What is Productivity anyway?

We talk a lot about productivity and being a “productivity hacker” or “productivity guru”. As a culture, we spend a lot of time working to increase our productivity and always selling the next best thing to get you there. What exactly is productivity though?


I feel the most common answer to that is simply that you “get more work done”. I definitely aspire to this idea of being a super human. Someone who wakes up early, exercises first thing in the morning, eats breakfast, meditates, writes, and then starts working all day, getting everything done in one pass, then going home, sleeping by 10 or 11, and starting all over again.

That’s definitely a lot of what I read and hear, at least. We even write about a lot of those same things— tips to be more productive, how to manage your time, and ‘productivity hacks’ to get more done in a shorter amount of time.

What if productivity isn’t all of those things? What if productivity is something way deeper and emotional, and not just an linear measure of time or tasks completed?

There are days where I have done nothing “productive” — reading, watching movies, writing, playing video games with a friend, but the end result was having a killer idea. It freed my brain up to be more creative, and spark an idea that I could follow up on. It’s that “shower moment” we’re all very familiar with. You walk away from a problem or issue only to have an aha moment at the most random moment. I would argue that time spent like this is actually very productive.

On the flip side, there are days where I appear super productive, but I wouldn’t call them productive days. I complete a lot of work, moving my tasks in Trello from “todo” to “in progress” to “done”. But at the end of the day, I still don’t feel all that productive. The tasks simply weren’t as engaging or maybe I didn’t really need to do them that day and instead should have worked on something else.

These issues cloud productivity as a measurable thing. As a result, it’s difficult to say that any one piece of software or any tip or trick will suddenly unlock your productivity and turn you into that super human that you aspire to be. What really matters is finding out what works for you. Explore the different topics, play around with what works, and don’t be afraid to buck all the trends and suggestions and do your own thing too.