What Is Productivity And How Can You Increase It?

«Productivity is the deliberate, strategic investment of your time, talent, intelligence, energy, resources and opportunities in a manner calculated to move you measurably closer to meaningful goals.» – Dan S. Kennedy

The concept of productivity has existed since the late 1800s in both verbal and mathematical forms, but all the different definitions and interpretations out there can make the term hard to comprehend. To understand productivity, let’s start with some definitions.

The general definition of productivity is related to output and input:
Productivity = the amount of output created per unit of input

A different approach to defining productivity by Jackson and Petersson (1999) takes into account both efficiency and effectiveness:
Productivity = Efficiency x Effectiveness

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

Let’s have a closer look at efficiency and effectiveness. According to professor David Sumanth, efficiency reflects how well resources are utilized to accomplish results, while effectiveness reflects how well a set of results are accomplished.  

Peter F. Drucker (1964) has an easier way to explain this: “ Efficiency is doing things the right way; effectiveness is doing the right things”.


Productivity - Efficient vs effective-01

Let’s say the goal in the image above is to move as many of the square-shaped objects over to the assembly line in the shortest amount of time.

  1. Effective: By simply shoving the square, you are effective, because you will reach the goal eventually. However, it’s not the most efficient way.
  2. Efficient: By shaping the square into a circle, you can move the objects over to the other side faster, thus being more efficient. However, you are not being effective, since the goal was not to create circle shapes.
  3. Productive: By using a trolley to move the shapes, you can move several squares at the same time and at a faster pace – making you both effective and efficient, also known as the definition of productive.

We can translate this example into a real-life situation. Let’s say that you’re working on a marketing campaign. If you have done everything right in setting up the campaign, creating the content and analyzing the results, then you’ve been efficient. However, if this campaign has been targeting the wrong customer group or has the wrong Call-To-Action based on your business goals, then you haven’t been effective. You can be super efficient by executing numerous task in the correct manner, but it doesn’t make you productive if these tasks shouldn’t have been prioritized in the first place. 

Peter Drucker-quote
Peter Drucker image source: http://54ventures.com/demo-images/fuse-slide-4-11-1800×800.jpg

To summarize, in order to be productive, you must be both effective (do the rights things) and efficient (do things the right way). This leads us to the following explanation of productivity: Productivity is doing the rights things in the right way.

So, how can you be more productive?

One way of increasing your productivity, is to implement tools or methods that help you prioritize the right things (increase effectiveness) and/or execute tasks in the most optimal way (increase efficiency).  Some frameworks that can help increase your productivity are:

Infographic showing different methods to increase personal productivity, including Personal Kanban, One Minute To-Do List, Eisenhower Matrix, Action Priority Matrix, the Pomodoro Technique, Getting Things Done and From Zen to Done.

You can either use a physical version of these methods, by using pen and paper, or you can use a digital tool, like Upwave, that supports these frameworks. We have written an eBook that explain the most popular methods to increase personal productivity – you can get it for free by clicking the banner below.

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