How to Measure Productivity Power?

NOTE: In this article, I’m trying to wrap my head around the very tenuous beginning of an idea: that despite the highly subjective nature of productivity, there may be some way of creating a standardized measurement of one of its aspects that would be useful and implementable. I probably should have written this as 3 or 4 different articles, but it pretty much jumped out of my head and I didn’t feel like stopping it :) That said, it may be a little difficult to follow.

AN UNCERTAIN BALANCE

The past six weeks have been rather hectic. I’ve incorporated new personal routines on top of my existing work practices, which has led to a general increase of happiness. However, I feel that some of this has come at the expense of maintaining the quantity of work that I’d like to be doing. In other words, it feels like I’ve been playing too much, and now it’s time to work more.

I think the idea that one should work more than play afflicts a lot of us. Here in the USA, our national fable is that The American Dream is within the grasp of everyone who works hard (and perhaps catches a bit of luck). Those of us who haven’t yet discovered that magic formula for success are constantly left wondering what it is we could be doing better. The lack of certainty leads to procrastination, which is a lack of action. This eventually leads to apathy.

There is a simple cure, the much-touted just do it approach. It’s absolutely true that if you just do the work, you will be in a better place than if you didn’t. This is true even in the case where your work didn’t lead to where you wanted it to go, because the experience has shown you what didn’t happen according to plan. Yeah, I know…it’s kind of a lame consolation prize, but I think just about every genuinely happy person you come across will tell you that what doesn’t happen was just as valuable to them as what did, and that they could not have possibly planned for it. Your future constantly changes as you choose to do new things, new doors opening and closing with every moment. Statistically speaking, the number of opportunities increases if you are mindful of two things:

  1. You are doing tangible work that others can relate to and use

  2. You are paying attention to how people are reacting to your work, so you can see the door that might opening.

But I digress. I’m really more interested in the complicated cure, the one that we procrastinators seem to demand without knowing quite what it is. There is an interesting line of inquiry buried here that I want to bring to light.

THE SWING OF THINGS

As I was mentioning earlier, I’ve been experiencing some swings in the balance of my personal and work life. On the personal side, establishing the gym habit, which at 6 weeks is still holding strong, is a major win. However, I have been sleeping a lot more, so I’m learning to find the right balance of working out so I don’t exhaust myself. Stamina will slowly increase, I think. I’ve also been building new personal relationships and this has resulted in an increase in contentment; there are so many delightful people out there, it’s just crazy! Some days, I want to burst from the sheer awesomeness of this. On the work side, it looks like I am booked until the end of the year thanks to this big museum project I’m kicking off, with several smaller projects tucked in here and there. It’s all interesting work too, driven by the kind of design thinking that I like to do. And on top of that, I am finally seeing clearly the kind of business I’d like to run. More importantly, I can see what my business will stand for. The net result of all this happy talk is that my to-do list is insane. It’s so insane, that I’ve stopped keeping track of it, letting project deadlines and the availability of delightful people dictate my immediate tasking and scheduling. This is, perhaps, the way that a lot of us do things. You’d think I’ve be using my various Printable CEO™ forms, but I have not yet created a process that specifically addresses this question:
How can I make time for the people in my life while maintaining optimum forward momentum in my work?
All of my forms sneakily avoid the question. The most applicable form is probably the Concrete Goals Tracker, which provides narrow focus on those big big goals. The Emergent Task Timer gives up entirely and just lets you keep track of whatever is happening to you, because this kind of information is often illuminating. The Emergent Task Planner, by comparison, enables you to visualize how much you can realistically expect to get done in a single day, but doesn’t tell you what to focus on. Etc. It wasn’t until this morning that I realized that addressing the BIG QUESTION is what will tie all the PCEO forms together into a system that will work for me…though I suspect that if I can answer the question I might not need the forms anymore.

