Productive: “Achieving or producing a significant amount of result.”
Enough: “As much or as many as required.”
As a time management coach, I’m keenly aware that you could answer the question “Am I productive enough?” using a variety of methods. I’m also familiar with the fact that individuals fall on a productivity spectrum. One person’s maximum productivity for a certain role in a particular environment could look vastly different from another person’s. These variations result from a combination of intrinsic ability, experience level, overall capacity, and desire.
For the purposes of this discussion, I’m narrowing the definition of “productive enough” to whether you are meeting the requirements of your job when operating at your personal peak performance. This reasoning process is outlined in the flowchart below, and we’ll walk through it step-by-step by answering a series of questions. At the end of this you should have a clearer sense of whether you can wrap up for the day knowing you were productive enough or whether you have room for improvement.
Question 1: Am I meeting expectations?
If “enough” is defined as “as much or as many as required,” then the initial essential question is whether you meet the requirements of your job. For people who have a well-defined job scope, answering this question may be easy: Did you meet the project milestones? Did you reply to customers within the specified times? Did you hit your sales targets? If you have a less clear job scope, this question may be a little harder to answer, but the answer should be evident by whether your manager has noted you have areas that need improvement.
If the answer is yes in regard to your key job responsibilities, then you’re productive enough. You could do more, but you don’t have to do more to meet expectations. If the answer is no, proceed to question two.
Question 2: Are these expectations my own, and not required by others?
Having high expectations of yourself can be a positive quality. But if you find yourself getting extremely stressed or working longer hours than you would prefer in order to meet expectations that aren’t significant to anyone else, your positive quality may have turned negative.
In these situations, you need to seriously ask yourself: Are these expectations my own, and not required — or potentially even noticed — by others? If the answer is yes, most likely you are productive enough. Instead of beating yourself up about what you’re not doing, it’s time to lower your expectations of yourself to a manageable level, aligned with everyone else’s. If the answer is no, if other people really do care about these expectations, then proceed to the next question.
Question 3: Am I owning my time management and using productivity resources?
Once you’ve clarified that you’re not meeting expectations that truly are important to fulfilling your job function, you need to evaluate whether you are owning your time management and using productivity resources.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into the two parts of this question.
Part one is: “Am I owning my time management”? From my perspective as a time management coach, this is asking whether you are proactive in how you allocate your time and effort. That includes clarifying priorities, planning your time, setting boundaries, and being focused when you are working. (Hint: If you obsessively check email, social media, or your phone and have little to no focused work time, you’re probably not meeting expectations in this area.) This is the strategic portion of your relationship with time.
Part two is: “Am I using productivity resources?” From my perspective, this entails utilizing the tools available to help you achieve efficiency. That could include having a written to-do list instead of keeping everything in your head, using tools like SaneBox or other email filtering systems, delegating more, or learning how to use your existing tools more efficiently. This is the tactical portion of your time management.
If you can confidently answer yes to both of the above, then within your current skill set, I would say you’re likely productive enough — you are doing the best you can within the circumstances. If you answer no to one or more of the above, then you’re likely not productive enough, meaning you are not producing the most you can within the circumstances.
How to Become Productive Enough
If you come to the end of the flowchart and recognize that you likely aren’t productive enough, then it’s time to evaluate your results and determine next steps.
One potential next step involves negotiating expectations. If you feel that you are owning your time management and using your productivity resources (so in a personal sense you’re productive enough), but you still worry you’re not meeting expectations, have a discussion with your manager. Lay out your different projects and deadlines as well as your work estimates and time capacity. Then see if you can get adjustments to your responsibilities. If your manager wants to consider a simple system for overall resource planning, tools such as float.com can help.
Another potential next step involves honing your time-management skills. If you’re not planning, prioritizing, and focusing at certain times throughout the day, and your job requires any type of proactive work, I’m 98.2% positive you’re leaving productivity on the table. It’s your responsibility to get the help you need to improve these skills.
The same is true for productivity resources. If you’re not utilizing any tools — even paper ones — that can help you stay organized, you’re very likely missing out and wasting time. I would work on improving in these areas before asking for significant adjustments to expectations.
If you’ve been wondering whether you’re productive enough, this is one way to answer that question from a time management point of view. I hope the answer frees you to breathe a little easier or to get motivated to do what you can to improve your situation.
Date: 26th July, 2018