Productivity: how much is enough?

by Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company LLC

“In that first month, this client actually reached and exceeded her goal for results, even though she hadn’t reached all her goals for actions”

How do you assess your own productivity?

Some people follow the lead of their schoolteachers: all answers are either right or wrong, and any performance below 65 percent spells failure. This method works well enough when a child has limited time to learn the material and advancing requires substantial mastery – we can’t go on to calculus until we’ve grasped all of algebra.

Recently I was coaching a private client through my Get Clients Now program, and noticed that she was taking this “schoolteacher” approach. As we worked together to organize her time and projects to effectively market her business, she felt frustrated and overwhelmed when she reached her daily goals only 40 or 60 percent of the time. She hadn’t noticed that only a few weeks earlier she had no goals at all, just the depressing conviction that she wasn’t doing enough. She had been, in effect, reaching zero percent of those goals. Her progress in one short month was excellent.

If this sounds familiar to you, take a moment to notice how the all-or-nothing attitude can undermine your progress.

During the first 20 years of his retirement, my father showered his family and friends with the results of his projects: hand-made furniture, cuckoo clocks, toys, home renovation projects, a boat. As he prepared to exchange the house he had built by hand for an assisted living community, I asked him whether there was anything he still wanted to do but had not yet done. He replied, “Well, you can always think of more things to do in a day than you can get done.”

Outside of school, far less than 100 percent often gives excellent results. In that first month, this client actually reached and exceeded her goal for results, even though she hadn’t reached all her goals for actions.

Of course, there are many related issues worth considering:

  • Should this business owner trim her schedule to make it more manageable?
  • Is she over-committed?
  • Are her goals achievable?
  • Wouldn’t reaching 100 percent be much better?

These are all good questions, and I’ll address them soon. For today, though, I’ve done enough.

Your turn. How do you assess your own productivity? Leave a comment here.

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