The Truth about Productivity

I recently asked an entrepreneur friend what it meant to be productive.

She said it’s about “getting more done.”

I was talking to another friend and he said: “it’s about being more efficient with your time.”

Here’s the punchline:

It’s neither.

Productivity isn’t about what else you could be doing, and it’s not about cramming more into less time.

Here’s the realistic, pragmatic, no B.S. reason why:

You have a limited amount of attention, and a limited amount of motivational fuel in your tank.

You can work as hard as you want on something and that’s fine, but some tasks require more fuel by nature. They require more attention, more motivation, more persistence, more consistency, more something.

The thing that no one seems to consider is the cost of switching between one task to another. It turns out, this is a huge problem.

When I was running my last software company, I found out that interruptions or task switches could massively derail my developers. How much?

It could take upwards of a half hour just to get them back in the zone.

A good developer costs 6 figures. I was paying my team $100/hr. 

That meant it cost me $50 every time they had to stop what they were doing to do something else! Think about that!

Productivity is not about doing more things per unit time. 

That’s not sustainable. Even if you could work a 48 hour day, what would the next day look like? You’re going to crash eventually.

So if productivity isn’t about doing more, then what’s it about?

It’s about doing less.

Yep. You read that correctly.

Here it is again for effect:

Productivity is about doing LESS.

Do fewer things and you’ll find that you get more of them done.

When you start getting more things done, well, congratulations. You’re getting more done. You’ve now cleared your plate to go on and tackle other things.

Productivity only counts if you finish what you’ve started. It only counts if you’ve produced something.

Half of a novel is the same as no novel.

Half of an income report is the same as no report.

Half of a ticket to the Spurs game . . . well, good luck getting in.

It’s not about doing 100 things at once. It’s not about starting 5 businesses. It’s not about being active.

Productivity is about checking things off a list, one by one by one.

Look at your list for today. What can you take away?

If you firmly believe that “it’s all priority” and you just can’t take anything off, you may want to reconsider why you’re doing it all in the first place.