Why You Shouldn't Aim To Feel Productive?

Feeling productive and being productive are different things. Learn the difference.

I always struggle with managing the feeling of being productive. I did a couple of tasks today, but I often still feel like I didn't do much. That I wasted a day. I'm sure a lot of people can relate to.

From 7 Rules for Staying Productive Long-Term by Scott H. Young

Rule #4 – A good productivity system shouldn’t “feel” productive. #

Okay, this one requires some explanation. In short, the problem with aiming to “feel” productive rather than “being” productive is twofold:

Feelings are defined by relative contrast, not absolute measurement. You feel productive when you’re getting more work done than normal. But if you’re successful with a productivity habit, what’s “normal” should shift. Relying on feeling productive then creates an inescapable treadmill where if you’re not constantly doing better than what feels normal, you feel like a failure.
Feeling of productivity is often tied to a feeling of exertion. This leads to expending a lot of effort in the beginning with a new system, getting a lot done, and then being disappointed when you can’t sustain that.

A good productivity system should, when working properly, feel like nothing at all. It should just be an invisible part of your routine. If it is conspicuous, it’s probably not a habit yet, or it’s creating friction with parts of your life in ways that it shouldn’t.

If you don’t feel more productive, how do you judge your productivity? The obvious answer is that you should get more work done with the system than without it. But even this can be misleading because in the short-term it’s always possible to just work really hard and burn yourself out.

The better, long-term answer for evaluating your system ought to be that when you look back at the last quarter, year or decade with the system, you’ve been making a lot of meaningful accomplishments. If this is happening, then how the system feels on a weekly or daily level is totally irrelevant.

I find this rule inspiring.

Now I realized that I'm lacking an independent way of tracking my productivity.

For some time I've tried the definition of productivity from How to measure your productivity by Chris Bailey.

Productivity is all about accomplishing what we intend to—that’s why we should measure our productivity against our intentions.

It would be great if consistently I didn't overestimate what I can do in a day. Even when I hit the quota I'm still expecting more from myself. So I started thinking. What if instead of the internal feeling of accomplishment I try to find some other way of measuring my productivity?

How to measure my productivity objectively?

I have one idea about measuring my programming and blogging work inspired by a post Write Code Every Day by John Resig. Because most of my work being hosted on Github I can look at the contribution chart and see the progress I'm making. In my case, it's not about writing every day regardless of the context of the rest of my life. I'm sure I will miss some days. What it's about is treating it as an objective way of measuring my productivity. I want to look back on the day and say that I was productive as I managed to add something new, code, or blog post content. It doesn't matter what.

Are there any other ways of objectively measuring productivity?
The question reminds me of

Please let me know if you have any other ideas for external ways of measuring productivity?

Share on Hacker News
Share on LinkedIn

← Home

Want to learn more?

Sign up to get a digest of my articles and interesting links via email every month.

* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Krzysztof Kula:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of my emails.

I use Mailchimp as a marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.