DEALING WITH TO DOS and INDIVIDUAL POWER

Ok, I have a zillion to-do list items, each of which requires between two minutes and 40 hours to check off. There are several methods for dealing with the mountain of tasks:
  • Ignore them, because you don’t feel like doing them.
  • Procrastinate by telling yourself how much needs to be done before you can even start. Pass the Doritos!
  • Just do them by starting at the beginning (slow and steady wins the race, grasshopper!) or starting anywhere you feel like (getting anything done is better than nothing, dude!)
  • Coerce yourself into action through sheer panic, self-loathing, and shame. It’s an awful place to be, but Procrastinators often need the drama to push through.
  • Project manage by defining clear and tangible results, then planning and executing to completion. For success, you must be able to assess results and estimate the time to achieve them.
  • Get a trusted project manager that will tell you what to do so you don’t have to think about it. Spouses, you may all raise your frying pans or poking sticks in solidarity.
All these approaches work, though they are all based on the notion of individual power; that is, the scope of action of an individual person. Leaders of organizations know that the simple way out of this is to think about the power of many, and now we are into topics like building teams of complementary specialists, communication, and outsourcing. That’s all interesting stuff, but I want to first understand individual capability. That is how much can we do in a given period of time, so we can estimate accurately and pace ourselves for optimum efficiency.

LESSONS FROM THE GYM, REDUX

One thing I’ve learned from my new gym experiences is that the body is a kind of engine, and that it can be tuned. When I first started, my stamina was low and my cardiovascular limits were easily reached. After 6 or so weeks of daily cardio, I’m at the point where I can actually feel that my body can do more than it used to. I also can push past the resistance my muscles put up after just a few minutes of activity, reaching that zone where the body can operate efficiently for an extended period of time. The key tool that I’ve used at the gym is the heart rate monitor, which tells me how fast my heart is beating. I monitor it constantly, comparing the reading to how I am feeling physically. Since I am new to exercise, I’ve been very careful about not letting my heart rate exceed a certain point until it’s apparent that I’m no longer being challenged by it. I assess the challenge by monitoring how short of breath I feel and whether I feel elevated internal stresses in a place other than the working muscles. After a week or two at a certain level, my body seems to adapt, and then it feels safe to push a little harder. I am thinking that there must be some equivalence between productivity and the gym experience. When we first become aware that we’re not productive in the way we’d like, we immediately look for the magic key that will allow us to unlock and apply our potential, which I think is one of the universal desires that everyone has. There is, of course, the non-magical path, which is to actually learn what productivity means, and how to measure one’s effectiveness relative to that meaning.

SEPARATING LAYERS OF PRODUCTIVITY

There’s a somewhat subtle difference between looking good and being physically fit. Looking good is about surface appearance, while being physically fit is more about internal strength, resilience, and adaptability. It’s possible to look great without having all that power under the skin, and it may be good enough just to look good depending on what your goals are. Analogously, it may be good enough just to feel productive rather than to be productive. My forms are designed to address both these aspects because their focus is to provide feedback for the right actions, and if you feel good about something you’re more inclined to keep doing it. I’m thinking it’s time to look at the substructure of productivity itself. We all have an innate ability to assess the physical attractiveness of a given individual. I’m not sure where it comes from, but we can generally decide hot or not within seconds of an initial ogling. I’m not sure what exactly the equivalent for productivity is, though I can relate my own experiences regarding my site. Because I tend to write a lot about productivity and have produced some interesting forms, people naturally assume that I’m a productive person. Ironically, I don’t think myself as being that productive, which is why I label myself as a productivity enthusiast :-) However, if I were to measure myself only on (1) number of words written and (2) number of forms created and shared, then I could say I am more productive than average, since the average person doesn’t spend time designing forms :-) Identifying the metric by which you are going to measure results is necessary if you want to define how you are productive, and that metric depends on what you really want to do. I’m reminded of the American muscle cars of the 1970s, for example, were affordable street vehicles designed for little else than rapid acceleration and style; you could pretty much forget about good road handling. You can find other examples of this kind of trade off in military aircraft design. One of my favorite examples of a specific need creating a specific kind of design is the MIG 25 interceptor, which was designed by the Soviets because of their hypothetical vulnerability to US bomber attack. The Americans, with their very fast high altitude bombers, had the capability to bomb the U.S.S.R. without challenge. Thus, the Soviets built the MIG-25 specifically to close that gap: shoot down high-altitude supersonic bombers with air-to-air missiles. The design goal was similar to that of an American muscle car: climb very high very quickly, at an affordable price. That’s easy to focus on, and it was achieved. This is the project-focused mentality that is so highly effective in getting things done. So being more productive seems simple: identify the metric by which you measure your productivity, and then you should be able to construct a set of relationships to get you there. It’s just a matter of doing those things and assessing whether they are getting you the results you want. This is pretty much what the Concrete Goals Tracker was designed to do, but there’s a big problem when you try to apply this to general productivity: often we don’t know what kind of life we want to design. We just know we want to be better. And having spent the last 15 years trying to figure out what I wanted to be, I know that finishing projects has not yet helped me answer that fundamental question, which I’ll repeat here:
How can I make time for the people in my life while maintaining optimum forward momentum in my work?
Which is my begging-the-question way of asking:
How can I be happy?
Maybe when you find you indeed ARE happy, you can tell the people around you the whole story of how you came to arrive where you are, but until then all anyone has are guesses and a few pieces to a puzzle. You can’t answer the question in any kind of direct way, which is what we want. That’s the magic pill. Instead, you have to answer the question obliquely, by doing things and finding out whether they make you happy or not.

