The Problem With Productivity

Before we get more into the Pillars of Productivity Series, I thought I would go over an important aspect of being truly productive: people. People are more important than productivity.

People are more important than productivity.

Probably one of the largest challenges I often I face is balancing the need for productivity with the need to nurture relationships. There are a lot of books and literature about being more productive, "getting things done" and equally, there are as many self-help books on relationships. This dichotomy is certainly interesting. Maybe we need to take the time to be less productive and work on our relationships, of which I am suspect.

Recently, for instance, I was reading through a book on a productivity technique, and while it was a great technique, I was surprised at the books solution to manage "interruptions" from people, which included saying "goodbye", or scheduling another time for a conversation. Despite being a person that typically says "goodbye" or schedules another time, I can't help to feel that there is something wrong with this.

This is the Problem with Productivity.

I think of it this way, we all have a "personal brand," which is what they called "character" in the 1900's, and that brand is developed not only by the things we do but also in the way that we treat people. The problem with focusing 100% on productivity is the potential impact it could have on your personal brand. Let's face it, some people seem unproductive to help. I may help someone, but there may never be any ROI from it.

brand is developed not only by the things we do but also in the way that we treat people

Often if we know there may never be a return when we help someone, we try to find the most efficient way to help them, like sending a $10 Starbucks gift card, or donating to some charity; the thought is, not only did we help, but we got to mark it off our checklist, and it required barely any of our time.

Shouldn't the right approach be to invest as much as we can in treating everyone as well as we can, despite what we may get out of it? Of course, as a business that doesn't mean we can provide our services for free, but it does mean that we want to take as much time as we have to on each human interaction. You may ask where the ROI is? The ROI is your brand, the ROI is your customer service, and hopefully someone you helped may one day tell someone else about what you had done for them. No one is an island.

someone you helped may one day tell someone else about what you had done for them

What that looks like is, rather than mailing a $10 Starbucks gift card to someone, you put some thought into lunch, or dinner where you hand that person a sentimental card, potentially with a Starbucks gift card. This may take 4 hours out of your day, but you have won that one person. Mind you, context is important here, I don't mean you should create the perception that you are taking someone on a date, and if that's the perception you would create, then a different approach might be necessary.

Time needs to be invested in people

Time needs to be invested in people, and the time people take from you, may hardly be productive, but if you are lucky, the exogenous ROI of helping one person out can change everything.

What I am trying to say is, for the sake of Productivity, people shouldn't be thrown under the bus, especially if those people are in your company, or are your co-workers. The efficiency and energy of a company will flourish best in a non-toxic environment where ideally, everyone can get along. When the two, people and productivity, are balanced, that is true productivity.

Aaron McKeehan

Founder of Paradigm. Passionate about simplifying business processes so businesses can become more productive, and save time.