The Important Distinction Between Productivity and Production

The distinction between productivity and production

At work, we often confuse production with productivity. Churning out work = a great employee. But does being too beholden to your task list threaten the true efficiency of your team? We would argue that it does. Below we’ll explore some of the most prevalent productivity traps and make suggestions for how to balance getting things done with actually working efficiently.

Quality over quantity

We get it. It’s satisfying to burn through tasks. Asana even shoots unicorns, yeti, narwhal, or phoenixes across the screen when you close a few. However, if the goal of your workday is just to clear your list of assignments, you may be missing the bigger picture — the forest for the trees. Would a bit more time spent on one task have allowed you to improve your product, engage more with clients, or better collaborate with colleagues? 

Quickly checking boxes is especially tempting when you’re feeling overwhelmed by your workload. When tasks stack up, it’s normal to worry about disappointing stakeholders. Sure, you can rush the project and hit the deadline. In theory, everyone’s happy. But rushing a project tends to lead to more work down the line: band-aid fixes tend to become their own problem.

When your task list starts feeling unmanageable or unwieldy, resist the urge to be a hero. Instead, talk to your project manager or other project stakeholders and explain how you need more time to make sure the project isn’t just done, but done right. 

Learning time

When you start a new job, switch teams, or take on a new client, it’s pretty normal to know, well, nothing. Sure, you have a skill set and subject matter knowledge. But you’re suddenly hit with new facts and problems that you’ve never before encountered, or requests so strange you need to double check that they’re written in English. 

In these situations, it’s common for employees to feel pressured to rush in and start tackling problems right away — you don’t want the company to think they’ve made a terrible mistake in hiring you, right? 

Slow down, turbo. Don’t try to jump into a new, unfamiliar situation too quickly. While carving out “learning time” at work might feel unproductive at first, it will save you and your team countless hours, or even days, in the long run. It’s the time you spend doing research, practicing, and training, that leads to improvements and breakthroughs down the line. Those impactful changes will make a far bigger impression on your managers than an uninformed solution and a checkmark in a box. 

Play to your (team’s) strengths

You don’t send a goalie to do forward’s job. So why are you asking your designers to build Google Analytics reports? With a looming deadline, it’s not uncommon to ask our employees to step outside of their area of expertise to help get the work done. But asking someone to ignore their skill set isn’t productive, it’s just the opposite: they’re spending time trying to hack together a report instead of contributing their best work. 

This might seem counterintuitive. We get it: at first, having a team of generalists seems great.

  • Everyone is a well-rounded resource you can tap at any time! 
  • They’re independent and don’t need help all the time! 
  • They churn out work and organize themselves! 

Eventually those employees are going to get bored of trying to do everything. They’ll naturally give more time and attention to the work they enthusiasm for and that’s exactly what you want! Empowering your teammates to do what they’re great at will always garner better results than forcing them to take on more work they’re not well-positioned to handle. 

Resourcing woes

Not getting through all your tasks fast enough? Must be slacking. Can’t turn a new request around in a day? Withholding. Need more information to feel confident about executing on an ask? Persnickety! Resourcing difficulties go both ways: when you’re snowed under you feel annoyed by last-minute asks. When you need something like yesterday, you wish the copywriter would understand that you just need three lines.

The real culprit is not the design team, the engineering team, or the IT guys; it’s badly managed timelines. Work with your project management team to build better boundaries around how long certain tasks take. This will go a long way in accurately representing what you and your team are capable of doing well. And if you’re pumping out great work without sacrificing your projects or the sanity of your team, and you still can’t keep up? Time to hire, baby.

True productivity can’t be measured by the number of tasks completed in a day. Instead, it should be correlated with efficiency and thoughtful problem-solving. It might feel great to deliver, but how many of those check-marks controlled for quality instead of quantity? Asking these questions will slow you down at first, but the better your per-project approach becomes the fewer tasks you’ll see crowding your project management software in the future.

Are tools standing in the way of you being productive? Unito allows you to sync popular project management tools so you can better collaborate with other teams. Try it free!

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