Productivity, the Ben Franklin way

The time period productiveness has many definitions. The Oxford English Dictionary, citing examples from the 1600s, equates the time period with being “artistic” and “generative.” In economics, productiveness is related to labor, as a measurement of the output of products and providers in opposition to the human hours labored to make or ship them. Extra not too long ago, although, productiveness has turn into synonymous with lengthy hours, being “all the time on” for purchasers and coworkers, and an general tradition of busyness.

This final definition is one which organizations must establish inside their cultures proper now and handle instantly. Analysis from McKinsey & Co. and finds that 42% of ladies and 35% of males surveyed say they’re persistently burned out at work, up from 32% and 28%, respectively, a 12 months in the past. And a whole lot of what has made work so fulfilling—working facet by facet with colleagues and celebrating the completion of initiatives—scarcely exists anymore. Colleagues “iterate” on concepts and depart notes for one another in paperwork or on Slack as a substitute of collaborating in actual time.

It’s time to revive our definition of productiveness to its 1600s’ roots. The ten achieved people profiled on this 12 months’s exploration of the Secrets and techniques of the Most Productive Individuals are capable of accomplish necessary and significant issues partially as a result of they step away from their computer systems and carve out time to be artistic and generative.


Analysis engineer Grant Van Horn, certainly one of the creators of the Merlin Chicken ID app, says he does a few of his greatest problem-solving by heading out for a fast bike journey. Actor Riz Ahmed spends mornings on his inventive pursuits—writing music or pages for a screenplay—earlier than turning to conferences and requires his manufacturing firm. These people are lucky to have the flexibility of their work schedules; leaders ought to attempt to assist their groups be “extra intentional” in the way they work, as writer and guide Juliet Funt writes in her essay about how productiveness wants to alter.

For inspiration, we’d flip to certainly one of America’s authentic productiveness gurus, Benjamin Franklin. Franklin’s rigorous method to scheduling his day has been extensively emulated (take a look at contributor Stephanie Vozza’s piece “What Occurred After I Adopted Ben Franklin’s Schedule for a Month”). It has additionally been derided for its emphasis on each day duties. However Franklin was nothing if not intentional. He started every morning by asking himself, “What good shall I do that day?” If we reorient our notion of productiveness round questions like this, then our work can be extra satisfying, and extra rewarding, irrespective of the place we’re working from.