What Is The Complete Definition Of Personal Productivity?

Since the beginning of time, we have been hearing about articles like “10 habits of productive leaders”, “10 tricks you need to follow to be productive” and etc. and etc. The list can go on and on about articles and books showing habits which you “Have” to learn like the leaders. I have also shared few websites and resources you need to follow to learn more on this topic but does it mean that following these laid down rules or enlisted habits will help boost one’s personal productivity? Or being highly productive in one field will make one gain mastery of other fields? To push this matter further, I will like to ask u this question:

Why do you even need this “Productivity” in your life?

Just like taking medication without diagnosing, the problem brings more problems, Applying productivity tips and tricks without understanding your requirement and the problem to solve can create more problems rather than solving them. The questions arise: What exactly is this “Personal Productivity”? How can you measure it for yourself?

Let us break it down.

What Is The Complete Definition Of Personal Productivity?

First, look at the Dictionary meaning of productivity. It has multiple meanings, but we are talking about productivity in our work life. For us the most suitable definition of productivity is:

The effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.”

Or

Output Per Unit of Input

Or

Productivity = Value/Time

 

In layman terms being productive means completing a lot of work in a lot less time. But, Is that all productivity all about?

Why Is This Definition Incomplete?

Let’s start with two examples

Example 1: Since I am a blogger and it requires creating content on a regular basis, I would like to increase the productivity of content creation. According to the definition mentioned above, let’s look at 2 different scenarios

It takes me 10 hours to write an article, and it takes my online friend 3 hours to write the same article. Does that mean he is more productive than I am? Hmm Maybe.

Scenario A: Your friend works consistently on the article and churns out a killer piece. Whereas you work for at most 2 hours with concentration in that 10-hour period. And rest of the time goes in mindless surfing the web because you are not in “Zone” at the moment.

Scenario B: Your friend scours the internet for articles on the same topic.  Copy and paste with bits and pieces from all the articles to “assemble” a crappy work. Whereas you construct a masterpiece, exhausting all your resources and mental energy in the process.

Example 2: Let’s look at an entirely different scenario. One involving physical work. It takes a woodcutter “A” 4 hours to cut down a tree whereas “B” can do it in 2 hours flat.

Scenario a: “A” is a frail person and takes a lot of extra time to cut down a tree compared to a stronger “B”.

Scenario b: A might be stronger, but “B” ensures the axe he uses is in good condition and sharpens it every few strokes.  So all his strokes do considerable work compared to a near blunt axe of “A”.

Who would you call the most productive person from the above four individuals:

  1. Me,
  2. My friend,
  3. Woodcutter A or
  4. Woodcutter B

You can’t really compare their productivity. Right?

That is a major flaw with this definition. It does not take into account all the other factors that might affect the productivity measure. But this is true for everyone and productivity in general. Isn’t it?

Why Do You Need To Define Personal Productivity?

Did you notice the difference in all the above examples? Look at the list of keywords below and then compare the above four scenarios

  1. Context
  2. Time
  3. Resources/Tools
  4. Energy
  5. Expected Outcome

Now answer this question: Can you compare productivity for these four people in any ways?

No! Not at all!

If not, then how can you expect that the productivity tricks used by other people will be able to help you out every time flawlessly?

Understand this “One size does not fit all.” You need to define your own Measures and Methods of productivity to be truly successful in this venture.

What Parameters Do You Need To Understand Personal Productivity?

Productivity need not be an overall tag. As we saw in above examples, it is an activity and person specific trait. You might be highly productive in one activity. But completely lax in another when both of the activities are important.

Before you can diagnose the problems in your productivity, you need to understand how to measure your present condition.

Following parameters should be used to define your work.

1. Context

Define what activity you want to be productive in? It can be a one-liner or a little description. You can use following prompts to identify the context of job at hand.

  1. The job definition you want to be productive in. e.g. Is it a writing job, is it a paint job, is it cleaning work, etc.
  2. The quality parameter of the job. e.g. Writing random 1000 words or a 1000 word well researched, topic specific article.
  3. The location of the job. Is the task location specific or are you free to choose where to work?
  4. The situation of the job. Is it a one time or a repetitive job?

2. Time

Most commonly accepted measure of productivity. The less time you take to complete the job, the more productive you are. True but not entirely. Use following prompts to describe timing need.

  1. Is there a time limit? For, e.g., A presentation you need to submit before a set deadline. (People tend to get a bit more “productive” with the deadline looming closer and closer.)
  2. Is it time specific job. E.g. it can be done only in certain hours in the day.
  3. Is it a job that you decide how long to take or time is not a limit, or It is a “Some Day” kind of project.

3. Resources/Tools

Every activity requires some or other tool for completion. It can be a pen or pencil or computer system or any other tool that can help you complete the job.

  1. List down the tools you would need to complete the job. Include everything. Water, Coffee, Pen, Paper, Laptop.
  2. Is the tool a necessity for the task?
  3. Can the tool be swapped to a better one in quality or speed or accessibility?
  4.  Can you add or subtract something from the tool set to decrease time or cost?

Everything that can be necessary to help you complete your job. You will not need to get up from task at hand if you have these things.

4. Energy

This is one parameter not everyone takes into consideration. And it relates to both Mental Energy and Physical Energy.

