What Does it Mean to Be Productive

Measuring productivity can be a tricky thing to master because not all productivity is specifically measurable by numbers or charts. However, we can use various techniques to generally measure different kinds of productivity within their own rights.

Today, we’re going to take a close look at different areas of productivity and how we can measure each of them to our own personal satisfaction. It’s wise to keep track for many reasons, and we will look into those as well.

What Does it Mean to Be Productive?

Before we can start measuring our various forms of productivity, we have to be able to identify what it means. If you take a look in the dictionary, you can find yourself a pretty clear and basic definition of the word itself:

“Having the quality or power of producing, especially in abundance.”

This is just one definition, of course. It goes on to say that being productive means being effective in bringing about or yielding results, benefits, or profits. The word productive is directly related to the words constructive, fruitful, formative, and many other synonyms.

However, many people tend to take this word and translate it to equate to busy. The common misconception is that we want to be productive, so we think it means we need to stay constantly busy. The consistent activity makes us feel like we’re being productive, but in reality, being busy does not necessarily mean we are getting anything done.

To better understand this idea, think of the phrase “busy work.” Busy work is what you call work that keeps someone occupied, but that actually produces little to no results and has hardly any value. While you may be “busy” all day with this kind of work, you’re not actually being very productive.

Perhaps a better way to define productivity, then, is accomplishing what you set out to do. When you think of productivity that way, your focus is less about being busy and more about real, solid accomplishments.

The best part about productivity, in general, is that it can happen in all areas of your life. This is true because you can set out to accomplish things in each of these areas, whether it be at work, in your relationships, at home, or within yourself.

If you think of productivity as accomplishing what you set out to do, then the ruler for measuring that productivity suddenly becomes very flexible and multifaceted. You’re no longer measuring everything the same way, but taking different approaches appropriate to the activity.

Let’s take a closer look at how these measurements might look in different areas of our life.

Productivity at Work

Your productivity at work may be the most literal measurement you will take in regards to your results and accomplishments. This is because your company, office, or corporation depends on specific numbers to drive their profits and achieve growth.

If you can prove that you’re being productive at work through numbers, then you remain a valuable asset to your company and a heavy contributor to their success.

So how do we measure productivity at work?

Most companies can use a simple formula to literally calculate productivity. This formula involves taking the number of outputs and dividing it by the number of inputs. When you take that quotient and multiply it by 100, you end up with the productivity rate in percentage form.

This is a good, solid way to get a general idea, but many companies struggle with finding accurate productivity measurements. If the formula seems so simple, why is it so hard to measure productivity in the workplace?

There are a few reasons for this.

Companies with teams can have a hard time determining whether the team is productive or not because though a team may be functioning at high levels of productivity, it’s hard to tell if everyone is pulling their weight or if one person is just carrying the team with their outstanding personal numbers.

The above formula also does not take into account our mistakes. Though in general, a company is being productive, one fatal, human error could cause those numbers to crash. Time also plays a significant role. Faster is always better, but when you’re starting a project, it can be hard to determine just how fast it should be completed.

Some experts suggest that the best way to measure business productivity is to do so industry by industry to account for variances in practices. However, if you’re interested in simply measuring your own productivity, you can certainly utilize the formula.

Then, you can consider certain aspects of your job to improve upon your work productivity. How are you working within your team? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Do you have a solid timeline? By doing this, you can consistently track your productivity while improving on a personal level in the workplace.

Productivity at Home

Measuring your productivity at home is very different from measuring business productivity. There are often far fewer numbers, meaning you have to take a different approach to determine what your results should look like.

When you think of at-home productive activities, what usually comes to mind? Let me give you some examples.

Productivity at home can be home improvement projects. It can also be cleaning, cooking, and doing the laundry. Perhaps your at-home productivity means weeding in the garden and taking care of your plants along with any other yard work. Being productive at home could mean going through your closet and getting rid of old clothes while organizing the remaining articles.

A shorter answer is this: productive activities at home include any actions that accomplish goals within or around your home. But since these activities are so widespread, how do we measure them?

The best way to measure productivity within your home is to take the concept we discussed earlier: that productivity can be described as accomplishing what you set out to do. When you try to measure in-home productivity, your scale becomes very personal and, quite frankly, a matter of opinion.

Therefore, when you want to measure this type of productivity, you first need to determine your standards. What does clean mean to you? Because let me tell you, people certainly have different definitions of the word clean. When I was growing up, my version of a clean room was vastly different from my mother’s version.

What are your standards for doing laundry? Some people can do three loads a day and fold them and put them away, while others let the process span across several days.

When you say you want to weed the garden, do you mean the whole thing, or just a section each day?

It’s important to know your own personal standards when you’re productive at home because that’s the only way that you will be able to measure the results. Take the time to figure out what you expect from yourself. Write it down, if that’s helpful to you.

As you complete tasks throughout your day in your home, inspect and analyze your work, and give yourself a grade. Maybe you work with a scale of 1 to 10, or perhaps you do better with letter grades. Pick what works best for you to measure and improve within your home.