PRODUCTIVITY POWER THEORY

I’ve tried the project management approach to finding productivity, and have gotten fairly good at it. However, the project management approach is time consuming and frankly draining for me; this is probably why I have not really found GTD that compelling. What I want really is a productivity heart rate monitor, something that I can use to assess my given level of productivity fitness at any time. Then, I need a set of ranges that tell me when I’m being lazy, productive, and dangerously productive for my given level of “productivity fitness”. I am modeling productivity in a way that is similar to average power:
  • the strength to do a task
  • the level of challenge of the task
  • the length of time it takes to do the work
Power is defined as Work performed over Time. Work, conceptually, is sort of defined as the “strength” of something applied over the range where that strength is directly applied. In mechanical physics, it’s FORCE (how hard to push) multiplied by DISTANCE (how far the pushing was done). In electricity, it’s VOLTS (the pushing force of electrons) multiplied by CURRENT (how many electrons are allowed to flow). In business, it’s CASH (buying strength) multiplied by VOLUME (how much buying/selling was done). For Productivity, I’m thinking the same kind of thinking can be applied. I’m thinking there are both long term, medium term, and short term components:
  • Measuring productivity requires a metric, but as there are multiple goals we’ll need multiple ways to measure measure strength and challenge. Eventually, I think we might be able to put together a list of common specialties in which people wish to be productive, thus forming a useful standard for comparing one’s own ability against a realistic ideal. This is good for the long term measurement of one’s advancement toward goals. This has been the traditional way I’ve been approaching the productivity. In terms of the gym, this is the equivalent of recording your weight, strength, and challenge levels over time. As for realistic ideals, the physically-fit men and women at the gym show you that it is, indeed, possible.

  • In the medium term, there are certain ranges of effort that are most appropriate for your given level of fitness. At the gym, this is maintaining my heart rate such that it is high enough for me to be challenged, but not so high that I grow short on breath or collapse. I could see some kind of scaled approach happening here; the Emergent Task Planner has this implicitly designed into it with the groups of three tasks. Once we have some kind of unit of measurement for productivity, we will be able to define these ranges.

  • To have any hope of making progress toward your goals, you’ll concentrated attention over a period of time. This is a short-term—actually, this is an immediate and present—focus. In the cardiovascular training, I’m supposed to maintain an elevated heart rate for at least 30 minutes a day to start making a difference. I don’t see why it would be any different for becoming more productive; the various dash approaches to breaking procrastination habits remind me very much of the cardio stuff I’ve been doing. The goal is to at least start somewhere to attain that higher-level of work. Start with 30 minutes of focused energy in the day minimum. What we need is a way to measure it, as with the heart rate monitor, on an instantaneous basis.

READER POLL: WAYS OF MEASURING PRODUCTIVITY and RANGES

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p>So how does one define a unit of productivity. For that, we need to know what the following means:

  • STRENGTH
  • CHALLENGE

To define ranges of productivity behavior, we need to know

  • Typical duration of the productive activity
  • Examples of strength
  • Examples of challenge

Off the cuff, I’m thinking that STRENGTH here can be STRENGTH OF ATTENTION. In other words: FOCUS. The idea of CHALLENGE (that is, level of difficulty) might be measured by the NUMBER OF INTERACTIONS between the person and the work area that are occurring in the real world.

