Why Productivity Still Matters

Why Productivity Still Matters

In a world where everything has changed, and we all have a lot more time on our hands, does productivity still matter? What passed for productivity before is not relevant, but true productivity still matters. Today we will look at what this new productivity is, and how it applies to life post-quarantine.

I’ve been lucky. I have a job that allows me to work from home, and other than a moratorium on overtime, nothing about my job has changed. I have been very grateful for that. All my non-work activities, though, have pretty much vanished.

The Old Normal Is Gone

Music rehearsals and performances are gone, freeing up 5-10 hours a week. Girl Scouts has stopped, freeing up 3-4 hours a week. Commuting is done, freeing up 5 hours a week. The groups I belong to at church and services have moved online, and the meetings I choose to attend are shorter.

I’ve gotten back 20+ hours a week of my life.

So with all this extra time on my hands, do I really need to be concerned with productivity?

Old Productivity Is Irrelevant

The problem is that most people confuse productivity with time saving, or efficiency. And when you are pinched for time, efficiency is the best way to get more done.

All the life hacks and productivity methods that have emerged in the past twenty years are about getting more done.

It’s about tweaking your schedule and cutting down on transition time (batching). It’s about keeping track of what needs to be done so that you’re never stumped for what to do next (eliminating waste). It’s about finding shortcuts and tweaks to shave off time (eliminating waste)

All the methods that have been touted as “productivity” are about cutting back the waste and getting efficient.

Effectiveness vs Efficiency

But productivity isn’t just about efficiency.

Productivity is about doing the right tasks as well.

It doesn’t matter if you crank widgets in the most efficient way, if what you really need to be doing is making gizmos.

But the productivity methods that you find all over the place are about efficiency, because that can be easily defined.

It’s not so easy to teach people how to figure out what tasks they need to be doing. This is such a personal thing that there really are no repeatable methods for figuring out what you should be working on.

What The New Productivity Looks Like

But effectiveness is what we need to be focusing on.

Effectiveness means that you take the time to determine what is the best thing to be working on.

As we have this unexpected free time, it’s important for us to step back and figure out what is the most important. This takes time and thought. It cannot be done in the whirling of activity that were our lives pre-quarantine. It is perfectly suited to the free time we have now.

Getting Started With Effectiveness

I can’t give you a methodology that will work 100% of the time for choosing the right things. But I can give you some guidelines.

  • Put all your projects in one place. I know the things I am currently working on, and I have determined what I would like to work on next. I put them on one list.
  • Evaluate deadlines. Projects with real deadlines (not random ones you have imposed) need to get done before those without.
  • Decide on your weighting factors. I look at things like how many hours it will take to finish a project, if I have materials on hand, and how much having this thing undone annoys me. Things that will take a few hours to wrap up will get done before things that haven’t been started. If I don’t have the materials I need to complete a project, this gets bumped to the bottom of the list. If something is really bugging me and distracting me, I’ll take care of it before other things that are not, all things being equal.

Knowing what I need to work on gives me the projects that are the most effective. And then I can apply the efficiency techniques to get them done faster.

A Note About Downtime

I have been enjoying having downtime in my life. In the first place, I have managed to relax. But it has also given me a lot of opportunity to really think about what I want to do now and in the immediate future. I’ve cleaned out so many projects that with a non-rushed examination I found I really didn’t want to do.

One of the things I am determined to hang on to in the future is my free time. I want to have this level of time to be introspective and to maintain the relaxation.


True productivity has always been about effectiveness and efficiency. And now that we no longer have the time crunch that makes us focus on efficiency, we can look at the other part of the picture, effectiveness.