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Latest insights and trends in Personal Analytics, Operational Intelligence, and Workplace Productivity.

Aug 19
How Do You Know If Your Time Is Productive

A recent article by Bain & Company in Harvard Business Review suggests that time is a very scarce resource in organizations. The consequence drawn is apparently to control and manage in a very tight way how time is allocated and spent across companies. And, as usual, another recommendation is to minimize that famous "unproductive time", which is supposed to be time spent in meetings, reading mails, and taking lengthy conference calls.

This would have been a wonderful strategy under just two assumptions, namely that a) one knows which meetings or mails are productive and which are not; and b) managers can effectively and directly influence the time usage patterns of their subordinates.

Getting the picture of how I spend my day is technically possible, we can do that with OmniContext since years, and some other people can do that as well. But it is not enough. Without a somehow reliable algorithm to tell the difference between "productive" and "unproductive" it does not help to know that one-third of my day yesterday was spent in meetings.

One way to do it is rating my own activities in retrospect, like we do it in Personal Analytics. This is by no means automatic, and actually good so. Instead of (or in addition to) having my manager tell me that I was not productive, I can figure this out myself. Personal self-improvement replaces office taylorism.

Looking back at my own example of yesterday, I only had one meeting, and it does not make me happy. Another quite important one was cancelled, I would much prefer having had it. Yesterday was not the most productive of my days.

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