I don’t think it’s necessary to come up with a unit that will work for every possible circumstance, but I think they should be based on what is directly observable. For example, you might spend a lot of time thinking about things, but since no one else can see what you’re thinking, what’s the point. If you are, however, thinking and drawing at the same time, then you’re putting something new into the world. Also, I don’t think it’s necessary to measure the productivity of every kind of task throughout the day, because being productive in one area is a kind of good constraint that spills into others.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I am curious about the following:

  1. How many tasks are on your To Do list?
  2. How many tasks are you getting done a day, on average?
  3. Are you satisfied with what you’re getting done?
  4. What makes a task hard to start?

Thanks for any feedback in advance!

ADDITION: After Sarah’s comment, I realized that it’s not very fair for me to ask people to provide information like this because it can be very personal or embarrassing when you already feel like you’re not doing enough. So if you’d like to participate in an informal poll but prefer to not comment publicly, feel free to email me via my contact form instead. I’ll summarize any patterns I find at a later date.

In the meantime, my answers to the questions:

  1. I’ve got several to-do lists. One’s a big one with EVERYTHING I COULD EVER DO on it, broken across several text files. There must be at least a hundred things on it, and there would be more if I looked at this every day. I rarely do look at it because it just makes me feel anxious. My “real” to do list consists of Google calendar and a handful of items that I need to get done for the week, and maybe has 5 or 6 immediate things on it, plus meetings and calls.

  2. I feel like I’ve had a good day if I get 3 things done from that list…usually they’re just deliverables. Some days, though, nothing gets done that was on the list, though life did happen. I tend to list “big” things rather than small things, though you’d be surprised what a big deal tasks like “go to the post office” are to me. I’d sooner stick my head in a bucket of water.

  3. Satisfied? In hindsight I can say that I’m making more progress than I used to, now that I know who I am and what it is I can do. But I keep thinking there’s so much more I could be doing. Which is why I want to make a realistic assessment of what that is, and use myself as my yardstick.

  4. What makes a task hard to start? For me, it’s when I can’t tie the starting of the task directly with another human being in the room with me. This is a big problem when you work by yourself. So I end up IMing people and telling them what I’m about to do. Or I chat with someone in the morning about something. After that, I feel like I can start. Another hard thing is that I often have a lot of interesting ideas I’d like to pursue, and that’s a distraction from planned activities.

13 Comments

  1. Boris 8 years ago

    Looks to me that you should also start considering hiring someone. Delegation is one of the best productivity boosters (if the receiver knows his job). Think about it… How much more could you be productive with 3-4 employees?

    Best,
    Boris

  2. rick gregory 8 years ago

    david,

    A couple of things to consider:

    1) the number of to do items may not have any correlation to productivity

    2) how you measure productivity will influence your evaluation of it… is it important to track productivity on a daily basis? Or is it more realistic to do so on a weekly basis? Maybe you’re not ‘productive’ on a Tuesday… but at the end of the week, if you got everything done to keep your projects on track, you’re fine.

    3) More <> Better. If you’re working 70 hours a week you might be unproductive. Or you just might be overloaded.

    4) Measureable does not always mean valuable. Staring off into space thinking about a problem might be worth far more than spending that same time creating a detailed model in software. The caveat to this is that measurability IS needed to make a business successful… but you have to know what you want as a goal, then measure the right stuff.

  3. Dave Seah 8 years ago

    Boris: Yes, that would fall under “power of many”. However, before I go down that route I’m considering what the best way of actualizing an individual might be…I’m probably not being that clear in this post that this is the beginning of a research question, not a personal question. I’ll make an amendment at the top!

    Rick: All excellent observations, and I totally agree with them: Productivity is quite a subjective measurement. What I’m interested in capturing, though, is the range of subjectivity. I agree that the number of to do items may not have any correlation to productivity in an absolute sense, but I’m curious what truths might come out of the collection of these stories. In other words, I’m interested in what part DOES correlate. Everyone one, I think, has a balancing point that can be found, and figuring out a process to find it efficiently is kind of where I’m going with this article series.

