Productivity is not about how many hours your work. Or even how hard you work. So when the tasks are stacking up and the deadlines are looming, you may think about working longer hours. But this will not necessarily make you more productive. Because there is more to productivity than merely putting in more hours.
Productivity is about how much you accomplish.
Decades ago when more people worked factory-style jobs, productivity was easy to calculate. The worker arrived at 9AM, created widgets until 5PM and went home. Productivity was calculated by counting how many widgets were created per hour (that’s how hourly rates came into being). The worker did not need a great deal of attention or energy to do the job – only time. And so, “productivity” was linked to time – and how many hours were worked.
But things have changed over the past few decades. In today’s jobs, being efficient (creating many widgets per hour) is no longer enough. More people are now working jobs, which involves intellectual capital. We now need to think more (which requires energy and attention). How many reports we can write per hour is no indication of our productivity levels (as it was with widget creation). Writing reports takes attention and energy, as well as time. Productivity is now measured through how many reports you can write while maintaining a high standard, make properly thought-through points, correctly analysing the data, provide solutions to challenges etc. It takes time, energy and attention to accomplish all of this. And that is today’s productivity.
Becoming more productive will thus take more than good time management. Yes, time management is vital. But equally so is attention management and energy management. In fact, from my own experience, managing all three these aspects is the only way to reach high productivity levels. Understanding how these three aspects works for ourselves (because we are all different), allows us to leverage our personal “Prime Productivity Time” and become more productive.
A few weeks ago, I decided to start measuring my energy and attention levels throughout my waking hours. Every hour, on the hour, I would note my energy and attention levels (using a 1-10 rating scale). I also noted what I was working on during these hours (specific tasks – and what type of focus was needed).
After two weeks of measuring, it was absolutely clear when my own Prime Productivity Time was, every day. My energy and attention were both high during these times (9AM-11:00AM & 4PM – 6PM). What was even more interesting was the fact that I accomplished massive amounts during my PPT. Tasks that required high focus, was completed in less than half the time during PPT as apposed to during non-PPT times. (To compare apples with apples: articles written during PPT took on average 43 minutes. Articles written during my lowest energy and attention times, took on average 1 hour, 54 minutes to complete).
By understanding my own energy and attention levels, and knowing when my Prime Productivity Time is, I can schedule my tasks accordingly. Low-impact, low-thinking tasks are scheduled for directly after lunch. High-thinking tasks, requiring deep focus, gets done during one of my PPT time blocks. This way, I am not wasting good energy and attention on tasks like filing papers, checking social media updates or diary management. These gets done during “low energy / low attention” times. I save my high-focus tasks for my Prime Productivity Time. This is just leveraging my own energy, time and attention to accomplish more –and be more productive.