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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Kingsford

Activity vs. Productivity: Understanding the Difference to Enhance Your Performance

In today's fast-paced world, the concepts of activity and productivity are often used interchangeably. However, a closer look reveals that they represent distinct ideas with significant implications for professionals, leaders, and teams striving for excellence. Understanding the differences between activity and productivity can transform how we approach our daily tasks, ultimately leading to more meaningful achievements and success.


Let's start off by defining the terms.


Activity refers to any action or set of actions undertaken by an individual or group. It encompasses everything we do, from the moment we start our day to when we call it a night. Activity, in its essence, is about being busy. It's the meetings we attend, the emails we send, the calls we make - the hustle and bustle of our lives.


Productivity is about the outcome of these activities. It's not just about doing things, but about doing the right things that lead to meaningful results. Productivity measures the efficiency and effectiveness of the activities we engage in, focusing on the value and impact of our actions rather than the volume.


A little bit more?


Activity: The Illusion of Busyness

In the realm of executive leadership, there's a common pitfall of equating busyness with productivity. An executive might spend 12 hours at the office filled with back-to-back meetings, believing this demonstrates their dedication and hard work. However, if those meetings don't contribute to the team's goals or lead to actionable outcomes, they're merely activities, not productive efforts.


Productivity: The Essence of Impact

Productivity, in contrast, is about making strategic choices. It involves prioritising tasks that align with key objectives and delegating or eliminating those that don't. For a team, this might mean focusing on developing core competencies within the team that drive towards achieving the organisation's vision, rather than getting caught up in tasks that, while time-consuming, offer little return on investment.

Here are some strategies for enhancing productivity over activity:


  • Goal Alignment: Ensure that every task or activity undertaken is aligned with your goals. This alignment guarantees that efforts are not just busywork and are contributing to desired successful outcomes.


  • Prioritisation: Use tools like the Eisenhower Matrix to differentiate between urgent and important tasks. This helps to focus on activities that are not just pressing, but that also contribute significantly towards objectives.


  • Delegation: Understand the strengths of your team and delegate tasks accordingly (that doesn't just mean downwards, we can also delegate sideways or even upwards, it's about getting the right person doing the right job). This not only increases efficiency but also empowers team members by entrusting them with responsibilities that play to their strengths.


  • Measurement and Feedback: Establish clear metrics to measure productivity and provide regular feedback. This approach helps in identifying areas for improvement and the ability to adjust strategies as necessary. In a team environment, this is essential for keeping alignment and accountability.


  • Reflection and Adjustment: Encourage regular reflection on the activities undertaken and their outcomes. This helps in identifying patterns of unproductive behaviour and allows the making of necessary adjustments.

So, to summarise:

While activity and productivity might seem similar at first glance, their distinction is crucial for those aiming to achieve excellence. Moving beyond the illusion of busyness towards a focus on impactful outcomes requires a strategic approach to work. By understanding the difference between activity and productivity, leaders can guide their teams to greater successes, ensuring that every effort made is not just busywork but a step towards achieving their goals.



Thanks for reading.


Please share and comment below, and do let me know how I can help.


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