  4. Sarah Deutsch 8 years ago

    I tend to measure my productivity based on what I did get done in a day, versus what I know I could have gotten done.  Every morning I make a list of things that I know I should be able to complete today – it may have 17 little items today and 2 big ones tomorrow, but if I get all (or almost all) of them done, I consider it a productive day.

    I don’t know if that helps with your idea of productivity in an absolute sense, but since “productive” means something different to everyone, it seems to me that the best way to measure your own productivity is against what you know of your own ability – much like you monitoring your heart rate at the gym, making sure you’re working up to your current ability.

    I’m really interested to see what comes out of your questions about this – it’s a fascinating idea!  =)

  5. Dave Seah 8 years ago

    Sarah: That’s a great way to measure productivity. Somewhere along the way you must have learned how to estimate how long it takes you to do things. Maybe cracking the procrastination code involves teaching ourselves how to estimate. And secondly, that it’s OK.

    I think a lot of people might be kind of anxious that they’re not “as productive as they should be”, and that they’ll be judged. So I should probably just also answer my own questions to break the ice.

  6. funDiva Christy 8 years ago

    Hey David,

    I am finding amusement in the fact that you are already swamped AND you are inviting people to give ya info fill up a new project!  Only because I do the same thing.

    Which is an interesting reflection, you just started writing, you’re fired up about this idea, so that’s a good catalyst to keep it going.

    I do the same thing, but my issue is starting on things and burning out before it’s done, or starting too many things and that seems to be the challenge I have in procrastination.  I procrastinate cuz I made up too much stuff to do that I am not fired up about anymore.

    So right now I am working on finishing a project that I started months ago, and I can see progress, like how Sarah said in what I got done each day, but I still feel like if I just sequestered myself from the internet and plowed thru I could be done in like 6 hours, instead of dragging it on over days and weeks.  Like now how I was just gonna checked my RSS for a minute and diverted here?!  What was the question?  Oh yeah

    (1&2)I have a big task, finish my project, broken down into little pieces, and depending on how big the piece is, just completing ONE for me is something.  Theres other ToDos not on a list, that get done by habit, I pay bills online once a week, shopping, laundry done on weekends, Tuesday is library day etc.  Golly the idea of everything I could ever want to do is kinda daunting but intriguing.

    (3)I do usually feel like I could have done more though so either I can focus on getting two things done or let it go and accept it will take me twice as long.

    (4)Distractions are probably my biggest problem in starting a task, and/or not really having clear definitions of which tasks to do first.  I thought the flexibility where I am in this project of having several tasks where order doesn’t matter would be a relief so I could pick and choose, but now typing this it seems that may be a distraction in itself.  It seems that after I finish the last few things where after that I will only have one logical step that can be done, that’ll be simpler.  The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously. – Henry Kissinger (how lovely I just saved this quote last week)

    OK now I’m gonna blog my answers myself and see what else we can come up with!

    Excuse the rambling and feel free to ask for clarity, but I like the just type and send method myself.

    :)
    fdc

  7. Corrie 8 years ago

    Hi Dave! I don’t remember how trackbacks work on your site, but here are my own thoughts…

    Measuring Productivity Poll

  8. Katrina 8 years ago

    Hi Dave,

    You are always a compelling read …

    <ol>
    <li>This was a question I have avoided knowing … I have over 350 items spread across multiple lists.  Some of the items are routine like bookeeping and paying quarterly taxes and some are big like finishing my book, but the vast majority are steps within larger projects or toward long term goals.  In fact, I am sure I have another 150 to 200 items hiding in my Perhaps/Maybe list and buried within my project files.  I tend to select 5 to 10 items each week to focus on, not counting regular routines or standing appoinments.  And then I add items during my daily review</li>
    <li>Not counting my daily/weekly routines, I complete about 3 to 6 items daily.  My weekly routines include things like putting out the trash, picking up groceries, checking the PO Box and doing laundry.  My daily routines includes my daily yoga and exercises plus sorting the mail and caring for the cat.  My standing appointments include my yoga class, medical appointments and time with my spiritual counseling clients.  I include park visits, time with friends and my writing on the weekly and daily list.  If I am starting a mantra practice I also include it on the list until it becomes a routine.</li>
    <li>I am not at all satisfied.  Reading over my answer to #2 comes as a shock to me.  Geez, I do a lot!  I do realize that a large part of my dissatisfaction does not come from a lack of productivity.  I am struggling to bring more balance into my life and as a recovering workaholic, I am learning that my personal standards in this area are seriously out of whack.  So I have added a component to my life that I like to call “radical self care.”  So I am trying to level set my expectations against the reality of my needs for food, exercise, relaxation and medical care, not to mention walks in the park, lunch with friends, etc.</li>
    </ol>