Productivity in Relationships

We all have several relationships in our lives. The word relationship does not just refer to a romantic situation. Relationships extend to friends, family, co-workers, mentors – even our bosses. And productivity in our relationships is just as important as any other kind of productivity.

Relationships are designed to grow. When a relationship isn’t growing and evolving, it’s likely that it won’t last at all. This is true for relationships across the board. Of course, there are relationships that remain the same, but they are typically surface relationships that are more superficial than deep and meaningful.

For example, your relationship with your mailman is probably not very deep, but you have your routine. You say hello and ask how his day is, but it likely won’t go farther than that.

The significant relationships in our lives are the ones that we build upon. A romantic relationship blossoms from the first look to the conversations about our dreams and fears. Parents and children develop trust and build a long history of memories and love. Friendships grow from that first party invite to being a shoulder to cry on.

While most of us can determine how productive our relationships are just by general evaluations and instinct, there are a few questions we can ask ourselves to measure the health and growth of specific relationships.

  • Do you feel like this relationship has been a part of your life for too long? If so, it may not be productive anymore.
  • Does your behavior fulfill the needs of someone else and vise-versa? Or does one or both of your feel drained and resentful of your obligation to fill those needs?
  • Are you achieving the results or benefits that you need from this particular relationship?
  • Are you emotionally invested in this individual? If not, it may no longer be productive. If so, then you’re on the right track.
  • Does the idea of eliminating this relationship feel impossible or unbearable? Would you feel lost without this relationship?
  • Do you see a positive future for this relationship? What is the potential here, and what benefits do you both get from it?

By thinking through these questions, you can measure each of your relationships in alignment with your personal standards. A productive relationship with shine through your answers, while a non-productive relationship will make itself very clear.

Personal Productivity

When speaking of personal productivity, we’ll be referring to an individual’s emotional health, physical well-being, or other personal goals someone may have, as opposed to your personal productivity in relation to your team at work.

Your personal productivity can mean a lot of different things, depending on what your goals are. As human beings, it’s natural for us to want to progress in different areas of our life. A good example is someone who works out and strives to be physically fit. This is a great form of personal productivity and can certainly be measured through physical appearance, weight, and the number of pounds someone can lift.

Other personal productivity activities can include learning. While you can exercise and grow your muscles, you can also exercise your brain. Any step forward in your education, intelligence, focus, etc. is personally productive.

Anyone who sees a counselor or a therapist knows that they are constantly working productively towards their emotional and mental health goals. While working with professionals is a great step to do so, many people improve their emotional health on their own as well.

In short, personal productivity is all about achieving your individual goals. This doesn’t mean doing what your family wants you to do or completing the tasks assigned to you by your boss. This is about determining what you’re passionate about and going after it.

If productivity is about accomplishing what you have set out to do in all areas of your life, then personal productivity is doing the same, but doing it for the betterment of yourself.

Because it’s all for you, measuring your personal productivity will depend solely on your expectations and standards. It’s helpful to use the definition of accomplishing tasks because an accomplished task is easy to mark as productive. However, every activity will have a varying scale.

Let’s go back to the fitness example. Your goal might be to work out 5 days a week, and you have been consistently achieving that. This is good and certainly productive, but you have to think about all the other factors that go into this particular activity.

A productive workout regime will produce results. If you have been going to the gym 5 days a week for 6 months and haven’t seen any kind of improvement, then your individual workouts may not productive in and of themselves. That will be the difference between checking something off of your list and actually being productive.

The same goes for anything else. You can take a class to improve your knowledge of art history, but if you don’t do your homework, consistently study, and pay attention to the lectures, your knowledge won’t actually improve.

That’s why it’s important to evaluate every task and determine what you want your productive outcome to be. This can be a little tougher for personal goals because there’s no right or wrong answer. At work, your boss tells you what he needs your result to be, but in your personal life, you’re the boss, and it’s your job to come up with your desired results.

Give yourself a clear vision and lay out the steps you need to take to get there. If you want to be a happier person, figure out what makes you happy and how you personally measure your happiness.

How to Be More Productive

Once you have determined the results you want and the ruler with which to measure them, the only thing left to do is get to work. But how can we become more productive people in general in order to achieve the results we desire?

There are a few techniques you can use and apply to most, if not all, areas of your life to increase productivity across your work, your relationships, your personal goals, and elsewhere. We are going to walk through some of these techniques so you can start measuring the productivity in your life.

Make a To-Do List

Perhaps one of the simplest, yet most overlooked, things you can do to increase your productivity across your whole life is to start with a list. Lists are awesome! Lists keep us organized and focused. Without a list, it’s easy to get distracted, but other tasks that pop up throughout our day. It’s also easier to forget things we wanted to accomplish when we haven’t written them down.

Think about it: you wouldn’t go grocery shopping without a list, would you? The correct answer is no; you wouldn’t. Why? Because without a list, you would just wander aimlessly around the store, picking up whatever looks good or whatever you think you might need—all the while forgetting specific items and buying things you will probably never touch.

