Drew BarontiniProduct Director at Differential

Productivity vs. Effectiveness


January 28, 2020

Reading Time

2 min.

In the productivity world, the terms "productivity" and "effectiveness" are largely conflated, but I define them differently. And I believe the distinction is important.

You can be productive, but not effective. However, you can't be effective, but not productive.

So what is "productivity"?

Productivity is "the state or quality of producing something." I think the former — "the state" — is more heavily emphasized than the latter. But I think that's wrong. I believe "the quality of producing something" has a greater impact on the work we do.


I can complete 100 tasks today. Does that make me productive? Maybe. But what is the quality of the 100 tasks? Are they high-value tasks whose output produces something of quality? Or are they just 100 miscellaneous low-value tasks that elicit the state of productivity? That matters.

It's about working smarter, not harder. Every task you tackle in a day — within reason — should be tied to a larger project, goal, mission, vision. It should move the needle in some way. If you're working towards goals (yearly, quarterly, monthly), you need to be doing a bunch of small things to achieve that bigger thing. So your list should always contain tasks that "bubble up" to that higher-level initiative (goal) you're working on.

"Successful in producing a desired or intended result."

The desired or intended result, in this instance, is completing a task that helps me achieve my larger goals and, thus, my larger vision. That is being effective.

How can we tactically combat this?

For me, it's using an application called Notion where I'm able to create relations between the different parts of my workspace. For example, I have a database of "Goals" I can relate to my database of "Projects" and "Highlights" (weekly objectives). And then my Projects and Highlights can relate to my "Tasks". And I can visual this. I can see what project or highlight each of my tasks relates to. I can look at my projects and highlights and build tasks from them. I can look at my goals and build projects and highlights from them. And so on and so forth.

This is my brain connecting the dots, but in software. And that's powerful. That is what heightens and weights my effectiveness over productivity. And that is why I care about being more effective than I am productive. Or, at least, looking at productivity in that light.

Now go out there and have a productive and effective day.