When you start to learn about time management, the concept of productivity becomes one of the important things you need to learn. You don’t want to just create a schedule to control which activities are done when. You need to look at which activities are worth doing.
How Do You Measure Productivity?
You probably have a pretty good idea of what productivity entails? You know that productivity has something to do with producing results — preferably profitable results. But how can you measure it? How can you look at whether a given task is productive? Let’s look at a few possibilities.
I know a lot of people who are very, very busy. They are always doing something, talking about something or thinking about something that relates to their business. I’m like that sometimes too.
But is that being productive? Sadly, it often isn’t. Busyness is not an effective measure of productivity.
Much of the activity is meaningless. It doesn’t move the business or your life forward. It is like trying to fill a pool with a bucket. If you scoop the water out of the pool to pour it back in, the pool doesn’t get full.
So, while activity is probably a component of productivity, it isn’t a good way to measure it.
Well, let’s look at measuring the actual product of our time and action. Perhaps that can be used to measure productivity.
When we build a piece of furniture, write an article for our web site or make a phone call to close a new client deal, we are obviously being productive. We have done something that has created something new in our business. We’ve scooped some water from the well into the pool.
But there is a lot of activity that doesn’t make something new. Yet it is vitally important activity. So there must be more to productivity than just those activities that create tangible results.
This is where things can get tricky. There are many activities that don’t directly create income or profit for our business. But they can be extremely productive activities. In fact, they can often be keys to making the other activities more productive.
I’ll give you an example from my programming days.
When faced with a new development project or module request, I usually spend a significant amount of time just thinking about it. I don’t write anything down, at least not anything technical. It is more like doodling if anything. Anything that I do write down will be thrown away. I don’t create any code. I don’t create any design documents.
If you watched me during this step you’d think “He’s off in la la land again.” I’m sure that it seems like I’m daydreaming. Well, the honest truth is that is exactly what I am doing!
This step allows me to wrap my mind around the problem. It gives me an overview of everything at a high level. It allows me to see how the various pieces are going to fit and work together. I can see multiple solutions and weight them against one another. I can envision how they will impact future revisions rather than just fixing the immediate problem. I can get a feel for the most efficient solution for the long term.
Once I get past this stage then the design and development of the software flows much more smoothly and quickly. I have a mental map of where everything fits and how it interacts.
There are many activities that don’t produce any tangible product for you to sell or work with. The results of my daydreaming was never anything that I could sell.
But when you start to do build the actual product or provide the service that makes your profits, the intangibles that you’ve put together will make the job more efficient. You’ll be more effective at whatever it is that you do.
So, when you look at what productivity is you need to think of it in terms of more than just actions and products.
You need to look at the actions you take and how they impact the ability to deliver the products that you sell to your clients.
Three Types of Activities
1) Some activities have no productivity. Let’s call these time users. These are the activities that you need to reduce in your daily schedule. I’m sure you can find tons of examples of these types of activities.
Don’t completely discount these activities though. Sometimes they are a necessary evil (like taxes) or provide stress release (such as checking Facebook). Just make sure that you control how much time you spend on these tasks.
2) Some activities result in products or services that you provide to your clients. These are your money makers. You want to maximize the amount of time you spend on these tasks and/or the efficiency with which you perform them.
For a carpenter, building a kitchen table is a productive task. For a blogger, writing an article. For a sales person, setting up appointments and making sales calls. For a programmer, integrating a new feature to a piece of software.
These money makers are your bread and butter. You want to spend as much of your work time as possible performing these tasks since they bring your income.
3) I believe the third group of activities is the most crucial. I call them multipliers. These are activities that don’t produce any income themselves. But they allow you to be more efficient and effective in the activities that do. In other words, they leverage your time. They make your money maker tasks more valuable.
It could be a simple thing like building a jig that allows a carpenter to make the same angled cut consistently without having to measure and mark it. Or blogger making a series of outlines for their articles.
It may be more complicated like a sales person writing and rewriting sales copy for their sales presentation or a programmer learning a new programming language or technique.
No matter what industry you work in, there are tasks which will make your work tasks more productive even though they don’t bring in any income directly. Discover what these tasks are and make it a priority to schedule these tasks appropriately.
You don’t want to spend all your time here. That would be leveraging nothing! But you do need to make time for this — especially if you’re busy. If you can find a way to make the money tasks more efficient you can work less, make more or both!
Now you need to look at the activities that you perform for your business. Break them down into the 3 categories: time users, money makers and multipliers.
Schedule your day becomes much easier. Minimize the time users by scheduling them at specific and limited times. Eliminate the ones that you can.
Fill up the bulk of your work day with the money maker tasks. But be careful not to let them bleed into your non work times. Those need to be guarded as well!
Finally, find some time to work on the multipliers. You may not be able to fit them into every day, but be intentional about it. Make specific times for these tasks.
Now you’ve got a handle on determining what tasks are productive for your business. You can work your schedule to maximize the productivity of your working hours.
But there are some other factors that you’ll need to learn about. In the next few posts we’ll be talking about how circadian rhythms affect your productivity, the perils of multi-tasking and the need for downtime. If you want to be notified when these posts are up make sure to sign up for the newsletter.
In the mean time, start to look at the tasks that you do. What category do they fall into? What multipliers do you need to focus on?
Share what you’re finding or questions you may have in the comments. And make sure to share this article with your friends, family and co-workers.
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