Productivity is Meaningless without Impact

Productivity is getting as much as possible done within the confines of limited resources, name time.  Impact on the other hand is about the work that produces results that are exponential or invaluable or precious that without your involvement would not bring the same significance.

The real goal is to be productive in the things that are impactful.

For example, compare a person working in the office that has a calendar full of tasks, meetings to attend and projects to complete vs. a stay-at-home mother, who would you perceive as more productive and impactful?  The person working in the office might be more productive based on the number of tasks and activities that are completed but the stay-at-home mother with just as many tasks to perform would be more impactful in the life of the child.

Impact is measured very differently from productivity measurements.  Impact is usually intangible in its outcome which is therefore impossible to track or measured in the traditional sense.  It is not a checklist to be ticked.  It is usually where we struggle to define and therefore have difficulty in attaching a value to. 

Productivity measurements are easier to measure and therefore it is what we gravitate towards because the outcome is immediate, short-term and usually tangible.  For example, productivity measures would look like, how many items can a manufacturing plant produce in a minute, an hour, a day and so on. This will then be translated to how many units can a single worker produce in a minute, an hour, a day and so on.  While this form of measuring productivity is accepted and used especially in a manufacturing environment, would it still be applicable in a knowledge-based environment?

The trap that we all fall into is to measure our productivity like the manufacturing or production environment.  How many pages can you type?  How many projects or campaigns are you able to execute?  What are the sales or revenues that is generated?  How many scans or reports can you produce in a day?  How many tasks can you complete in a day?

The challenge is to differentiate what is productive from what is of impact and to achieve real success is to be productive in the impactful priorities.

How can we be productive in the impactful?

First, we need to know what impact is or what is impactful for you.  You will need to define your impact score.  It could be the most important project or work that you have.  It could be in investing time in your relationships e.g., with your children.  It could be investing in an area that is critical for your long-term success. 

Second, once you have defined your impact, then you will need to prioritise what goes into contributing to that impactful area.  Prioritising is a great skill to have and master.  Most people find it difficult to prioritise.  The simplest way I have discovered is to implement the 10-10-10 model by Suzy Welch.  This model essentially asks 3 simple questions:

  1. what is the consequence or outcome if I did this or not in the next 10 minutes?
  2. what is the consequence or outcome if I did this or not in the next 10 months?
  3. what is the consequence or outcome if I did this or not in the next 10 years?

In another words, what is the impact of an action in the short, medium and long term. 

Depending on how you answer the questions, you will know what NOT to do as well as what to persevere in doing because the impact can be felt over a longer period of time.

How would you apply it?

Take an example, if you do not breathe in the next 10 minutes, what is the consequence?  Well, honestly you wouldn’t last 10 minutes, so the answer is you would have to prioritise breathing as a very critical function to perform. 

Another example, what would happen if you do not eat in the next 10 minutes?  Next 10 months?  Next 10 years? Well, nothing if it’s just for the 10 minutes.  It is not critical to your survival.  However, if you do not eat for the next 10 months, that might be a problem.  So in the immediate or short term, the impact is not significant but if prolonged it would be impactful.

In the workplace or when you are making decisions, you would apply the same concept.  If you did not make this decision in the next 10 minutes, what would happen?  In the next 10 months and in the next 10 years?

You will realise that when you take a long-term view or the 10-year view, the majority of our decisions are not significant or impactful.  However, there are only between 8 to 10 decisions that you will ever make in your life that is impactful from a long-term perspective such as, what will you study in college or university?  Who will you marry?  How you will parent, teach and guide your child?  What do you believe in?  What do you invest your life in?

This technique can also be used to help to put things into perspective.  Not everything is urgent, not everything is do or die and certainly not everything is of great importance.  It will help you to not over-catastrophize everything.

Let me summarise:

  1. Be productive in the impactful.
  2. Impact is defined by you.
  3. Techniques such as 10-10-10 can help you to prioritise and uncover what is impactful for you.

Impact is a result of consistent, intentional and discipline approach to a long-term outcome.  To last the long-term journey, you will need to prioritise and to be determined to stay the course by being productive in the everyday in the things that leads to the impact that you want.

Remember, it’s not the number of things that you are able to get through the day, but rather, it is getting the most impactful things completed in the most productive manner.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this article.  I hope that you have learned at least one thing that you are able to apply into your everyday life.   As always, please subscribe, follow and share this blog with your friends.  Take care and step into the everyday with purpose. 


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