Productivity vs Efficiency: How to Analyze the Performance of Anything

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Productivity vs efficiency; which do you think is more important?

A colleague asked me this the other day and I had to catch myself, because my initial response was:

Aren’t they the same thing?

That’s the problem – the words have become so overused and confused that they are almost taken to mean the exact same thing in casual conversation. There are, however, key differences between the two that you should know in order to correctly analyze the performance of something.

Simply put, productivity measures output over time whereas efficiency measures input versus output. Together they can tell you how quickly something is completed, the resources it takes to get there, and (through analysis) whether the whole thing is worth your investment.

There are also dangers associated with these metrics. For example, I tried to spend an hour every night working on one of many projects. Monday was playing guitar, Tuesday was physical drawing, Wednesday game development, Thursday digital drawing, Friday playing piano, and the weekend dealer’s choice.

Not only did I give up within a week and a half, but I couldn’t muster the motivation to do any work on any of my projects for weeks following. It doesn’t matter if you’re using the best productivity apps around; when you’re using productivity and efficiency as your goal, rather than the method to reach it, something will inevitably break underneath you.

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So, in this post I’ll go through:

  • What productivity is
  • The pros and cons of productivity as a metric
  • What efficiency is
  • The pros and cons of efficiency as a metric
  • When to use each of them
  • The problems and dangers of both

It’s time to analyze performance and improve your workflows without all the meaningless jargon. Let’s get started.

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