How To Measure Productivity To See If You’re Actually Making Progress
Have you learned about productivity from a course, book, video, or article? If so, you have probably tried out a few of those tips and they seemed to work.
But that’s the danger.
They only seem to work. Without measurement, it’s easy for you to think a time management tip is working when it isn’t. And unfortunately, that’s how some productivity programs get your money.
I’m personally skeptical of well-known productivity books like Getting Things Done by David Allen. David made his money selling productivity tips. Before that, Wikipedia says he worked tons of odd jobs including janitor. You just don’t know if they’re spewing a load of garbage and are more interested in convincing you it works than actually helping you.
And you’re not the only ones who fall for stuff like this.
I have seen the millionaires Tim Ferriss and Alex Ikonn recommend the Pomodoro Technique, which is a productivity tip.
But based on how they said they found it, it seems like they just did what I warned against. They tried it out and it seemed to work for them (without measuring).
I was reading the marketing legend Dan Kennedy’s time management book. He said that the average CEO probably works less than 45 minutes a day on actually productive tasks.
That’s why I only listen to time management advice from people who achieved lots of success, like Warren Buffett.
And that’s also why it’s so important to measure your productivity.
Today, I want to give you some ways you can effectively measure if you’re actually being more productive. I’m guilty of not doing this myself, but I really need to kick my butt into shape because otherwise what seems productive could be a waste of time.
As you’ll see, it doesn’t have to be ridiculously complicated to measure productivity:
1. Pick A Yes/No or Quantifiable Goal That Matters
A Yes/No goal is a goal that you can easily tell if you accomplished or not. An example would be, “Did you go to the gym today?” You either did or did not.
A quantifiable goal is one that can be measured with numbers. An example is, “Did you do 10 push-up’s today?” If you did not reach the number, it’s obvious.
By using these, you avoid a goal that can be left unmeasured.
Also, the goal should relate to a big goal that really matters to you. The point of doing this is so that you choose goals that actually motivate you and move you towards something you want accomplished.
Otherwise, you can end up achieving goals only to find that they do not actually move you in the direction you want to go. An example would be getting Twitter followers to make more money. If your big goal is to make a lot of money, you could waste a lot of time getting followers without making much money. Therefore, it is better to think things through a little more thoroughly.
By deciding what your big goal is and sticking to it, you can avoid a lot of useless activity.
A lot of people have the big goal of living in Hawaii and they think the only way is to spend over ten years working at a job they hate to make the money to do so. They forget to consider other possibilities, like working abroad.
The man who succeeds faster considers all the choices, which sometimes gets him to his real goal faster. You can have a ton of money, but if it does not always mean “success” because people define success differently. In this case, the rich man who is still not living in Hawaii because he is chained to a job he hates fails.
2. Choose a Definitive Time Period to Measure Your Goal
By setting a deadline or time period to measure your goals, you can actually see if you hit or missed your goals. Otherwise, you can keep putting it off and say stuff like, “I will get a 25 inch waist eventually.”
Here are a few more ideas of measurable goals with time periods:
- Writing 5 blog posts a month.
- Having a 10 inch bicep.
- Making $200,000 a year.
- Having 10,000 followers on Twitter.
- Selling 3 products to 3 people a week.
3. Track Your Progress
Put down your results every week. You can use a spreadsheet on a computer or you can use a paper and pencil.
What matters is that you track how well you are doing. This will let you do a “before versus after” test to see if a new “productivity tip” actually helped or made you worse.
4. Drill Down Into Smaller Metrics to Measure
Charisma on Command, a Youtube Channel, made a great point in the video below. Look at smaller parts of your activity to find out what you are doing wrong.
For example, let’s say you are a toy salesman. If you are just measuring how many toys you sold, all you know is that you succeeded or did not. But you do not know what you did wrong or could do better.
Instead, you can also measure what opening line you used, how many calls you made, and how many times you got past the gatekeeper.
Then, you can realize that you are getting a lot of calls. And it is clear that you lost most of them right after your opening line. Because of this, now you know your opener is what you need to fix.
From there, you can test different approaches and further improve your craft. Be sure to test a solid amount before deciding test won. Otherwise, it could have been luck that one test won over another.
Comedians are a great example of this. You would think that they are just naturally funny. Some are, but some do an exhausting amount of testing.
