‘Productivity’, what is that? Explanation and tips on how to be productive

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‘Productivity’, what is that? What is the difference between production and productivity? And what is the difference between being busy and productive? Can you be productive while sun bathing? In this article we’ll give you all the ins and outs about productivity so you’ll be able to be productive all day every day.

Bas Kierkels - in
Bas is gék van productiviteit. Hij is een gepassioneerd spreker en organiseert regelmatig kennissessies over productiviteit.

Definition of ‘productivity’

You might have already checked Wikipedia and other sites about the definition of ‘productivity’. Most sites will provide you with formulas and technical explanation about input and output. This is our explanation:

‘Productivity’ to us means ‘how much are able to get done’.

When we talk about ‘increasing your productivity’ we don’t mean to work harder. But to work smarter.

Knowledge workers have their own specific challenges.

How to be comfortably productive

Yeah right. Really cool to have those definitions. But how can i work in a way that i feel comfortable, strong and relaxed? I want to be in control and on top of everything: mailbox, meetings, get everything done in time and have relative little stress.

Productivity to us means that you’ll be able to process day after day and still feel strong at the end of the week. That is what we call ‘comfortably productive’.

‘Comfortably productive’ is working in the conditions: in clarity and control. And leaving work in a relaxed state with energy to spend.

I don’t know how you feel after an average day of work, but the above is easy to do. With the right tricks you can now also be comfortably productive. Read on and we’ll tell you everything about it.

Busy vs. productive

As you might have read in our article about Parkinson’s Law most of us will use the time we have available. With the start of our 3-week holiday in sight we start to really plan: “3 days to go and 5 things to do..”

You are a professional, no doubt. But with this serious deadline things are a little different. That is when the difference between ‘busy’ and ‘productive’ really shows:

Someone who is doing things all day is busy.
Someone who achieves his or her goals is productive.

Maybe you want to produce an x number of parts today. Or finish that presentation. And sometimes you just want to be sun bathing all day. Whatever your goal is: if you reach that goal you have been perfectly productive!

Doing nothing for a day can be perfectly productive!

From production to productivity

A 100 years ago, most of the population in the Netherlands was employed in production: in factories and farms. And that meant: starting at the same time and taking a break at the same time. They all would work in the same rhythm and production is tangible.

Nowadays, the majority of us work with a computer: our own ‘workstation’. Today, for example, it is less and less about the production of tangible products and more often about professional services. In practice, this has its own unique problems. In the past few years we’ve gained more knowledge about this topic.

In doing so, we have adhered to the same principles as in that old factory for a long time, including starting at the same time. But there are three important differences between that factory and our current workplace.

One: you are the production

The first difference is that nowadays you are responsible for your productivity. In every factory you have to follow the rhythm. In the beginning that is difficult but after a few days you wouldn’t even think about it anymore. If station 12 runs into problems, it quickly becomes an issue for all subsequent stations.

Your personal inbox can be flooded with emails without anyone in the office noticing. This in itself can cause countless problems, such as (chronic) stress. Many knowledge workers find it difficult to be open about their weaknesses. Such as the fact that they may not be good with e-mail.

The factory always runs at the same speed: having a hard time? Too bad: you’ll have to hang on and make it work. Many knowledge workers can (partly) determine their own pace: as long as work gets done on time. On days when you have less energy you’ll have to motivate yourself.

Two: work comes from many directions

In a factory, all work comes from one and the same direction, at a constant speed and under exactly the same conditions. This has been carefully thought out in advance and everyone has the right tools. All employees are equally productive in a well-managed factory.

In an average office environment this is very different. New to do’s are able to find your desk from many different directions: meetings, colleagues, phone calls, e-mail, Whatsapp, Skype and one or more project management tools. It is often up to the individual employee to identify and keep track of those flows.

Duidelijkheid begint bij de prijslijst
Duidelijkheid garandeert grotere kansen op productiviteit
Duidelijkheid garandeert grotere kansen op productiviteit
Gaaf! Een nieuwe auto uitkiezen!
Duidelijkheid begint bij de prijslijst

Three: incomplete

When ordering a new car I am, as it were, forced to fill in a form according to the requirements of that manufacturer. This way the manufacturer knows that they can actually take my order into production and what the price should be.

I’ll have that red Golf with that really cool sun roof

Consider how much extra work it is going to be if customers of that car brand can order by e-mail. “I’ll have that Golf with that really cool sun roof.” And then in the next e-mail: “Oh, and then with the shinier wheels like the ones you had shown me in the showroom earlier.”

Without that well thought-out form, they would have to hire countless extra people to have each order confirmed: “Mr. Soetens: what type of sun roof do you exactly mean?”

For many smaller organizations, these types of procedures in many occasions do not exist or are not always complied with. In those cases, it is up to the employees to fill in those gaps or to come up with a creative solution.

Conclusion: about productivity

For these and more reasons, it can be difficult to be productive in an office environment. It just costs extra energy to get the overview and to keep it at any time of the day. Because individual assignments have not been worked out properly, they also cost extra energy to execute.

Tips on how to be more productive

The good news is that you can improve your productivity in many different ways. The less good news is that it is very personal: what works for me unfortunately does not have to work for you. But with the tips below you should already be able to make a big leap:

Create clarity
Clarity brings peace and confidence and both will improve your productivity. For example, you can start by being clear to your colleagues, or at least to your best colleague. Let them know if you feel you might be swamped in work.

Clear processes help you to solve problems structurally. Consider the order form for your new car. You can impose these processes on other departments. You might be surprised how many customers and suppliers can value clear processes. So feel free to experiment with this.

Pomodoro Technique
Do you look up to larger assignments? With the Pomodoro Technique you divide an assignment into smaller pieces and you work on an assignment for a certain time. Then you set yourself free to do something else: stretch your legs, check your phone, whatever you want.

Headphone rul
Are you often disturbed during important work? Then agree with your team that you will not disturb each other whilst he or she is wearing headphones. This tip is mentioned in the book ‘Grip – the secret of smart working‘.

Want to know more about productivity?

Do you want to read more about this topic? We have read these books and have made an honest and interactive overview of them. Have fun!

2 books found:

beGuru Blog

On the beGuru blog you can read everything about productivity: background articles, book reviews and specials about how to be comfortably productive.