Ever since I broadened my field of interest to include holistic time management, I have been amazed at how many factors influence our productivity besides the usual efficiency – organizing – planning triad of strategies. I have written about them in previous blogs – everything from music to physical movement, office greenery to window scenery and from colors to coffee shops. I am in the process of tying them all together in a new book on the impact of working environment on personal productivity – to be published by Bookboon.com.In the process of doing all this, I’ve been forced to modify my narrow definition of personal productivity. In the past I have defined personal productivity solely in business terms, such as output per unit of input, whether that is the number of invoices processed per hour or the number of customers served in a day or the number of tasks completed during the week.
Other business writers all seem to do the same thing – define personal productivity in terms of the volume of work-related output, which presumably will assist corporate productivity as long as the individual is productive in a direction that aligns with corporate goals.
The problem with this approach is that it does not allow for a truly “personal” output, which may or may not have anything to do with corporate efficiency or productivity. For example, it has been shown that nature walks, friendships, and volunteering can all help, either directly or indirectly, to increase work-related productivity. But they can also have other beneficial outputs such as happiness, hope and well-being, which may or may not influence work-related productivity one iota. And yet who can deny the possible personal benefits of such things, including mental health, mindfulness, and empathy and so on.
What I choose to do, therefore, is have two distinct definitions; one for personal productivity and another for corporate or work-related productivity.
Corporate productivity is a term I will use for the volume of output per unit of input, such as the number of widgets for hour. It is solely a measure of the efficiency of production, whether by an individual or team. Corporate productivity can be increased by increasing the output without increasing the input or increasing output drastically with only a slight increase in input. This might be accomplished through the use of technology or by workers simply working smarter and more efficiently.
Personal productivity can then be defined as the value of your personal life in terms of quality, quantity and contribution. Personal productivity might be increased through varying inputs, such as social relationships, an active lifestyle, love, forgiveness, and a continuing relationship with nature. The personal productivity of an individual in most cases will have a positive influence on corporate productivity if the person is involved in a business or career; but that is not necessarily the case. The challenge is to balance the two.
The tendency in the workplace is to increase input rather than change input. For example, the impulse is to work harder, even though it has been shown that the top performers tend to work no more than 4.5 hours a day. And how many people would actually think to get more sleep in order to get more done?
But with an equal focus on personal productivity, which relies heavily on health and lifestyle issues, it’s easier to buffer the traditional methods of increasing corporate productivity, which are driven solely by efficiency and achievement. This will insure that not only the company will gain in terms of increased productivity, but the individual will gain as well in terms of personal growth, fulfillment, and physical, mental and spiritual well-being.