It’s Time To Redefine What ‘Productivity’ Means

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For everyone's sake.

A calendar for the new month sitting on a desk preparing for the upcoming year

The concept of “productivity” for us conjures a mindless, rapidly moving machine that’s constantly churning out work, all without getting a hair (in this case, wire) out of place. We’d argue, however, that if striving for productivity involves additional end-goals of precision and speed, that’s a major misstep.

“The ultimate goal is a large organisation in which all knowledge workers have full context, tools, and support to focus their time on the biggest value drivers of the business.”

Despite what our current affinity for AI might be, we aren’t machines. And for a lot of us, the work that we produce is frequently unlike what comes down a production line – each task and project has its own complex set of rules and aims, with a new environment and parameters within which to work. It could be a new client, a project where previous “givens” have now fallen through, or a last-minute development that has a different time frame attached.

Read More: Why Multitasking is The Ultimate Productivity Myth

What’s more important, then, in the context of being productive, isn’t how much work you produce – it’s what work you produce.

“The ultimate – albeit difficult-to-achieve – goal is a large organisation in which all knowledge workers have full context, tools, and support to focus their time on the biggest value drivers of the business without being bogged down by overhead and bureaucracy,” writes VoloMetrix CEO Ryan Fuller for the Harvard Business Review. “That’s exciting not only for the actual productivity gains that will result at an organisational level, but also for each employee who will finally have a clear sense of what matters and how to be successful.”

There aren’t many tasks in the modern workplace that benefit more from speed than precision. It doesn’t mean that time constraints aren’t a consideration – but it’s important to balance this with other measures of success in the context of your work.

Read More: You’ve Been Thinking About Time Management All Wrong

Also, consider what happens at the end of your to-do list, should you ever get there. When was the last time you finished a task early and spent the rest of the afternoon or week doing sweet FA? Never. Our modern workplaces are structured in such a way that there’s always work at the end of that production line. You’ll never “finish” your work. Never. (Console yourself here.) So instead of modelling yourself after a soulless piece of machinery, try injecting a little more humanity into your tasks.

Try being a more present and thoughtful filter for your tasks – asking, what should come first? How much time should I dedicate to this? What additions should be taken into consideration? Although this attitude won’t necessarily increase your amount of output, it’s guaranteed to improve your quality of output. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that truly more productive?

We would love to hear your thoughts