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The Right Way to Measure Productivity (and Why It’s Harder Than it Seems)

Dynamic Measurements

Instead of relying on a fixed standard, regularly tweak and adapt what you measure.

Changing what you're measuring may seem like a drawback, but it really makes your work more robust. Meta-feedback on what you measure stops you from reaching a fragile solution.

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Measuring Employee Productivity
Measuring Employee Productivity

Fixing employee productivity in the industrial age, when most workers were handling machinery and it’s parts, was a tedious but doable process. The managers had to fix the people who were making mi...

The Old Productivity Formula

The basic productivity formula(productivity= output divided by input) worked well in the industrial age as the output and input were clearly defined and measurable.

Today’s leaders need innovative solutions to measure and improve productivity in a knowledge-based workplace, as the measurement of output and input is not what it was.

Quality And Quantity

While assigning value to the output of knowledge workers, we cannot simply measure the output like before.

Coders and doctors cannot be measured by the hour, as their output is not uniform or consistent every hour.

What Deep Work Is

A process of performing “professional activities…in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve ...

Shallow work

The non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted, tend not to create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.

Recognizing our limited willpower

...is the first element of deep work.

That means you won’t have the mental discipline to stay concentrated on a single task unless you prepare your mind and environment to it.

We Don’t Know What Productivity Really Is
We Don’t Know What Productivity Really Is

Most of us want to be productive but do not completely understand what we do, why we do it, and who judges it as productive or non-productive.

Productivity can be defined as the eff...

Productivity: Modern Knowledge Work

Knowledge work in the modern age involves thinking, analysis, theories, trial and error, problem solving, brainstorming and other stuff which is done in a variety of counter-intuitive ways. It is defined by a diverse range of iterative exploration of yet-to-discover possibilities.

Comparing the earlier (linear) definition of productivity to modern knowledge work is like comparing a bicycle to a computer.

How The Idea Of 'Productivity' Holds Us Back
  1. The linear definition of productivity assumes that if we complete our to-do list, we are productive for the day, not taking into account the time required for creative insights that come from serendipity and lateral thinking.
  2. It falsely ties us to a quantitative output, which involves pseudo-work based on input and output of an age gone by. Example: Making and emailing a daily report that no one reads.
  3. As we answer emails and put out the fires, we miss opportunities for creativity and deep thinking, and even getting bored, which makes the brain work better.