The same goes for our productivity.

Lists are also great because we can use them to prioritize. One of the best ways to organize your to-do list is to put the most important thing at the top and the least important thing at the bottom. Push yourself to stick to the order and complete your hardest tasks first.

This order is important because not only does it ensure that your most important tasks get completed, but it only gets easier as the list goes on, making it easier and easier for you to complete it.

Lists help us stay productive throughout our workday, but they can also help us complete a tough workout, check off all of our household chores, and complete homework assignments.

Small Goals for Big Tasks

Larger tasks can be intimidating and overwhelming. The best way to remain productive through these difficult goals is to set smaller, mini goals within the large one. If the goal you have set before you is cleaning the master bathroom, divide that goal into a list of smaller tasks: the tub, the sink, the toilet, the floor, the counter. Cross these off as you go, and before you know it, the whole bathroom is clean.

Is the class you signed up for at your community college overwhelming you? Sit down with the syllabus and make a list of every assignment, report, and exam. That way, you can focus on crossing off these stepping stones rather than trying to take in passing the class as one giant goal.

A little organization and refocusing may be exactly what you need to increase your productivity. Divide your tasks into measurable mini-tasks, and you’ll know when you’re being productive.

Track Your Time

There’s a good chance that when you measure your productivity, you find that you are often more productive at certain times of the day. This is absolutely normal.

Some people are more productive in the morning. Early risers like to get a jumpstart on their day and produce their best results before lunchtime.

Others are night owls and operate best when we’ve had the chance to wake up, get organized, and then get to work.

If you’re not sure where you stand, start tracking your time. Learn your own productivity habits and figure out when you are most likely to be productive. By determining these factors, you can better organize your tasks to maximize your potential.

Maybe you have been trying to complete your hardest tasks first thing in the morning because it sounds good to get them over and done with, but you find that it takes you forever to get anything done that early.

Though the idea of getting everything done before lunch, so you have the rest of the day to yourself sounds pretty great, it might be more beneficial for your personality to save the mornings for your personal time and get things done in the afternoon.

Everyone is wired differently and will have various approaches to their productivity, but if you want to make the most of your efforts, it’s a good idea to nail down the times when you are at your peak.

One Task at a Time

Pick one task and do it. This sounds like such a simple concept and may make you stare at your screen, thinking, “Duh!” However, many people think about the other things they need or want to do during the task they are currently on.

When your mind isn’t focused on what you’re doing, you are more likely to get distracted. Distraction leads to less efficient and likely lower quality work.

An example that sticks out to me here is advice you may have heard from fitness professionals. Many of them will tell you to focus on the muscle you are currently exercising. If you are doing bicep curls, literally think about your biceps and nothing else.

This kind of intensive focus actually improves the quality of your workout and helps your muscle growth. If you are distracted, you’re not going to be as productive as you could be in that singular workout.

The same goes for all other kinds of tasks. Your writing will never be as good as it could be if you’re already thinking about the next article you have to write while frantically trying to complete the one you are currently working on. If you’re thinking about all the laundry and vacuuming you have to finish while you’re cooking dinner, you are more likely to burn your meal.

The simple action of deliberately picking one task and focusing on it until it is complete will improve your productivity and will help you complete more in a day.

Take a Break

Along the lines of our idea that constantly staying busy doesn’t necessarily mean productive, it’s important that you take a break here and there. Whether you are doing yard work or office work, a short, 10-minute break can help clear your mind and make you refocus.

Even if you enjoy what you’re in the middle of, sometimes a fresh perspective keeps your quality of work and attention high. You may be enjoying typing up that presentation, but if you try to complete all 20 slides in one sitting, you may find out later that the quality of work decreased the more you pushed yourself.

Don’t be afraid to step away for a little bit. Just because you take a couple of breaks throughout the day does not mean you are not productive. On the contrary, you are likely going to end up more productive in the long run because you didn’t force yourself to complete an action in one sitting.

Use an Accountability Partner

Some people find it difficult to hold themselves accountable or even to measure their own work. If you think that might be you, then you should find someone in your life who can help hold you accountable for the productivity goals you set for yourself.

In the same way, using someone else to measure your productivity for you may also be helpful. Some of us are either too hard on ourselves or overexaggerate our success, and therefore can’t come up with reliable productivity measurements. Having an accountability partner can give you good balance as well as someone to motivate you.

Measuring Productivity

Measuring your productivity is certainly important. Your boss depends on those numbers, your mental health benefits from it, and your goals demand it. However, it’s very important to remember that numbers are not everything, and the results are often personally evaluated.

Tracking your productivity can definitely help you improve upon yourself or your business, but it shouldn’t be your be all, end all. Perfection is stressful, and, to be frank, sometimes a little boring. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit the exact mark every time, but don’t give up either.

Pushing yourself is a good thing, but overdoing it will only make you tired, stressed, and unhappy. Go for gold, but take care of yourself along the way.

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