It’s tempting to view speed as the only measure of productivity. After all, the faster you go, the more things you can do, right? Well, that would probably be true if you do a simple repetitive job like putting caps on bottles in an assembly line. If the work you do is a little more complicated, however, then there’s more to measuring productivity than how fast you can cross items off your to-do list.
The ability to prioritize
Having a to-do list doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cross out all the items on it today, especially if there’s just too many of them. Real productivity lies in your ability to pick out the most important tasks out of everything you have (or want) to do and then completing them first. This allows you to create greater value than you would if you focused on minor tasks instead.
There’s this term in economics called “opportunity cost.” It means whenever you choose something; you automatically let something else go in the process. In this case, the opportunity cost of choosing to work on minor tasks first is being unable to work on more important jobs, and even if you complete a lot of small tasks, your day still wouldn’t be as productive if you missed more urgent jobs in the process.
Now that you’ve decided which tasks you must work on today, the next step would be to ensure that you do quality work. Finishing quickly may make you feel productive but if you do so at the expense of doing great work, then it does the opposite. Keep in mind that working too fast makes you more likely to commit errors along the way. This means you’ll have to redo the task, which can easily double the time it takes you to finish.
An excellent way to ensure that you do virtually error-free work is to get enough sleep. Head on over here if you wish to know more.
Of course, there’s the possibility that the day won’t go exactly according to plan. Unexpected tasks and emergencies may come up. Circumstances may change. Requirements may be adjusted. How you respond to these changes also affects how productive your day could be.
You need to be able to determine whether a new task needs to be done now, added to your “do later” list or ignored altogether. You can’t just put off your current task for something that is not as important. Of course, the opposite is also true. You can’t ignore something more urgent just because you don’t want to stop what you’re doing now.
The bottom line
Speed is not the sole measure of productivity. In fact, focusing on it too much may affect it negatively because the faster you go, the lower the quality of your work gets. Real productivity lies in your ability to prioritize important tasks, do great work and make the necessary adjustments throughout the day based on any unforeseen circumstances that may come up.
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