    I am slowly coming to grips with how alien it feels take regular breaks, not work for 12 to 14 hours a day and to stop working when I am tired and/or distracted.  I work for myself in my home similar to you, so this is a subject that interests me greatly.

    I even write about this subject from a spiritual perspective on my web site from time to time.  Check out Radical Self Care and Getting Back to Gravity

    <ol>
    <li>I find it hard to start when I cannot think of the steps involved.  GTD helps me out a lot in this regard.  Just recently, I was pretty demoralized about the size of my todo list.  So I did a full review and discovered that the problem was that I had too many BIG ticket items sitting on my list as tasks.  So I worked on it for a day and turned the list into a a list of next actions.  Not only did my focus shrink but my anxiety level shrunk down enough to calm me down considerably.  (I went from looking at over 300 items to maybe 25 items.)</li>
    </ol>

    I am also coming to realize how often I want closure with things.  The DONE – never have to do it again! kind of closure.  But life is not like that generally.  There are some things that you will always have to revisit.  I always joke that of course I don’t make my bed, I am just going to mess it up again tonight!  So I buy a washing machine, then 17 years later I am stunned when it needs repairs—Who knew?!?!?

    I am also learning to laugh at myself … a lot.

    thanks for the opportunity to share my incessant navel gazing …

  9. Walter 8 years ago

    Dave,
    Thanks for your article, just found this through lifehack, and I’ll probably use a few of your forms.
    Strength, I like it as defined by FOCUS, as well, it needs a definition that involves the EFFORT or MOTIVATION involved with even starting on your task list… using that “individual power” you mentioned.
    Challenge, one could also refer to “NUMBER OF INTERACTIONS” as “MOVING PARTS”, and the weight of those MOVING PARTS.  You could have a small project (or project with low-med level of importance) with a ton of MOVING PARTS, and each part may be light-wt. or vairying wt… making them difficult to track.

    Thanks again, hope my 2-cents helps add to the discussion.  -W

  10. Dave Seah 8 years ago

    Christy: Heh, you are right to be amused about me complaining about being swamped, and then inflicting another project on myself! I didn’t even realize I was doing it!

    I’m starting to wonder if there is a myth of productivity. What are people really getting done? And are procrastinators actually getting less done? It seems obvious that they would be getting less done, but I wonder if it’s just a matter of perception, and the gap isn’t as great as thought?

    Corrie: Thanks for blogging your response! One thing that popped out of me was the idea of control being part of the reward. Maybe procrastinators don’t feel a sense of control, because they’re not getting things done on purpose. An easy way, then, to shift procrastinators out of the hole might merely be to provide super-easy self-control mechanisms.

    Katrina: Awesome comment! The work-life balance issue you mention calls to mind a kind of IMPATIENCE with lack of clear paths, or the sheer number of things that might have to be done to get to the new destination. Maybe the sheer size of these tasks (like your big ticket ones) are a factor of procrastination. Learning to laugh at yourself is a good thing too…makes me wonder if an anti-procrastination tool is just to learn to laugh at yourself, accept your foibles, and still figure out how to get a few things done.

    Walter: Yes, you might think of Strength as the scalar value, and Focus as the vector. In other words, DIRECTED FORCE as opposed to just FORCE. This is a direct analogy to Physics. Likewise, the EFFORT is really the frictional element, and that’s how work gets done. It gets trickier with actual mechanisms, which your other observations help with. In digital electronics, for example, the energy used by a switching circuit is proportional to the number of times a device switches on and off. In a moving engine, there’s a concept called “drag horsepower” (I might have the term wrong) that is the amount of energy lost to internal friction. The idea of weight (or MASS, to stay with the physics analogy tying to momentum) makes me think of tasks that need to get to a certain speed to be effective. These are all useful things to think about…thanks!!!

