Personal Productivity — or is it Effectiveness?

In Measuring Productivity #3: Possible Measurements, I made an off-hand comment, “The zeroth measure of productivity is showing up.” I now think showing up is necessary, but not sufficient. I’ve been thinking about what each of us produces individually, and thinking of ways to understand and possibly measure it:

  1. How many hours per day do you stay focused on strategically important work? Sometimes, I keep a time log to make sure I’m working on appropriate things. Especially if my to-do list is very long. Like many other people, I can be distracted by things that are easy to do, but not as necessary as the work that may be harder to finish.
  2. How many stupid mistakes do you make? When I was younger, I was so proud of myself. I would take myself home after making three stupid mistakes. ARGH. Three! Why did I have to make more than one stupid mistake??? I learned that three stupid mistakes is two mistakes too many. Now, if I make my mistake at 9am, then I can clean up email or my office for a few hours until my brain has a chance to think again. If I make another mistake, I take the rest of the day off (from hard-thinking work). There’s almost always something I can do that doesn’t require hard thinking.
  3. How many of what did you accomplish in a week? How many times did you revisit that work? When I’m writing, sometimes it takes me too many drafts to find the right way to discuss the topic. Same for creating presentations. When I was a manager inside organizations, I noted how many decisions I had to re-open. When I was a tester or developer, I looked at the work to see how much rework I had to do. Finishing a piece of work the first time isn’t enough; the work isn’t complete until the people you hand the work off to agree that it’s complete.

So, my measure of personal productivity is how long I can stay focused on useful work, and how few times it takes for me to accomplish that work until the person I hand off to is satisfied.

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