I’ve been thinkning about how best to define personal productivity. The traditional definition of productivity is output/input which looks at how much is produced compared to the resources needed. This can be useful in a manufacturing setting if used properly but it falls short for personal productivity. In these terms it’s more about quantity for the least effort which emphasizes doing things and doesn’t always look at what you are doing.
Another way to define productivity is value/resources which is a better definition for personal productivity. I’ve even seen this where time is used instead of resources. I like the idea of resources instead of just time. So how can you use this for defining your personal productivity?
Let’s look at value first. Value can be defined by what you do, how well you do it and how much you produce of it.
Value = WHAT x QUALITY x QUANTITY
So to improve the value of what you do it is important to make sure you get all three pieces right. Look at whether or not you are doing what is needed at that time. This means focusing on the important items not the busy work. You need to do the item well – high quality work. Producing anything that requires being redone, or falls short of providing everything your customer (internal or external) needs will decrease the value of your work. Next quantity is doing the amount needed at that time. Too much or too little is wasted effort and reduces value.
The trick to the value side of the equation is to make sure you know what needs to be done, when it is due, and understanding the expectations of the customer. If you are producing a report for someone else, what do they need to see, how should it be formatted and when do they need it? Giving them more than they need or giving it to them late makes extra work on their end and the value of your work has been diminished in their eyes.
Now let’s look at resources. This is defined by time, people, and cost to produce your results.
Resources = TIME x PEOPLE x COST
The easy one to focus on in this equation is time. How much of my time does it take to get something done? This can be measured fairly easily so it is easy to track. Pay attention to the time it takes you to get things right. When looking at your personal productivity remember to look at the input of other people. How many people do you need to support your activities? Are there ways to get information from fewer people? Or can a system generate the information with a bit of programming instead of having someone go data mining? Stop and look at the impact you have on others both from a task and time perspective to help reduce the resources you need to get your work done. Lastly look at costs. This can be more abstract at times to evaluate. Are you utilizing the higher paid people around you or are there younger employees who could learn to do what you need? This can pay you back by freeing your more expensive peer’s time for higher value activities and allows new employees growth opportunities. Shifting work from one employee to another may not reduce the time but it may reduce the cost.
- Caution: When you move work from one person to another that you are aware of what’s already on the new person’s plate and that you are freeing up the other person to do tasks where they add more value.
Obviously not everyone can reassign work within an office, however even if you are not a boss you can provide suggestions on how to improve productivity.
If you can increase the value of what you do while controlling the needed resources your personal productivity goes up as does your worth to the organization. You will be seen as someone who contributes to the bottom line. When you keep looking for new ways to improve things you will be seen as highly valuable team member.