Productivity: A Matter of Quantity or Quality?

How do you know that an apple tree is productive? Well, you examine the apples it produces. Simple.

If the apple tree produces 10 apples a year, would you say it’s productive? I bet you wouldn’t. Why not? Well, even without being a pomologist, you know that a normal apple tree can produce way more than 10 apples per year. Therefore, a production of 10 apples per year disqualifies the apple tree from meriting the “productive” stamp. The issue here is quantity:  not enough quantity.

What if that tree was producing thousands of apples per year, but those apples were rotten and basically inedible? You might be tempted to say that the tree is productive, but in the end, you would have to conclude that the tree isn’t productive because its production is unusable, as in worthless. The issue here isn’t with the quantity but with the quality of the production.

To be productive not only does the apple tree need to produce a lot of apples, but also these apples need to be good (edible): a productive apple tree is an apple tree that produces a lot of good apples.

Often, when we say we want to be more productive, what we mean is: we want to produce more apples (we want to get more done). But, what if our production is useless? What is the point of producing more junk?

Productivity isn’t about getting more done; it’s about getting more of the right things done in the right way. Productivity is measured by results. It’s the examination of end results (the output) that indicates that you’re being productive.

Productivity is measured by results. It’s the examination of end results (the output) that indicates that you’re being productive.

As a side note, this implies that a lot of activity doesn’t necessarily translate into productivity. If your “activity” produces no result (no output), there’s nothing to measure (output = 0): you are not being productive.

To increase your productivity, you must consider both the quantity of your output and the quality of that output. Your productivity is measured by the quantity of fruits you produce and the quality of the fruits produced. You don’t want to simply do more work, you want to produce more “great” work.

Here’s the challenge: quantity and quality are relative. They depend on what you produce. Writing (producing) two good books a year is extremely productive. Gosh, writing one good book in a year is productive… However, writing (producing) two blog posts a year is not that productive, even if the posts are top notch.

I’ve worked with people who were high on the quantity index and low on the quality index. They were sloppy.

I’ve worked with people who were low on the quantity index and high on the quality index. They were slow.

I’ve worked with people who were low on the quantity index and low on the quality index. They were slow and sloppy.

I’ve worked with people who were high on the quantity index and high on the quality index. They were exceptional.

Produce your best work, and produce lots of it. That’s what your world (i.e. clients, boss, family, friends, etc.) needs from you.