We all have the same amount of hours in the day and the right to choose what to do with our time. But the results of our choices determine how productive we are. This week we’re considering some important productivity-related numbers.
Considering productivity by the numbers
This week I’ve been thinking about important numbers when it comes to productivity, whether we’re talking about getting things done or making a life that matters. I did a bit of research and thought I’d share what I learned with you.
Statistics for measuring productivity
- Businesses: “The amount of value you create divided by the number of hours you work. A person with high productivity will create the same amount of value for an organization in a shorter time or create a more significant amount of value in the same amount of time.” [from How to Improve Your Personal Productivity]
But she notes this doesn’t necessarily work for individuals:
“The problem is, it’s hard to measure personal productivity this way as you won’t always have a clear understanding of the value you create. This is especially true if your work doesn’t involve creating a physical product, making output harder to measure. So it might be easier to think about productivity in terms of the total number of productive hours you have on an average day or week. A productive hour is one where you get stuff done – where you feel you can concentrate on a task and complete it, free from distractions. A 2019 study reported by the UK’s Economic Research Council found that the UK average worker was only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes in every working day. Assuming the average working day is around 8 hours, this leaves nearly 5 hours of doing… not so much. This leads to the eyebrow-raising conclusion that if your personal productivity is above 3 hours per day, you’re already more productive than the average employee.”
The basic numbers related to time
- 365 days in a year
- 52 weeks in a year
- 7 days in a week
- 24 hours in a day
We all get to choose what we do with our time. Everybody has the same amount. Why do some people seem to accomplish so much more with it? Everybody’s different, their age, background, and physical health, so comparing with someone else is not helpful. We can, though, learn from those we consider highly productive and adopt their practices if they make sense for us.
Numbers-based productivity tools and techniques
- 1-minute (or 3-minute) rule: If a task can be done in 1 minute (or 3 minutes, if you take that approach), do it right away. This could be checking emails, clean-up around the house, or a phone call. Avoids accumulation of tiny tasks that distract you from more time-consuming “deep work”.
- Pomodoro: Use a timer, and work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break, and repeat. After the fourth“pomodoro,” take a longer break–20-30 minutes. This is a useful approach, but might be too chopped up for some people.
- If your personal work/focus style needs longer work sessions: Try a 60-minute work session, focused on one thing, with a 10-minute break after. My writer friends used to do 1-hour writing sprints “together” via Facebook. All start at the same hour and then 60 minutes later they would check in with how many words they’d gotten written.
- Another version of this is the 52/17 rule: work for 52 minutes, then take a 17-minute break. This was developed based on some studies that indicated top performers focus best for 52 minutes, with the mind needing a 17-minute break before starting to work again.
- 80/20 rule: This is also known as the Pareto Principle, named after a 19th-century economist who identified it. The concept is that 20% of your efforts will provide 80% of your results. Use this to evaluate your work, whether professional or personal, and see what actual activities account for the majority of your results. How can you allocate more time to those by eliminating or minimizing the others?
- 1-hour rule (sometimes called the 5-hour rule): Set aside 1 hour per day for deliberate learning, or a specific project/skill, like writing. This technique is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, followed by various other well-known productive people. [see My New Goal: Follow Ben Franklin’s Rule to Set Aside 1 Hour a Day to Learn; Missing Time to Improve Yourself? Embrace the 1-Hour Rule Followed by Elon Musk]
Thoughts to consider
When it comes to work, like so many other things, more is not necessarily better. Brigid Schulte, the director of the Better Life Lab at New America and the author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, is quoted as saying “American culture has long believed that working longer means working harder and being more productive, despite the flaws in that way of thinking.” She noted the idea that there is a “productivity cliff” – that “workers are only productive for a certain number of hours, after which their productivity declines and they may begin making mistakes. We’ve long had this really erroneous connection between long work must mean hard work and productivity, and it never has,” she said. [quoted in NY Times article, Want a Can’t Miss Productivity Tip? Forget About Being Productive]
The key concept of minimalism and Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism is that “Less, but better”. This applies to possessions, but also activities, commitments–across the board.
What is the most important number in productivity? One…. we have one life. We don’t get a do-over or second chance to live it differently. And no matter what technique, tools, approaches, ideas, or philosophy we use when it comes to being productive, it should all come down to making the most of this one life we have.
There is also the importance of focusing on one thing at a time. If we can use our time wisely and be present, we will make the most of our time and make our life as meaningful as we want it to be.
What do you think?
Resources and Links
- What Makes Some People More Productive Than Others
- (2) 5 productivity rules based on numbers – YouTube
- Productivity Tips: Forget About Being Productive. – The New York Times
- How to improve your personal productivity | Workplace from Meta
- Pomodoro Technique – Wikipedia
- Pareto principle – Wikipedia
- The 80/20 Rule And How It Can Change Your Life
- The 80 20 Rule – The Pareto Principle | Brian Tracy
- How the Most Productive People Schedule Their Day The Muse | The Muse
- How (And Why) To Use The 52/17 Rule To Boost Productivity
- A Formula for Perfect Productivity: Work for 52 Minutes, Break for 17 – The Atlantic
- Women are more productive than men, according to new research | World Economic Forum
- 18 women in the workplace statistics you need to know (in 2021)
- 11 Encouraging Statistics on Women in the Workplace | Career Contessa
- Missing Time To Improve Yourself? Embrace the 1 Hour Rule Followed by Elon Musk | by Sylvain Saurel | Live Your Life On Purpose | Medium
- Goal: Follow Ben Franklin’s Rule to Set Aside 1 Hour a Day to Learn
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