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What is Productivity?

David Sherry
2 min read

Time is a poor measure.

Yet, that's the system we're still in.

I've had a hard time in the past understanding if I'm being productive or not.

I'd get to the end of the day, and if there were hours still available and I'd feel pressure to fill that space because it feels like being productive.

But just because we spend time on something doesn't mean we're making progress.

Most time-filling work is clerical. It simply fills space.

And important work, the stuff that actually helps you go in a straight line to where you want to go, happens in short to medium length bursts (across a day or week).

So, instead of time, we can ask ourselves, "What metric makes a difference towards our goal or what we hope to do each day?"

If you want to be a writer, did you write?
If you want to be a vlogger, did you create a video?
If you're in sales, did you make your 10 calls?
And so on...

This metric can vary widely depending on the field.

The point is, it should be something you care about or is the leading indicator for the thing you care about. (For example, if you're trying to optimize for happiness, and you know that working out in morning leads to more happiness, track your AM workouts).

The world will make this hard for you.

Often it will attempt to pull you away with time-filling work instead of productive work.

The frequency in which we have bursts of time on important work, work on what matters to us, will make the biggest difference in our lives for fulfillment and progress.

Pick a metric you care about, make it your top priority, and sleep tight knowing you completed that today.

I'm Curious: What metric would/do you follow?


P.S .There's always a metric. If you're having trouble, think like Cal Newport, in his book "Deep Work," where he talks about how he simply tracks hours of interrupted work time per day. The more days in a row he gets his block of deep work time, the bigger his scholastic output.

P.P.S. Maybe your work has a metric for you that's not what you want as your metric. You can pick both! Feel awesome accomplishing what your job cares about, and get that other metric done on your own time.