They test different versions of a joke on hundreds of people before bringing it to a big movie or TV show.
Another Way of Measuring Productivity and Efficiency
Another way is to measure every activity by the minute for a whole day or week. I have done both.
Every time I changed tasks I wrote it down. At the end of the day, I added up all the activities and looked at what percent I spent at each task.
I was shocked.
Even though I thought I was productive, sometimes I wasted 40 to 60% of my time on stupid stuff. It was often the little things that added up to steal my time: 7 minutes tasks here and there that I did not need to do.
How to Measure Employees
How do you measure your workers productivity? If you tell them to track it themselves, they could lie to make themselves look good.
First, make sure you hire the most ethical people you can so you can trust them.
Second, try measuring things that are hard to lie about, like the amount of products a salesman sold. It’s not a perfect solution so you will have to assume that the numbers you get may still be a ballpark estimate.
Jay Abraham is a famous business growth expert. I like his idea: instead of worrying too much about measuring them, increase all of their productivity. Get the top salesperson of your team to train the others on what techniques he is using to do so much better than everyone else.
What About Metrics That Cannot be Measured?
The business management legend Peter Drucker had a complicated opinion on measurement. This is because some things just can’t be measured with numbers, like relationships, confidence, or community. Yet these are key parts of success.
I only have a bit of advice that might help:
First, make sure you can’t measure it.
How good your writing or blog post is usually cannot be measured to a tee. But getting a lot of feedback from expert writers can give you a sense of where you are at.
Second, ask yourself if you should be measuring this metric that is non quantifiable. While some of these are helpful, not all non-measurable things are worth measuring.
Here are a few examples of worthwhile non-quantifiable metrics to give you a direction to move towards:
- The quality of your art or music if you are an artist.
- How good of a communicator or speaker you are if you speak for a living.
- How good your customer service is if you run a business.
Important reminder: If you choose the option of getting feedback, make sure that person will speak the truth. Someone who is not your friend, has skill in the practice you want critiqued, and trusts that you will not lash out with ego or emotion is someone whose feedback you can trust to be accurate.
Realize that volume is important too. Get more than one opinion to get a better gauge on the truth. One person’s opinion can be biased for a number of different possible reasons.
Once you have the feedback, record it and check back on a consistent basis. That way, you can see how much you are improving over time.
Should You Use Productivity Tools and Apps?
I do not like most productivity apps or extensions for one reason:
It’s not productive.
Ever look at the people who promote or recommend these things? They usually are not successful or they are the ones selling the tools. Sure, some of them want to be successful, but they are not there yet.
I usually take my productivity advice from the people at the top (billionaires and Olympic athletes). And they do not go crazy with the tools. Some do not even have email.
If you must use a browser extension, there are two I recommend:
1. Rescue Time.
This is a free extension on Chrome internet browsers. It measures how you spend your time on the Internet down to the second and breaks it down into categories. Some people do not use it because they are scared to know how much time they waste. Baby steps. If you know, you can slowly cut a minute or two off at a time. You do not have to commit to giving up all the time you spend on social media immediately.
2. Harvest App
This chrome extension lets you manually log your activities on your computer. You can use this if you want to track activities that RescueTime will not, like typing up a document versus creating a graphic for social media.
Measuring productivity doesn’t have to be as sophisticated as people make it out to be. You don’t need tons of complicated tools, apps, or systems.
By measuring your productivity with these steps, you can see if a productivity tip actually works.
Now, the biggest problem with people who read a post like this is that they read it, think it’s useful, and don’t do anything. Often, it’s because it’s too much work. I want to make it really simple for you:
Take ten seconds right NOW (so you can’t procrastinate) and choose a super simple goal and then how much you accomplished in the last week. I’m going to do this with you:
I choose “going to the gym” and I went two times in the last week. Then, choose a super simple tweak you’ll make this week. I’ve heard laying out my gym clothes the night before works, so I’ll try it.
Then, check how many times a week from now. That’s it!
Once you get in the groove, you can start adding more detail to the approach. You can choose better goals to track and Calendar reminders to make sure you do it. But you don’t have to start there. Baby steps.
Now, I want to hear from you…
I want you to write in the comments what you decided to track and how many times you did it. Let me know what you decided to change and any more details of your story. You can go into as little or as much detail as you want.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
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