Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Productive or Just Active

Lately, there's a lot of talk about "Productivity."

It seems that many struggle to find their way out of the deep sea of the never ending to do list. So let's start right there, by design, you will never finish your to do list… get comfortable with this concept. We are unable to ever get to the point of "finished." Like many others, this is another one of those lies that are obvious but no one ever states. We are never finished, until you're no longer with the living (even then, many will argue that you're still not finished… but I'll leave that for someone else to pick up). This is the nature of our internal engine: wanting and needing to always do more, better, faster. In an earlier blog, I argued that the concept of the expanding universe applies to all things. We are always in motion, never at steady state.

With that in mind, let's now look at the concept of Productivity. Productivity can be defined as a ratio: output produced per unit of input, over a period of time. So what? This output should produce a result, a benefit of profit. Otherwise, why do it?

This gets to the heart of the matter. Being productive, providing a good or service, is in context to a stated goal. It is relative to something else. How do you know that what you do is producing a good or service that is meaningful or important to your organization? Ask why. Demand of yourself a discipline of knowing why you do what you do. Understand if and how, what you do drives the stated goals forward. Get a piece of paper, on top write "My Goals" and write down the goals of your department, project, company, whatever. Each time you get an email, voice mail, or a drive by asking you to do something, check your list. Was that request in line with my goals? If not, think about it before you add it to your never ending To Do list. Do you need to revise your "My Goals" document? Or do you need to question the source?

The risk is that if you are producing a good or service (being productive) that no one cares about, then you're just being active. Congratulations! You have just burnt calories. Next time, try jogging. You won't waste company money, your limited resources (i.e. your time) and it may do your overall health some good.

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