Have you found yourself telling others how busy you are?  If so, you are not alone, you are one of many, me included.

Why do we do this?  And what does it imply about our thinking?  Do you, me, we believe that productivity equates to busyness?

What is productivity?

Definitions of productivity are often anchored to two key concepts:

  • Productivity is the effectiveness of productive effort.
  • Where productive effort is measured in terms of rate of output.

However I think this definition only makes sense in part.

Yes, your productivity can be described as the effectiveness of productive effort.  However your productivity needs to be measured by more than the rate of output.

If focus is only on the rate of output it may mistakenly result in a focus on efficiency, focused on doing more with less.  It may be less resources, less time or perhaps less funds.

  • To be productive it is important to leverage efficiency as a lever.
  • However it is also essential to leverage the effectiveness lever.
  • Because effectiveness talks to the “value” delivered from efforts.

Efficiency without effectiveness, may result in you working harder and harder.  Working harder and harder will overtime put you at risk of burn-out, and burn-out puts at risk the value you can deliver.

Re-frame productivity

Your aim is to work smarter not harder.

To be productive, you goal is to combine efficiency with effectiveness and deliver sustained value.

  1. Efficiency ensure the optimal use of time, resources and funds.
  2. Effectiveness will ensure there is a focus on the value delivered from effort.

Productivity essentials

I cannot leave the discussion of productivity without providing what I describe as the ‘productivity essentials’.

They are eight core strategies essential to any productivity toolkit.

They are:

  1. Set a maximum of three key daily priorities; ensure they will deliver value and are achievable
  2. When assessing priorities use the metrics of importance/value and urgency to assess and compare priorities
  3. Learn to say no when appropriate; having built a clear and compelling case to explain why you are saying no
  4. Be a continuous learner, put learning at the heart of your self-development plan
  5. Limit multi-tasking, it can reduce productivity by as much as 40-65%
  6. Ensure you balance your focus between immediate, must do priorities and longer term priorities
  7. Identify when it is appropriate to delegate an activity, when it makes sense for it to be done by another
  8. If you do not know, remember it is okay to ask for help, see it as an opportunity to learn

And of course, following on from the discussion above, ensure you understand what your manager, team, area and organisation defines as being of “value”.

Productivity & high performance

In closing, I would like to clarify the link between productivity and achieving sustained high performance.

Productivity is key to achieving sustained high performance.

High performance is your ability to be:

  1. Self-directed, strategic, and hence future and solutions focused
  2. Adaptive, hence agile, relevant and focused in your thinking
  3. Influential, engaged, motivated and collaborative; and
  4. Productive, efficient, effective and energised in your doing.

Reflection Activity

I encourage you to take some time to reflect on your definition of productivity, the reality of how you apply it in the day-to-day working environment.

  1. Are you equating productivity with your level of busyness?
  2. Are you working harder and harder, at risk of burnout, not focused on working smarter?
  3. Are you sufficiently aware of and focused on the value delivered from your efforts?
  4. Which of the eight productivity essential strategies listed above do you have in your strategy toolkit?

Wishing you productivity in your doing.

ciao Jan