The dark side of productivity

Pavel Aramyan
December 2, 2015

One of the most important metrics to measure your work, or your team’s work, or anybody’s work really, is to see how productive the person is. I mean, if you get a lot of things done in one day and possibly even go beyond and do the stuff meant for the next day and so on, that’s pretty good right? Well, I would argue with that.

Productivity is good for completing tasks, but it’s not necessarily a success metric. You may finish all your tasks sooner than expected, or have your team finish a project well before the deadline and jump straight to the other one, without any time wasted on relaxation, supporting human relationships or taking a look at your surroundings, but is it really what matters most?

The great feeling you get when you have a productive day is so nice, you want to extend it further, each time adding more tasks, doing more work, getting more done. Do you see where this goes? You become addicted, you want MORE. The dark side is calling to you, and each time you respond it takes you deeper and deeper, turning you into a machine that works 24/7.

This sounds scary. You shouldn’t give in to it. Take a look at this from another perspective: yes, you are getting more tasks done, but is it really helping you progress? Is it really better for your project? If your team is doing the same, then do you really want to work in a mechanised environment?

Losing the human factor

If you go down this route, you and your team risk losing the human factor. It’s composed of the little chats during coffee breaks, a few words exchanged during the workday, funny stories during lunch breaks, anything of this sort. At first glance, this is a time killer and interrupts the work that would have been finished sooner otherwise, but this is what binds us together as human beings.

The small talks, funny stories and jokes tighten the invisible bonds inside the team, and this is a crucial success metric. People are more productive when they are feeling happy and comfortable working as a team towards something common. It’s not only about getting tasks done, it’s our everyday life, and it shouldn’t consist solely of tasks and responsibilities.

Ignoring ongoing tasks

If you measure productivity by the number of tasks you complete, you will start noticing how you seem to skip tasks that don’t have a specific deadline like answering emails, or blog comments. Those tasks take very little time and are equally important, but just because you can’t put a checkmark under them, they don’t seem as important.

This may not affect you in particular, but in terms of project/work success, it can turn into a huge blow. Remember that these kind of things are twice as hard and costly to set right, than do everything correctly from the beginning.

Taking on more than you can handle

The tricky, addictive feeling of satisfaction from getting stuff done pushes you to take on more stuff on your shoulders, more than you can handle sometimes. But since you took responsibility, you don’t feel the exhaustion and stress building up behind all of this until it’s almost too late.

Getting your body stressed every day can hurt in the long run and leave you completely empty. Overdoing might be good for short term goals, but it might backfire and it will be pretty hard to recover from it.

Feel the difference

There is difference between being productive and sitting in front of your laptop for the whole day, tricking yourself to be doing something, but not really. Productivity can be achieved in shorter bursts during the day, while taking breaks, socialising, keeping intact with friends and family—in other words staying HUMAN.

Telling yourself that you need to work more, achieve more, earn more, more, more, more is going to eventually turn back at you at some point. The deeper you get into this darkness, the harder it will be to return to the light. You need to find the right balance and stick to that, and the quicker you make this happen, the better.

Author avatar
Pavel Aramyan
Pavel is a doctor who happens to have an MBA degree and a strong passion for business writing. As a part of the Easy Projects team, Pavel often shares his project management expertise on its blog.
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