Why business productivity does not equal how much you can do in a day
We all dream of being able to take on the world: getting everything done that we need to do and still having time left over for more. We envy business giants like Richard Branson, Shaun Bezo, Warren Buffet and Arianna Huffington. They seem to have it all figured out. Success follows everything they touch and they seem to have found the perfect formula for productivity. It’s easy to grow despondent when we compare ourselves or when we start to define productivity by how much we can get done in a day.
The truth is each of them have had their fair share of failures. They had to learn along the way, put support systems in place, and spend time redefining success and productivity. For example, according to Business Insider, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy had a “thinking schedule.” He blocked out lots of time to think: half a day every two weeks and a whole day every month. Similarly, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner makes it a point to schedule nothing and President Obama used to take thoughtful walks when he was working from the White House.
The industry of productivity
With an explosion of technology that advocates for efficiency we wouldn’t put ‘setting time aside to think or do nothing’ in the productivity category. In fact, if you were to schedule that into your diary it would probably make you feel lazy, unproductive and guilty. That’s probably because we’ve created an industry out of getting more stuff done with less. We’ve gone from hard cover diaries and writing out to-do-lists to shared schedule technology for syncing plans and setting up meetings, ready-made meals we can pop into the oven and prepare in minutes, voice search technology for immediate access to information, online shopping to avoid a trip to the store, and a host of other productivity tools for our personal and business use.
These aren’t bad things. A lot of them have made our lives more convenient, but as they help us accomplish more in less time they have also shaped what we think productivity looks like. In a world that equates being busy to being productive maybe we need to reevaluate our own definitions of the concept of productivity.
How we’ve redefined productivity as value added
At Lulalend we have monthly goals and targets we want to reach, but one of our core values is striving to leave work each day feeling good about what we’ve achieved. If we feel good about that it doesn’t necessarily mean that we got through our to-do-list. Instead it means that we made every effort to do what we could for the day and what we did manage to get through we did well and it added value.
This doesn’t mean we’re tucked behind our desks staring at a computer all day. We brainstorm and throw out ideas while grabbing a coffee made by our favourite baristas downstairs at Tribe Coffee, or we just grab a coffee. Our teams get together in one of our boardrooms to consult one another on several things throughout the day. We take walks around the city to get some fresh air, or sit in our common area listening to music while coming up with creative campaign ideas. This is because we’re less about the business of ticking off tasks and more about the business of contributing something of value. Getting through a list doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve contributed value, it might just mean that we’ve got a bunch of stuff done.
So, we’ve redefined productivity by the value of our output instead of just the measure of our output. We realised that we can put in extra hours and get to every item on our list but still not add value to our business. And if we don’t add value to the business, we don’t add value to our clients.
But what does this look like? Well, we make sure in everything we do we offer better quality service to our clients. We build the best technology so that we can provide the best solution to financial inclusion, we ensure that we understand our client’s biggest needs and challenges, we deliver what we promise, we educate and provide expert advice, we invest in partnerships, we lend responsibly, we make it as easy as possible for our clients to ask for credit and access it, and we continually look for ways to innovate and improve our products.
How do you define productivity and what does this look like in your business?