Productivity refers the effectiveness of your efforts.
Effectiveness can be framed in terms of how well your actions bring you closer to solving the problems you’re working on.
It’s important to make a distinction between behaviors that make you feel productive vs. behaviors that actually are productive because on the surface they can feel the same.
Here are some common behaviors that often make people feel productive but aren’t terribly productive in practice:
- Checking the e-mail inbox every few minutes and responding to e-mails super quickly.
- Maintaining standing meetings on the calendar that have lost their purpose.
- Pontificating about what will be done.
- Wearing sleep deprivation like a badge of honor because “hustle”.
- Booking every square inch of your calendar with meetings.
These actions are false signals of productivity precisely because while they might make you feel productive they rarely bring you any closer to solving problems you set out to solve — unless of course the problems you’re trying to solve involve faster e-mail response times, meeting with the same people as many times consecutively as possible, improving your speech-giving skills, pretending to be super human, or looking really busy.
The way to not fall prey to seemingly-productive-but-not-really behaviors like the ones mentioned above is to ask yourself 3 questions of the actions you’re thinking about taking:
- Will this action really yield a result that will bring me closer to solving the problems I’m working on?
- For routine actions: is it sustainable?
- Is this the most efficient way to achieve the outcome I’m looking for?
Auditing each action you take in this way might seem like overkill, but consider that your ability to make long term progress towards your goals in life depends greatly on where you choose spend your time.