Productivity and GTD

Want to improve? Measure your progress

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"What gets measured gets managed" ~ Peter Drucker

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Blog productivity

Productivity. A concept so simple to be defined and so difficult to be analyzed. Personally, I rather the shorter definition: doing more with less. Put that way, maybe it doesn’t look a big thing, but don’t be fooled. This powerful concept is the key to measuring the efficiency and evolution of economies and societies, and determines companies profitability and people quality of life.

Measuring productivity has always seemed to me a utopia. Companies—and governments—use different formulas for this but, sorry, I’m not convinced by any of them. As far I can see, they’re just mathematical approaches, more or less accurate. How do you measure the importance of a decision? Or missed opportunities by not choosing a certain path? It’s complicated.

If we talk about personal productivity, do more with less means to optimize our most valuable resource: time. Everyone wants to be more productive and efficient, because that means more free time and a more calm living. However, few manage to advance in this field. Many fail again and again until, frustrated, stop trying.

A possible cause of this lies, precisely, in the difficulty of measuring productivity. It’s very difficult to improve what you cannot measure. You need a benchmark to stay motivated. If you’re following a diet, then you weigh yourself often to verify that your pain worth the effort. If you want to spend less money, then you write down every spending to see where the money is going. Well, you should do the same on every new habit. Measure your progress.

Okay, now the question you’re doing yourself is what the heck I have to measure? It turns out that this is not so important. Measurement is often more important than what you measure. If you’re trying to improve, be more efficient with your time, just find any variable to measure (number of completed tasks per week, average time spent on each task, whatever) and don’t worry if it isn’t too accurate or meaningful. Making any kind of follow-up, albeit poor, will help you realize that your effort is worthwhile.

Seeing progress in numbers makes the routine interesting. Turn productivity into a game, make it fun and you’ll be able to change the more resistant habits.

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