  1. How active or tired do you feel before and after the job?
  2. Does the job need you to be 100% alert for highest efficiency?
  3. Does a mindless state help you complete the job quickly? For, e.g., Digging. The less you think about it, the less tedious it seems.
  4. Does the job leave you in a state of utter exhaustion both mentally and physically?

The purpose is to understand how a tweak can leave you with more energy. The target is to be as energy efficient as possible. After completing the task, you should not be feeling drained out either mentally or physically.

5. Outcome

Although a part of the first point “Context.” It is essential to define the result. The target of all other traits is to propel you Towards the DESIRED outcome. Your growth, your long-term goal. You may be highly productive in a task. But if that activity does not help you achieve your aim, you won’t be able to call yourself productive.

For, e.g., You set out to create a business empire related to sports. Then no matter how good you are at playing car racing games on your PlayStation, it is not going to help your business grow.

Absurd example? Yes, it is because these activities are not related, and that is the point.

What To Do With These Parameters?

What you have created is a scale to understand and measure your productivity. If you look at it closely, almost everything you need to work come under these headings. And If you want to increase your productivity, tweaks in these points will bring changes.

For, e.g., You can change the time of the day to work on a project. You might be working late at night when you are tired from the day’s work and responsibilities. The stress and tiredness cause an increase in time and effort required to complete a task. Thus, a decrease in your personal productivity.

The same project will take less time to complete when you have energy. Like early morning (if you are an early riser.) Thus, increasing the amount of work done in less time. i.e. You will have Higher Productivity by traditional definition.

The Complete Definition Of Personal Productivity.

Using the above points, the following will be a complete fitting description:

Productivity is the measure of Rate of Output Per unit Time with the Least Energy used, Resources utilized and the push it gives you towards your Goals.

I.e.

Productivity = (Value x Energy x Resources x Outcome) /Time

My productivity statement in accordance with above definition:

Activity: Content creation.The amount of High-Quality article written in fixed time using available resources and with least expenditure of energy.

Value = The Article that I have to write.

Outcome: High-Quality Article. Can be measured in no. of words or no. of content pieces or completion of a piece of content.

Time: Specific amount of time. Can be an hour or 2 hours depending on the session

Resources: Macbook, the Internet, Pen, Notepad, Water, Coffee, A place to work undisturbed, Phone.

Energy: My energy levels before and after the work session.

Now I know the factors that define my productivity in content creation. I can compare results in different situations to see how productive I am in one situation compared to another.

Conclusion And Next Step

There are a lot of great advantages of working on your productivity. Imagine making a small but precise change in your working style and seeing massive results in quality and quantity of your work while still having loads of energy left to celebrate. Hopefully, the definition and the examples I have shared have helped you understand your productivity in a better way.

Here are your next action steps:

  1. Use the above to determine your own productivity levels. Start with one most important activity.
  2. Leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts and findings after working on it.
  3. Subscribe, if you have not done so yet. Coming up next productivity cycle is a method to remember those changes you made for your improvement. You wouldn’t want to miss the next step in your evolution to a Productivity Jedi Master.

‘Till next time

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17 Comments

  1. I’ve never thought of productivity in this way before. I’ve shared this article with some of my colleagues – I think they will also find this useful.

  2. This is a great fresh approach to productivity and I have never really thought of productivity this way before.

  3. Hello Ankit! Really nice piece you wrote, may I ask how many hours did it take you to write this one? 😀
    I agree, you cannot measure productivity just by value/time ratio, context and value matters the most I feel.

    • Hello Ahtsham Rana,
      To be true, this post took me about 3 months of research, 7 hours of forming and writing and about 1 hour of editing. And then 3 hours of re editing ( the re edit version will be uploaded in a few days.) 🙂

  4. This is quite of parameters to recognize our own productivity. Every person has a different way to define their personal productive ones, according to the length of time while others use other parameters. Definitely a great post!

    • Hi Rose,
      I agree that every person has a different way to define their personal productivity. That is the sole purpose of this article and this research on whole.
      Glad you liked the post.
      Ankit

  5. I think that we are all different and we all work in a different way. FOr instance when I am in my zone I can create a killer piece in no time and when I am not I avoid working because that is a waste of time. I will sit in front of the computer and not come out with anything good.

  6. Our Family World

    I will share this article with my friend who is a corporate trainer. She closely monitors productivity of the employees during “soft launch” or the first month after training. I am a work at home mom and I could use a few tips from this article too.

  7. I haven’t thought of productivity in quite this way before. You’re so right, there are sure a lot of factors that go into it. At the end of the day, we’re all so different. Thank-you for giving me a different filter to look at this topic through. (My children will thank-you I’m sure, as well)

    • Hi Ali,

      I am so glad you found this post useful. I am still refining it though. I want to hack into productivity in a way that it becomes easily accessible skill for everyone.
      Thanks

  8. Interesting read! I will happily admit I am not the most personally productive person but sometimes i need ten minutes of procrastination!

  9. I completely agree that working out your personal productivity is exactly that… working out what works for you. I have recently found that I need to “schedule” my day and set deadlines for myself in order to get things done. It doesn’t mean that I’m not flexible, it just means I learn to prioritise and find out what I need to work on first (usually the things I don’t want to do!) and then I can get to the fun things I enjoy (that are usually the most time consuming).

    • Hi Dominique,
      That’s a great way to be productive throughout the day. Being continuously at one single schedule can bore you out quickly. So being flexible enough helps a lot in continuing towards your goals.
      Thanks for sharing your way with us,
      Ankit

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