How do you measure white collar business productivity?

I received an email from a reader today asking what *is* productivity.  While that’s a perfectly legitimate question, I thought I’d post a definition, just in case others wanted a understanding of how to measure productivity.  Some people just *know* intuitively whether they’ve had a productive day and don’t need to measure it.  And while there are different methods and views on productivity measurement (white collar, manufacturing, farm, economic, etc.), I use the following as my working definition of white collar business productivity (my niche):

The efficiency with which goods and services are produced,

as measured by the value of the output produced (result)

per person,

per hour,

divided by the unit of inputs used to produce it (hours).

Or—simply— a measurement of output per hours worked.

For example, if two people completed the same task (output), and one person took two hours and the second person took four hours, the first person would be more productive than the second. Indeed, one person could work an eight-hour day, and the second person could work a twelve-hour day, and the first person could be more productive than the second.  Productivity doesn’t measure how many hours we work; it measures what we were able to create in that time.  If you’re surfing the Internet all day, you won’t be productive, regardless of how many hours you work.

How do YOU measure your productivity, or if not measured, how do you just KNOW when you’ve had a productive day?



  1. Isn’t the problem related to how (and when) we evaluate the quality / value of white collar output? Efficiency is only relevant to the extent that quality is also satisfied. I might produce a 100 things a day, (e.g. emails) but if 90 of them end up in the scrap bin, then am I really doing a good job? As we seem to find with many businesses, it could be weeks, months, or years before the ‘quality’ of some white collar output can be truly be assessed?