QSEU14 Breakout: What is Productivity and Why Are We Tracking It?
June 24, 2014
Today’s post comes to us from Brian Crain. Brian has been testing different productivity methods for over three years. After his great show&tell talk desrcribing how he tracks his own productivity he led a breakout session on the topic. This led to interesting dicussion around how people tracked themselves and what they wish they could track better. You’re invited to read Brian’s description of the session below and then join the discussion on the QS Forum.
Productivity Breakout Session
By Brian Crain
The idea of the productivity breakout session was to discuss three questions that I thought were central to tracking productivity in a systematic way:
- How do you define productivity?
- What metrics represent productivity best?
- How can you use those metrics to track what you actually care about?
These were difficult questions to answer for me and the same turned out to be true for the other participants in the session. It seems, while many people are interested in productivity tracking, few have clearly defined what they mean with the term in the first place. And even when there is a definition, upon closer inspection it is only loosely related to the thing we track.
After the session a participant made the following comment to me, “It’s fascinating to dive into this big unknown.” This was a great summary of our session, but also astonishing in a way. When compared to those new, exciting Quantified Self pursuits be it lifelogging or tracking hormones, productivity tracking seems like a quaint discipline with a long history. Yet, we seem far away from any definite answers.
There was, however, one topic that kept coming up during the discussion: many participants mentioned that, for them, being in a flow state or a state of high cognitive performance was productivity. Strictly speaking, this is nonsensical. Cognitive state might be what makes productivity possible, but surely it is not productivity itself?
Admittedly, since many methods of ‘productivity tracking’ are indirect, focusing on cognitive state might not be so unreasonable. Unfortunately, it seemed that no one had been tracking his cognitive state, so we’ll have to wait for a show&tell to see the promise of this approach. At least, based on my small unscientific sample, tracking flow states might be a great self-tracking project for those hoping to make a big splash at QSEU15.
If someone has ideas about how best to approach a project like that, please get in touch on our forum discussion!
For those who are interested in reading more about the topic, here are some books and resources mentioned during the session:
- The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo
- The ONE Thing by Gary Keller
- Tim Ferriss Show with Josh Waitzkin
- The Art Of Learning by Josh Waitzkin
- The Rise of the Superman by Steven Kotler
- Kanban Flow
If you’re interested in discussing productivity tracking we invite you to continue the conversation on the QS Forum.