Closed Door Productivity

Yesterday I spoke with my friend, Dan Waldschmidt. We were talking about productivity and some of the rules. He said that his “open door policy” had become an “open distractions policy.”

The idea of an open door policy is that people can come to you for help anytime they need it. But it doesn’t mean “anytime.” The openness to helping is not supposed to mean that you are free to be interrupted at any time. Interruptions are the destroyers of productivity and quality work.

Productivity isn’t measured by how busy you are or how many tasks you complete in a day. That form of Taylorism, objective counting and measuring time, does nothing to measure the value of the work you have done. Those are Industrial Age Measurements and are increasingly less valuable in the Information Age.

The real measurement of productivity is the value of the work you have completed. The more important the work completed, the more productive you are. The higher the quality of the most important work, the greater your productivity. These are not objective measurements. They’re subjective; they are value judgments.

What this means is that someone who spends 90 minutes completing a project that is critically important and of very high quality is more productive than someone who, say, spent 8 hours reacting to the interruptions that showed up in their office or their inbox (assuming that work was not nearly as important). It may feel good to be busy, but busyness is not a measurement of productivity. It is more likely that these two concepts are negatively correlated.

Yes, But Not Now

Being productive doesn’t mean you have to say no when other people ask for your help. You can say, “Yes, but not now.” You can close your door, the browser, and the inbox for 90 minutes at a time and do meaningful work. Three of these blocks in an 8-hour day will give you 4.5 hours to be productive and leave you with 3.5 hours to react to what other people need.

Close the door. Do good work.

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