Developer Tea

Productivity Isn't About How Much You Get done

Episode Summary

Trying to find the most productive way to work. In today's episode we're talking about different ways to think about productivity.

Episode Notes

Productivity is an endless hill. How can you increase the output of you or your team as an engineer? In today's episode, we're zooming out to explore how individuals contribute to the productivity of a team as a whole.

What is the least amount of work that's necessary to reach your goal?

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Episode Transcription

One of the major shifts that the world has seen over the last 30 or so years is a shift towards desiring hyper productivity. The idea that we can do more and continue to learn to do more with less has kind of taken over our way of thinking about work. Trying to find the most productive schedule, the most productive tool, and seeking relentlessly the growing output machine. The ability to produce more and more and more volume. In today's episode, we're going to talk about a different way to think about productivity and hopefully shift your mindset to a more effective solution. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, and I'm listening to Developer Tea and my goal on the show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. Today's episode is going to be a short episode. We do not have a sponsor, but in lieu of our sponsor time, I'd like to encourage you to go and do one of two things. One, if you haven't subscribed, go ahead and subscribe in whatever podcasting app you currently use. There is a native application on Mac OS now, the podcast app, and of course all of the apps that you have on your phone. This will help you stay up to date with the latest episodes of the show because we do three a week, not three a day. We do three a week, and we're constantly delivering these episodes. So it's easy to get behind. We encourage you to subscribe, and then the other thing is share this episode with a friend or if you don't have anyone to share it with, leave a review on iTunes. This helps spread the show beyond just you. When you find something of value and you share it with someone else, you don't just add to the value, you kind of multiply it because you get a chance to have someone in your community that you can have a conversation with about these topics that we discuss on the show. Okay, so I want to talk about this idea of the endless slope, this upwards hill of productivity, wanting to do more and more, increasing the output of a team. This is the mandate that so many engineering managers are given to increase the output of the team. And interestingly enough, humans have been able to increase their output. We have tools that help us be more productive with our time. But I want to encourage you to take a step back and look at how those increases in productivity actually happen. Those kind of climbing the hill, output increases. As a general rule, those are increases that everyone benefits from kind of at the same time. They're increases that are not behaviorally specific. They're instead brought to us by some shift in the market. And for the most part, the productivity of an individual is not going to drastically outpace the productivity of another individual. Now notice that I didn't say that the effectiveness of one individual will not greatly outpace. The effectiveness of another individual. The productivity in this scenario, in this kind of definition, is talking about the sheer volume of activity that can be completed. The number of lines of code, for example, this is a gross measurement of output. And very often, we wrongly believe that the gross measure of output is the most important measure. This is quite simply wrong and we need to be thinking differently as managers and as developers. So what should we be thinking about instead? I want to instead encourage you to think about minimizing the output, minimizing the output to get to the same place. So you set out a goal as a team, let's say you have a series of tasks, a list of user stories, however you manage the work that it is that you have to do. And I want you to attack that work, to think about that work and process it through the lens of what is the least amount of work necessary to get to that place. So the productivity and effectiveness is not about how much you do, as much as it is about quite simply what you do. This week I encourage you to mark as many things as you can off of your to-do list by simply removing them, deciding not to do them. And instead refining that list to the things that absolutely should be done, the highest importance items on the list. If you do this as a team, you'll be focusing on the most important, most valuable things. Productivity, at least from your perception, will seem to soar, even though you're getting the same number of things done. You have the same output volume. That output volume should have a high signal to noise ratio, where the signal is level of importance or value. And what you'll find as you continue to do this refinement process is things that you even originally thought were important, they seem to become less important. The more you refine the most valuable way to spend your time as a team or as an individual, you'll find that the less important things tend to kind of follow away on their own. This is the picture of increasing productivity on a team. It's not about squeezing out every single ounce of energy that you can. It's not about optimizing your day for the longest work sessions that you can manage to live through. Instead, it's about removing the unnecessary. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Today's episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. And until next time, enjoy your tea.