What is Productivity?

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More importantly, what does it mean to become productive? Productivity in simple terms is the relationship between input and output. You could say that your productivity increased if you had less input but your output stayed the same. I prefer to increase output though, that’s where the results come.


The thing with reducing input is that, yes, it may be easier and you may be less stressed, but the problem is that you are ultimately less ‘prolific’ than the person who just increases their output.

Let me give you an example…

Cassie writes for 1 hour a day, during this hour she normally gets around 750 words typed out. Mark also writes for one hour a day.

Now Cassie wants to reduce the time she spends on her writing without reducing the average amount of words. She practices typing a little faster and manages to save 10 minutes, completing 750 words in 50 minutes total.

That’s about 15 words a minute.

Mark, on the other hand, decides to just increase his output – increase the number of words he can write. He came with 1000 words in 60 minutes.

That’s about 16.67 words a minute.

He too, types faster. Except there are two key differences!

You have Cassie, who is worried about how much ‘time’ she’s spending.

The problem with trying to complete something faster is that we tend to rush things, leading to diminished quality. Poor quality means rework.

Mark isn’t worried about time. He keeps to the hour as he has in the past; instead, his focus is to increase the number of words he writes.

Now you’re probably thinking, yeah? That’s rushing though?

Well yes, it is. But it’s different. It’s not a stressful rush.

Mark doesn’t have a target, you see. He doesn’t tell himself that he must break 1000 words in an hour. This helps him create a positive mindset that isn’t crushed if he doesn’t achieve a certain goal. At the same time, he’s got this desire to increase his output, and inevitably he types faster.

The key to success is to focus on goals, not obstacles.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for setting targets, in fact, they’re vital. But the topic of this guide is about ‘becoming’ productive. Not ‘doing’ productivity. Becoming productive involves psychological processes.

If we have negative experiences, we’re more likely to get discouraged; positive experiences motivate us and are more likely to help us build habits. Out of Mark and Cassie, who do you think is more likely to have a negative experience?

It’s Cassie. Why? Because restricts herself to a shorter time period. If she doesn’t achieve her target of 750 words, then she’ll feel discouraged and unmotivated. Even though she might only feel this way for a number of minutes, it’s likely that this will manifest itself and reduce her output over the whole day.

Mark has much more room for positivity. He already knows that he can achieve his target of 750 words in an hour, anything beyond that is a success. Another thing is that his success is very scalable; he could eventually end up writing 1250 words which is a huge increase on the initial 750. Cassie can do the same of course, but there’s a higher chance of decreased quality.

To summarize:

Targets are important, we do need them to succeed, but becoming a productive person requires positive experiences and consistency.

If we have the ability to go beyond ourselves with little chance of failure, then we’re more likely to take a shot at it. If we’re like Cassie and restrict ourselves to boundaries, saving our ‘precious’ time, then we’re more likely to fail.

This may be a hard concept to understand. I’ll summarize it even further below:

If input decreases and output stays the same, then productivity increases but is not likely to become a habit. If output increases but input stays the same, then productivity increases and is more likely to become a habit.

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