QuickTip: Activity v. Productivity = Thirsty v. Hungry

My inbound marketing coach, Mike Redbord, at HubSpot recently observed that I was an “average” blogger. The trouble is that he’s right!  I post a new blog article about every seven to ten days and most of them are somewhat long…ish, averaging in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 1,200 words each.  Who’s got that much time anymore?

Mike’s okay with my blogging since we’re going to focus our work more on the static content pages of my web site – with the view of increasing the number of people contacting me to learn more about my non-blogging services.  That is, the ones I get paid for!  But his words haunted me all weekend and it slowly dawned on me that his message to me and my message to my clients are very similar – small, incremental change aggregates into large benefit. 

With that in mind, here’s a short snippet of thought to consider.

Decrease Activity and Increase Productivity

Last week I wrote about how executive time management is like losing weight.  The theme was that to achieve results we had to make a decision to change, maintain integrity in the process (specifically as it related to the data we recorded about the change), and exercise patience to see the fruits of our labor.  This week, I’m going to zoom in on the difference between activity and productivity and how it’s similar to the confusion between thirst and hunger.  (Yes, I’m extending the dieting metaphor even further!)

First, let’s define our terms.  Activity is reflected in the act of motion – moving about – often with little to no result.  Conversely, productivity is the act of movement; it’s advancement of the objective; it’s getting things done.  One of my favorite lines is, “You have activity when there’s a lot going on, but nothing getting done.”  And my favorite example of this is the new message alert that draws your attention away from the e-mail you are currently working on (stopping production) to check the subject line of the new e-mail to determine whether it’s something you need to attend to (1% of the time) or whether it’s something you can disregard (99% of the time) before turning back to the e-mail you were just composing. 

This glancing down, reading, looking back up, finding your place, and resuming where you left off takes about four seconds.  Assuming you only get 100 e-mails per day, that’s 400 seconds of activity with no corresponding productivity.  There was a lot going on, but nothing getting done.  (Note, 400 seconds is about 6.5 minutes per day which is about 24 hours per year of wheel spinning!)

The solution?  Turn off the message alert and periodically (on your schedule – even regularly) check your e-mail to see what’s come in recently.  This one small change will drive a much higher level of focus for you which you’ll maintain for longer periods throughout the day.  Since productivity is about focus, the net result is more done in less time. 

But how does that relate to losing weight?  I’m sure you’re sitting on the edge of your chair…

Water: It’s What a Body Needs

Fundamentally, your body doesn’t really know the difference between when you’re hungry versus when you’re thirsty.  Thus, given the highly mobile, always-on-the-run lifestyles that we modern folk tend to lead, we tend to stuff food into our mouths whenever we feel that familiar “hunger” pang.  If you really want to lose weight and get rid of the pangs, try drinking water first before shoving another 300 calories of food down the gullet.  Doing so just might solve the immediate sense of hunger, help you lose weight, and provide you all the other medicinal benefits that water does for the body.

And if the water trick doesn’t work, munch on some sugar-free gum first before lobbing that stale donut into the ole pie hole.  Again, the burst of flavor and the act of chewing will trick your brain into things it’s getting its needs met…least for a short while. 

For the simpler-is-better crowd (like me), you’ll note that both water and gum are readily available everywhere and they’re both highly portable.  This partially solves the traveler’s dilemma of eating eat healthy while on the road.

Small, Simple Changes Produce Results

As I strive mightily to meet Mike’s recommendations, as least with respect to length if not frequency, I leave you to ponder whether you will turn off your new message alerts and whether you will substitute water or gum for donuts.  All I know is that the starting line is always at the beginning.

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