The Ultimate Guide to Measuring Productivity

How productive are you? Learn how productivity is measured, personally and in the workplace.
Lisanne Fellinger

What is Productivity?

Productivity can be defined as the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input. It’s how efficiently and consistently you can complete tasks. In the classical industrial economy from back in the day, someone’s productivity level was easy to measure. You could simply count sick days and amount of tasks completed per time unit. However, in the current knowledge economy where people in many occupations mostly perform cognitive tasks, productivity is much harder to measure.

Not every task requires the same amount of time investment or mental capacity, so counting completed tasks alone will not give you a realistic productivity rating. A lot of other factors are at play as well, like energy levels, motivation, concentration, general wellbeing, and these are much harder (if not impossible) to score objectively. Some of these factors themselves depend on other physical, emotional and mental factors, like overall mental health, stress levels and amount of sleep, to name a few.

What measuring tools are available?

A lot of research has been done into establishing reliable productivity scoring tools, as they are self-scoring tools. By combining them we can get to a very accurate overall productivity score.

For example, the Health & Work Questionnaire (HWQ) measures, among others, general satisfaction about different areas in life, how you rate your interactions with people and how efficient you felt at work.

The Lam Employment Absence & Productivity Scale (LEAPS) measures the most common productivity problems experienced by patients with depression, like energy levels, motivation, quality of work and anxiety.

The Endicott Work Productivity Scale measures behaviors and subjective feelings or attitudes that are likely to reduce productivity and efficiency in work activities.

The Flourishing Scale measures self-perceived success in important life areas, such as relationships, self-esteem, purpose, and optimism.

Since all of the tests are based on self-scoring, the outcome will always remain subjective. But if we combine as many of these scores together as possible, we can get a quite accurate picture of someone’s productivity. Especially if we measure repeatedly over time.

Combining the scores is not a straightforward task though, as each tool measures different factors related to productivity and they use different scales. Apart from that, some tools just have a few questions and some are much more extensive, so the weight of each score should be taken into account as well.

What is personal productivity?

The productivity we have been talking about so far is all related to work. But that’s not the only type of productivity that matters. There’s also personal productivity, how effective we are in accomplishing life goals. As you can imagine, this might differ from work related productivity. If you think about it, sometimes there are tasks you need to complete for your job as an employee that you just can’t seem to make progress on. On the other hand, if you could work on your passion project during that same time period you’d probably be much more productive.

Personal productivity is much more about reaching certain goals than it is about completing as many tasks as possible. Chris from ​​ has an interesting take on how we can measure personal productivity. To summarize, productivity should be measured in terms of how much Future You would benefit from what you are doing today. In practice this means that just checking off to-do’s from a list is not that. It’s not about staying busy, it’s about productivity, moving forward in life. To quote Chris: “Future You wants you to deliver well-being. And that’s why the best way to measure personal productivity is to ask ourselves how much what we do will matter to our future selves.”

How do we calculate productivity at Recess?

At Recess we wanted to create the most accurate productivity tracker possible, because we are using this for our flow session recommendation AI. As said before, the most accurate scores will result from completing as many of the tests as possible but obviously we can’t have our users complete 3 hours of tests each time they open the app.

Luckily, we’ve found a great way to give our users the most accurate recommendations about which flow-session would be the most helpful for their current situation and the things they want to accomplish. The recommendations are so specific that they can differ between days and even between time of day.

We calculate the productivity score of our users based on a number of factors: the intentions they’ve set and completed for the day, how capable they feel about accomplishing their intentions, how happy they think their future self is with what they accomplished and how they feel after completing a flow-session.

Combining this information will give us great insight into which flow-session will be beneficial right now so that Recess can be your productivity coach and support your personal development and brain.

Want to learn how Recess can boost your productivity?
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