The True Measure of Productivity

On my journey to become more productive, one thing that became very clear to me is that I have lots of ideas and interests, and this, although beneficial in some sense, brings some challenges too, in particular as it relates to becoming more productive.

One of these challenges is the lack of focus. When you have many ideas and interests—like me—it’s easy to lose focus and become scattered—at least, that’s my experience. You jump from one thing to the next like a jack of all trades and a master of none. Of course, there are ways to mitigate this, and I had to learn these along the way.

Perhaps a bigger hindrance to your productivity than being scattered—and it is related to scatteredness—is that you start many things but finish very few.

If you were to find my old computers and go through my hard drives, you’d find many projects that, for lack of care, ended up in the project cemetery.

This is a big issue because, in the end, the true measure of productivity isn’t as much based on the number of projects you start, but on the number you finish. As in baseball, it’s the number of projects you drive home that count.

Who is more productive? The person who starts 10 projects per week and finishes 1 or the person who starts 2 projects per week and finishes the 2. I say the latter.

If you want to increase your productivity, you must increase the number of projects you actually finish.

Therein lies the real challenge for many. They start but don’t finish.

The purpose of starting a journey is to finish it. When you start, strive to finish. You may not finish everything, but increasing the number of projects you drive home will increase your productivity.

Here are a few tips to help you finish the projects you start.

1. Set a Deadline

An effective deadline propels you forward. When you know you have an established time frame to get something done, it drives you to get it done.

Not having a deadline means that the project will get done “whenever”. Well, “whenever” is equivalent to “When? Never!” It doesn’t get done. Set a deadline; there’s life in deadlines.

2. Get an Accountability Partner

Accountability is a great motivator. When you know that someone will hold you accountable for a task, an activity, a behavior, a decision, a commitment, a project, or what have you, you’re motivated to follow through.

A good accountability partner won’t let you off the hook when you’re tempted to slack off or to fall for distractions.

3. Review your Target Regularly

Finishing a project has a lot to do with making sure it stays in sight. This sounds obvious. But in an era when so many things are competing for your attention, you must be intentional about reviewing your target regularly. If you don’t, there’s a good chance the project will fall into oblivion without even you noticing. By the time you notice, you’ve lost the drive for it and your plate is full of other projects.

4. Measure Your Progress Regularly

Measuring your progress is another way to ensure you don’t lose track of your project. More specifically, it helps you make sure it’s progressing as it should. And if it’s not, you can course-correct before you’re completely off track and are tempted to abandon ship.

Also, knowing that you’ll be measuring your progress regularly can be an incentive to take steps forward, like knowing that you’ll step on the scale regularly is a great incentive to work hard to lose weight.

5. Do Something Daily that Moves You Closer to the Finish Line

When it comes to finishing what you start, consistency is paramount. If you take a few steps forward every day, you’ll eventually get to your destination (even if you pass your deadline).

Once you’ve set a goal, the key to reaching it is to do something daily that moves you closer the finish line.

You want to increase your productivity. Finish what you start.