October 31

Why Task Completion is a Terrible Way to Measure Productivity

Task completion is a terrible way to measure productivity because it leads people to confuse productivity with effectiveness. Checking a dozen items off your to-do list makes you feel productive without being effective.

Productivity is not about how efficient you are at work. Instead, your productivity is really about how well you are able to make an impact on what matters most to you.- Scott Belsky, Making Ideas Happen

When you focus on a small handful of things that make a big difference, you make steady progress toward meaningful goals and impact what matters to you.

The First Reason Task Completion is a Terrible Way to Measure Productivity

Task Completion is a Terrible Way to Measure Productivity
Photographer: Brett Jordan | Source: Unsplash

Project delays, missed deadlines and procrastination are the results of poor prioritization. The key to effective prioritization is to understand the relationship between impact and effort.

Many people mistakenly believe that if they can get more done, they will be more effective. But when it comes to prioritization, subtraction is the key to optimization.

List all of the ideas and projects you want to do. Think beyond "professional" ideas and projects-yard and house projects, community initiatives, events with your community, traveling to Nepal, sorting your finances, or getting a puppy all count. It can be items on your bucket list, but they don't have to be bucket-list level. – Charlie Gilkey, Start Finishing

Ask yourself what you're willing to give up? Spend less time thinking about what you should do and more time thinking about what you shouldn't do. When you know what you're willing to give up, it's easier to prioritize the things you're not.

Limit Yourself 5 Projects

Photographer: Sam Xu | Source: Unsplash

Most people are poor at estimating how long a project or task will take. Underestimation leads to overcommitment and thus to stress, overwork, and anxiety.

This phenomenon is known as the planning fallacy. To counteract the planning fallacy, limit your commitments to increase your productivity

The goal isn't to get more done. It's about essentialism: the disciplined pursuit of less. When you're juggling too many projects, striving for parallel paths inhibits your progress in one direction.

How to Prioritize Your Projects

Photographer: Eden Constantino | Source: Unsplash

For projects, prioritize by economic and strategic value using what Scott Belsky calls energy line prioritization.

Projects should be placed according to their economic and strategic value. The concept of the Energy Line is meant to address our tendency to spend a lot of time on projects that are interesting but perhaps not important enough to warrant such an investment of energy. Scott Belsky, The Making Ideas Happen.

Let's look at some project examples and where they might lie on the energy line

  • High strategic value: write an ebook to generate leads for your products and services.
  • Low strategic value: updating favicons on a website so your branding is consistent
  • High economic value: writing a sales page for a product or service that brings in $1000.00 per sale
  • Low economic value: revising the layout and design of your website

You could spend all day tweaking the layout and design of your website and have no effect. Whatever you do, measure the impact of your against bottom-line metrics.

How to Prioritize Your Tasks

Photographer: Kelly Sikkema | Source: Unsplash

After you know which projects to prioritize, prioritize efforts with disproportionate impacts and avoid efforts with negligible impacts.

One non-negotiable task that must be completed every week

One way to make sure you get your most important work done is to have a non-negotiable task.

My friend Gareth Pronovost has a non-negotiable task that he does every week: posting a video on his YouTube channel. And this strategy has helped him build a business that generates 7-figures in revenue.

  • Because what you don't schedule doesn't get done, you should set aside time on your calendar for this task
  • Schedule more time than you think you need because building in buffers will keep you on track. Sometimes all it takes is an extra 15 minutes.
  • Be a time realist: The antidote to cramming your to-do list is to be a time realist—that is, really looking at a task and breaking down how long it will take" says Madeline Dore in her book, I Didn't Do The Thing Today

When we look at how we spend our time, there is a mismatch between our efforts and the value they produce. To move projects forward, we must prioritize efforts that have a disproportionate impact.

Before you plan your weeks or create your daily to-do list, ask yourself: which efforts have the greatest impact and value?

Eventually, you will uncover the attention and effort funnel for disproportionate value. From this, it will become apparent that a handful of things deserve the majority of your time and attention because they create the most value.


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