  11. Athazaz 8 years ago

    Mathematical equation for measuring productivity:

    (time required/time spent) + (Completedness/100)= x ivities

    ivities: unit of measure of productivity.

    Time required = estimated or amount of time designated to do the task

    Time spent= actual time between “now I am doing this task” to “now I have to stop for the day” includes goofing off and not focusing time in between.

    Completedness= how much (as a %) of the task was completed at the time “now I have to stop for the day” occurs.

    ex. One spent 2 hours doing a 1 hour job, but got it all done:

    (1 hr / 2 hr) + (100%/100%)= 1.5 ivities.

    If the task is being graded:

    (time required/time spent) + (Completedness/100)= measure of productivity.

    Grade is the quality (as determined by the grader) of the work from zero to ten, ten being excellent or completely correct, and zero being completely wrong.

    ex. One spent one hour to do a 3 hour job, finished all of it, but was given a 4/10 for quality:

    (3 hr/ 1 hr) + (100%/100%)= 1.6 ivities

    So, like in life and by this equation, one is most productive when they spend a small amount of time on a large task, complete it and do it excellently.

  12. Matthew Cornell 8 years ago

    OK, lots of stuff here.

    o Comparison of body and productivity: Yes, tons of connections. I came at it from the Alexander Technique and back pain, but many similarities to what you’ve discovered: Initial event (maybe crisis) kicks off exploration/action, desire for a silver bullet, realization of the need for slow, long-term change to form habits, and realizing it’s a process of Mastery (see George Leonard’s great little book). Also, the crucial initial step of feeling better – motivates sticking-with-it-ness.

    o Commitments exceeding ability to do (imbalance): Big issue, and a significant limitation of GTD (I’ve been cataloging them for the last few years). I just finished Mark Forster’s book “Do it tomorrow,” which takes a different perspective: Balancing what you commit to today with what you can accomplish tomorrow. I disagree with some major points, but good stuff…

    o Impact of structure/environment on being productive: Again, Mark talks about this, and says structure leads to new behaviors, not the other way around.

    o Importance of measuring and estimating: Another GTD limitation/weakness. Important, I’m coming to believe.

    o Productivity metrics: We typically use a lot of bad ones – urgency, perceived difficulty, etc. Forster says that actual difficulty is the only important one, and we almost never look at that for psychological reasons. Of course the old importance/urgency matrix can (still) be useful…

    o Daily sense of completion: Again, another GTD limitation. Can be worked-around via a daily todo list, but there are dangers.

    Cheers!

    Related:

    body/mind/productivity (Reflections on Alexander Technique and personal productivity)
    http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/2007/06/reflections-on-alexander-technique-and.html
    measurement (What’s your feed reading speed?)
    http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/2007/07/whats-your-feed-reading-speed.html#1

    When inputs exceed your workflow system’s capacity
    http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/2006/01/when-inputs-exceed-your-workflow.html

    A conversation with Mark Forster
    http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/2006/11/conversation-with-mark-forster.html

  13. AlbertoB 4 years ago

    Great post, interesting points of views of everyone. Some people ask how to measure productivity, and for our company it was the main problem to solve. We agree that the ability of each employee is diferent, but regarding productive time, it exists a software called Workmeter, which measures productivity in front of a PC.

    You set up a productivity map related to all the applications installed in the computer, a % to each application. Depending on the time you spend using each, the program creates statistics, and gives real figures of the producivity in each PC, or department.

    As the employees can check their productive profile, they can improve they time management. And for us, it is a great tool to see if any department is overloaded with tasks (high productivity and not finishing on time), and take good decisions about it.

A message from Dave:

I really believe we all benefit when we share our own perspectives on common experiences. It would be great if you added your own anecdotes and comments, even if you don't necessarily agree with the premise of the post; that's just good conversation in my book. The house rules are "treat each other with kindness and respect" and "enjoy the flow of ideas!"

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