Productivity Fortnight+1: What is Productivity?

Welcome to a fortnight+1 of themed posts on Productivity, which is a big word meaning many things for many people.

In the next three weeks’ worth of posts I’ll be rounding up many different productivity systems, profiling some productivity-slanted apps, and having some fun.

What is Productivity?

Funny thing – when I worked in a full time management position, dealing with all kinds of requests and development of many staff members, and releasing software on a regular schedule, the last thing on my own mind was “Am I being productive or not?”

When you’re in the thick of it, hour to hour, other people around you know if you’re productive and at what level (I’d like to think I was) while you just get on with the job. But when you work alone – say, as a writer, and your days are filled with hours of alone time, time that you must self-motivate to get work done in – that’s when finding ways to be “more productive” becomes the question.

Starting off with – “What is meant by productivity?” in the first place. You can’t be more of something if you can’t define that something. productivity fun

These series of posts aren’t going to go out and reinvent the wheel. There are a lot of productivity blogs out there, telling us all kinds of things.

But for the sake of clarity, here’s my own definition –

Productivity = Commitment to Accomplishment = Productivity

But you needn’t take my word for it –

Reading Assignment No 1 – A Year of Productivity

From May 2013 to May 2014, Chris Bailey did a Year of Productivity. Recently posted is a must-read: The top 10 lessons I learned from A Year of Productivity.  The number one tip (although 10 through 2 are worth the read also):

Productivity isn’t about how much you produce, it’s about how much you accomplish

Chris’s example will ring true with many writers –

When I first started my year of productivity, I created a Stats page so I could share exactly how productive I was every day. Every day I posted the number of words I wrote, pages I read, and hours I worked, because I considered these to be pretty good measurements of how productive I was.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Unless you run a factory, measuring your productivity based only on how much you produce gives you only a shallow, limited picture of how productive you are. In fact, if you come up with an intelligent and creative approach to a problem—let’s say that you find a way to write 500 words in 100—when you measure your productivity simply by how much you produce, you’re much less productive!

Chris hits on a problem with counting words or even hours spent in writing – it’s a decent measure for things like hitting a 50K writing marathon like NaNoWriMo, but what of the time spent in planning, or rewriting – where word count can go backwards?

Sprints and word targets are great as motivating factors. Even people like Stephen King set themselves targets to achieve. But the actual accomplishment you’re after as a writer, is something different.

Reading Assignment No 2 – Pick the Brain

Broderick Durisseau wrote a short post defining productivity with a diagram, in Productivity Simplified In 3 Parts.

pick the brain productivity

Broken down, the definition of productivity comes out as three things – vision, purpose and commitment. I like to think of it as passion – no point being productive on something you hate (unless you’re paying your mortgage off with the earnings, that is). The definition from this article:

Productivity = Commitment to Purpose and Vision.

Okay, so we have our definition and some simple commonsense – productivity equals something accomplished. And to do that, we require commitment and a purpose or vision. A goal, perhaps?

Nothing new going on here, move along….In the second post for today, I’ll briefly look at goals and strategies.

In the meantime, productivity is defined in KISS terms as –

Productivity = Commitment to Accomplishment = Productivity

In the next post we’ll look at why we might want to be more productive in the first place, and for what.

Productivity Fortnight 1



4 thoughts on “Productivity Fortnight+1: What is Productivity?

  1. The word “productivity” in this context is misleading; it’s better to use “efficiency”. I would define that as doing more in the same amount of time by being clever, using hacks.

    1. That’s a good word, Pete. I’m going to use it in later posts in the series. Being more efficient with my resources, I’ve already designed the headers for this series, so remain with “productivity”.

      One interesting point. Back in the day, when the corporations I worked for were sold on consultants coming in, the general take on the new meetings and training enforced on staff was – training on productivity – “yes, okay” but if ever it was broached as an “efficiency expert is coming in” we would all cringe. Perhaps too many of us had memories of the first rash of efficiency experts coming into workplaces with clipboards and stopwatches.

      1. About the 2nd paragraph, I understand the thinking. Having worked in an industrial environment (e.g. automotive, but not only) myself & gone through similar exercises, I can assure you that productivity experts also came with clipboards & stopwatches.
        Anyway, whereas “productivity” mostly refers to an environment where things are produced, “efficiency” can cover that same environment as well as others.
        I look forward to the rest of your series.

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