it tough to stand up in a lot of the scenarios I could come up with. I think that’s partly because I’m in a phase of life where time is a scarce resource, despite my work to protect it.

Still, so many things that I feel I get the greatest return and satisfaction on do take time. Running, reading, writing, connecting with others, pondering.

In the area of learning and skill building specifically, it stood up pretty well in most hypothetical scenarios I could come up with.

This makes me think that part of why it resonated with me is that it hit a sweet spot with a couple of values I hold high:

  • Learning
  • Judiciousness

Regardless, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do a quick post after having the concept occupy my brain.

Statue of a person sitting thinking