April 17, 2017

Productivity Metric

How did last week go?

Every Sunday I have a scheduled ritual where I reflect on last week, review my calendar, put together a game plan for the week, and write in my diary or post a blog post. This has worked fairly well for years, but one of the areas that i’ve treated pretty loosely is measuring how well my last week went.

Instead of measuring my completion rate, I typically ponder this question without really measuring at all. This pondering happens while walking my dog or sometimes while i’m in the shower. The question had became very feel-based in that I really was gauging how I felt about my productivity last week. A bad week would make the next week more stressful even though it was a self-inflicting pressure. And yet, I didn’t truly have a sense of how well the past week had actually went. It could have been good, but it felt bad in my head. Instead of this feel-based answer to this question, it felt necessary to track how well I was really doing or not.

So yesterday I spent time actually reviewing the tasks I wanted to get done for the past 3 months (~12 weeks) and started to track my completion rate. It was semi-depressing and not as bad as I had thought. What I learned is that I rarely complete extracurricular or personal tasks I set out for myself, but I do a fairly good job of staying on top of professional tasks (i.e., work related action items). However, things like fixing the leaky pipe under our kitchen sink or organizing our garage have been neglected even though they have been put on the todo list since forever. They are things that need done, but I generally neglect anything that can’t be done on my computer. Not cool.

After realizing that I was slacking in personal and extracurricular tasks, I wanted to track my completion rate and make a conscious effort to increase it over time.

A Better Way to Measure

There’s a quote I read awhile back that stuck with me and it basically said that the difference between being busy and productive is completing things. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t completed anything in the personal and extracurricular department. The good (and maybe bad) news is my completion rate for the past 3 months is hovering at roughly 81%. I don’t know how good or bad that is, but I do know I can do better especially on personal (22%) and extracurricular stuff (8%).

My rules are simple:

  • Each week, I’ll have minimum 3 tasks to complete each day one for each facet of my life – professional, personal, and extracurricular. Excluding Sunday, this gives me 6 days to complete a min and max of 18 tasks.

  • Every day, I’ll prioritize those three over anything else until they’re complete. If completed, I’ll begin working on other tasks for the week to get ahead.

  • Every Sunday, I’ll do the math and determine my my completion rate ( num of completed tasks divided by num of attempted tasks) and then reflect on ways I can improve or continue the same productivity the following week.

  • The goal for each week is a 95% completion rate. The occasional 5% will be things that have external dependencies and I’ll be conscious of that when planning what I plan to complete for the week.

  • The other goal is to get better at breaking down tasks into bite size work and going deep on them (if applicable) in a short amount of time. For example, there could be tasks for work that can be accomplished in a day with deep focus vs spreading over a couple days.

How I feel emotionally after a productive week is an amazing feeling, and I’d like to feel that every week. It not only makes me feel good, but energizes me for next week and allows me to move the needle on all aspects of life. This completion rate setup should at least highlight how I’m doing and make my reflect sessions strategic.