June 13


Effectiveness Versus Productivity. What’s The Difference?

With the pandemic and long-awaited return to normalcy, much focus has been placed on productivity. In my work with clients, I focus on effectiveness instead. Many people confuse productivity with effectiveness, and with this blog post, I’ll clarify the difference between the two.

The History of Productivity

The concept of productivity dates back to the early 1700s when Abraham Darby invented the coke-smelting process. Since then, productivity has been associated with efficiency and output. The to-do list dates back to Benjamin Franklin in 1791, and in 1794, Whitney’s cotton gin revolutionized the cotton industry. Early in the 1900s, Ford’s assembly line increased efficiency, and in 1940, the first McDonald’s restaurant introduced fast food. 1989 the world wide web was invented, and in 2007, the first iPhone was launched. All these innovations have made it easier for us to be productive.

Productivity Today as a Problem

According to Oxford, productivity is “the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the output rate per unit of input.” According to a recent article in Fast Company, productivity today is measured by methods that are decades old. This has resulted in a focus on quantity rather than quality and, unfortunately, the creation of productivity monitoring digital tools that have had the opposite effect from what they hoped to solve. 

Productivity is not a bad thing in itself. In fact, in many cases, it is essential to achieve success. However, productivity can lead to burnout, stress, and a lack of work satisfaction when it becomes the only focus. The pressure to be productive can also make people feel they are not doing enough, leading to anxiety and a sense of inadequacy.

Enter Effectiveness

Effectiveness is defined as the degree to which something is successful in producing a desired result. In my Total Effectiveness training, I define effectiveness as doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason. My effectiveness training focuses on the whole person, not just their work role. It covers all responsibilities, physical and mental health, and is more important than being productive. Unlike productivity, effectiveness is not about doing more in less time. It is about doing the right things that lead to success.

Effectiveness is about setting priorities and focusing on your most critical roles. It is about being intentional in our actions and ensuring we progress toward our goals. It is about being mindful of our physical and mental health and caring for ourselves to perform at our best.

When we focus on effectiveness, we are more likely to achieve success in the long term. We are not just trying to get things done quickly; we are trying to do the right things to achieve our desired outcome. We are also more likely to enjoy our work and feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Next Up?

Productivity and effectiveness are two different concepts. While productivity is about doing more in less time, effectiveness is doing the right things that lead to success. In today’s world, productivity tools have made it easier for us to be productive, but they’ve also led to a focus on quantity over quality. If you want to become effective, setting priorities and focusing on the most important tasks is essential. Being intentional and ensuring you are moving towards your goals is also important. Finally, take care of your physical and mental health to perform at your best.

Remember, productivity is not bad, but it is not the only thing that matters. To achieve success and fulfillment in work and life, focus on effectiveness. Reach out if you’d like to chat more about effectiveness training.

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Todd Allan Founder


effectiveness, organizing, Productivity

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