We've all heard (or used) phrases like these on the job:
"I had a productive morning."
"Was your meeting productive?"
"I was so unproductive day. I spent all afternoon scrolling through social media."
It seems like our working days are clearly classified into two categories: productive or unproductive. But just what do we mean when we say we're productive?
"Productivity" isn't just a buzzword. It's actually possible to measure your personal productivity. With cutting-edge tools and productivity metrics, you can determine how much you get done in a set amount of time — and the total minutes you devote every day to useful tasks.
You might want to measure your personal productivity for work reasons — like figuring out how many sales calls you can make in a day. Or, you might want to measure it for personal reasons — like determining how many doughnuts you can scarf down in an hour (hey, we're not here to judge).
Whatever your motivation, we're here to help you figure out your personal productivity. Read on to learn more about just what we mean by "productivity" and to master some different ways of measuring productivity.
What is personal productivity?
Simply put, "productivity" refers to your ability to check tasks off your to-do list within a set timeframe. You might calculate your productivity in an hour, a day, or a week. Productivity is also related to efficiency: The more tasks you can get done in a set period of time, the faster (more efficiently) you're working.
But does productivity really matter? We mean your individual productivity, not the company's productivity. Of course, companies care about employee productivity. They want to make sure they're getting the most out of their human capital. If they’re paying a higher number of employees full time wages, they want to ensure the hours those employees work are well spent.
But what about your personal productivity? Does that matter? Well, kind of. When you're productive, you get your work done faster — meaning you can get more done in a shorter time frame, increasing output. In some jobs, this can link to improved performance.
For example, if you're a blogger, paid per post, the more posts you can write in a day, the better, right? Another example: If you're in sales, the more deals you can close in a day, the bigger your net sales commission.
Even if your job doesn't link productivity and performance, working faster also has one benefit we can all appreciate: You'll get your work done faster, which means you can get to that post-work cocktail faster.
How to calculate your productivity
If you're on a mission to improve your productivity, the first step is figuring out your baseline. How productive are you being right now? Don't worry if you don't have a clue. Below, we outline an easy step-by-step productivity calculator method to help you figure it out.
Time logging involves tracking all your activities in a given timeframe, both personal and professional. You note when you start and stop each task throughout the day, including everything from your pre-breakfast sweat session at the gym to your post-work dinner date and two-hour afternoon meeting (snooze).
You can keep notes using pen and paper or (let's be real) with a mobile app, like WorkFlow Max, Harvest, or Wrike. A tool with mobile functionality is ideal, as you'll be able to log your hours on the go, wherever you are.
Calculate your personal productivity ratio
Keep your time logging up for at least a week to get a sense of your everyday patterns. You can then calculate your personal productivity ratio. The first step is to figure out how many labor hours were actually devoted to work tasks in the week. This can be anything that gets you one step closer to your dreams, from a networking lunch to the actual time on the job.
Then, divide the total hours spent on productive tasks by the total number of hours worked. You now have a baseline number for your personal productivity. For example, if you had 50 productive man hours in a 168 hour week, your labor productivity formula is 50/168 = 0.30
Identify time spent on non-productive tasks
Next up, it's time to identify what tasks are draining your time, leaving you with less productive hours. Check your time log to identify common time-sucking trends. You know the ones: binging Netflix, reading tabloids, playing fantasy football, chatting with pals, scrolling social media…
Everybody has their personal poison! We're not saying you have to cut these "unproductive" tasks from your life completely (ew, what would be the fun in that?!). But it can be enlightening (translation: terrifying) to actually see how many hours you spend on menial tasks like, say, browsing houses on Zillow you'll never be able to afford.
Use the right productivity tools
Now that you've got an idea of your productivity ratio and where you're losing productive hours, it's time to make a change. There are plenty of productivity tools to help you stay focused and on track.
For example, if you waste a lot of time every week writing project update emails, investing in a project management software such as Asana can be a great idea. Alternatively, if you get stuck reading online blogs, a web blocking app like StayFocused can help you maintain concentration.
If you're wasting time searching for URLs every week, OSlash is the answer. It takes complex URLs and simplifies them into memorable tidbits, such as o/team-updates or o/accounting-info. You can also search for URLs across all your devices or apps using the OSlash launcher.
Other methods of measuring personal productivity
The labor productivity formula is just one way to measure productivity — but it isn't the only way! This kind of number-crunching template isn't for everybody. Here are some other types of productivity metrics worth considering.
Measure qualitatively instead of quantitatively
Productivity doesn't have to be a sheer numbers game. Sometimes, it's better to get a single important or complex task done instead of getting lots of smaller, unimportant tasks done. It's all about prioritizing what's important to you and understanding how to value your work output.
Creative work is a great example. If you're in advertising, the point isn't to create as many ad campaigns as possible in a single day, right? All you need is that one awesome, catchy campaign that calls people to action. The same is true for creative pursuits like writing, photography, or music. It's not always about quantity.
Determine if you are accomplishing your goals
At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you meet your goals. In terms of units, there's no specific metric for this. For some, it could mean accomplishing as many tasks as possible. But that doesn't have to be the case! Setting yourself daily, weekly, and annual benchmarks is a great way to see if you're on track in your career — or your life at large.
This could mean breaking up bigger goals into smaller, short-term goals. Want to run an Ironman? You're probably going to have to run a few 5k, 10k, and marathon races first. You can use a personal calendar or goal tracker app to set objectives and see how you're progressing.
Evaluate reduced stress or inner peace level
A productive day can be satisfying, leaving you feeling good about your total input and how you're spending your time. However, sometimes trying to juggle too much can leave you feeling frazzled and stressed. Getting a better handle on your workday can help reduce stress, making it easier to determine if you're being productive and effectively getting things off your plate.
Again, technology can help. For example, try simplifying mundane but stressful tasks like meeting scheduling with a tool like Calendly. You can also use tools to reduce stress day-to-day, like the Headspace guided meditation app.
Unlock hyper-efficient productivity with OSlash
While you calculate whether you’ve been productive in your workday, it is easy to adopt tools that make it easier for you to stay on track.
One such is OSlash. It helps users organize, manage, discover, and share links in the workplace. There's no need to waste time hunting down URLs on the job. OSlash makes finding and sharing links easy, with shortcuts such as o/daily-standup or o/onboarding. You can also organize tidbits with collections and #tags, making them even easier to find. Boost your productivity with OSlash.