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What is productivity? Simple definition and key principles

4 min read

Noisli - What is Productivity?

Everybody’s always talking about productivity and how to increase it. But, what is productivity? And what does it mean exactly to be productive?

Definition of Productivity#

Simply put, productivity is the amount of meaningful and quality work you manage to do, usually achieved by reducing the time spent on wasteful activities or tasks, and with the ultimate objective to get closer toward a desired goal or to free up time for more rewarding activities.

Accordingly, being productive or having a productive day means accomplishing what we planned to do, so to be one step closer to our goals.

Therefore, in order to be productive, it is very important to focus on the right things instead of on the things that are not important or not urgent. Unfortunately, we get too often caught up in trivial things, and in fact you can produce a lot of output and still be unproductive, especially if you haven’t done what you were meant to do in the first place.

Productive is the skill of getting the right things done, so that we accomplish what we set out to do in the first place. The work that matters.
—Seth Godin

If you want to be more productive, it’s also important that you set the right goals. Your goals need to be realistic and achievable as that is key to making progress. Achievable goals will create small wins along the way and help to keep momentum and morale high. On the other hand, setting unrealistic goals will only make you feel less motivated, it will slow you down from making any progress and it will ultimately hinder your overall productivity.

What Productivity is Not#

Busyness does not equal Productivity.

Being busy all the time doesn’t mean being productive, and being productive doesn’t mean being busy all the time. If you constantly find yourself chasing deadlines and being buried under a pile of growing tasks and duties, then you are surely very busy but probably not very productive.

Efficiency does not equal Productivity.

When you want to be productive you want to achieve the results that matter to you; when you want to be efficient instead, you just do the work, meaningful or not, with as little effort as possible. Usually, this means ending up with lower quality results, and that is not what productivity is about.

Success does not equal Productivity.

If you are not having success, it doesn’t mean you haven’t been productive. You can have a very productive day but with no success (yet). Success is something that may come later, so don’t let the lack of it give you the feeling that you haven’t been productive. On the other hand, having a lot of success doesn’t mean being productive either. In fact, you can achieve lots of results but not the ones that matter the most to you, meaning you are not getting any closer to your actual goals.

Key Principles of Productivity#

Small, incremental steps matter.

It’s important that you take small incremental steps and that you keep moving and building momentum. Small changes can gradually add up to big changes. As the old saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.

Motivation is key.

If you want to be productive, it’s important that you are motivated. Try to set realistic and achievable goals and to have as many small wins as possible along the way.

Be accountable.

Whether it’s a small task or a big project, whether you work alone or in a big team; always show up, do your part and try to accomplish what you set out to do.

Have a deadline.

It’s very important to have clear boundaries in mind. Without a deadline, you’ll simply drag forward your tasks indefinitely. Set a (realistic) deadline and try to achieve things within that time frame.

Keep track.

Not all results are immediately measurable and visible. Keep track of what you’ve done and regularly look back at how far you’ve come. It will enable you to see the progress, keep you motivated and help you to stay on the right track towards your goal.

Forgive yourself.

You are human, and there will always be some distractions, unproductive days or mistakes along the way. Accept them and move on.

Stefano M. Written by Stefano M.

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