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Marek Struszczyk

Co-Founder ManagerUp

Last modified: June 23rd, 2023

This article is your ultimate productivity guide. You will soon be able to define productivity and learn to adopt key strategies to boost it.

Productivity is the holy grail of the business world. Many confuse the word, however, with terms like profitability, performance, effectiveness, and efficiency.  In this article, I will provide a definition of productivity that is easy to understand.

I will also tell you about “healthy” productivity and its drivers. You have probably never heard this term before, but it is one of the key productivity concepts we use at Manager Up.

It is highly likely that you want to increase your and your team’s productivity. But how to do more with less effort? Maybe you think that only working longer hours will achieve better results.


The founders of Facebook, Google, and Amazon all had the same number of hours in a day as you have now, but their results were significantly different.

They simply had a different approach to productivity! So, how did they accomplish more with less effort?  Do you want to learn how?

If so, let me take you on a journey through the productivity world.  This is our road map:

– What is productivity?

– Are there productivity short cuts?

– What is healthy productivity?

– What are the 12 drivers of healthy productivity?

         – Positive drivers

         – Negative drivers

So, let’s start with answering the key question:


What Is Productivity?

We have already indicated that productivity is not the same as efficiency, profitability, effectiveness or performance.

 Personal productivity is simply defined as the ratio between the value generated by your activity and the resources used.

                                    The value generated by an activity

Productivity =  ——————————————————

                                    Resources used during this activity


Obviously, in order to increase your productivity, you should:

– Focus on activities that generate significant value

– Minimize the resources involved

It would be best to do both!


Are There Productivity Short Cuts?

When talking about productivity, some authors and bloggers try to convince you that an improvement of two or three elements in your business conduct will step up your productivity level.

You may try to “do the right things” and focus on those activities that generate high value. This is a good approach, but it has two weak points.

First, unless you are a CEO or own your own business, it is almost impossible to do only big things. Your daily business life consists of dozens of small things that need to be done.

Second, big projects often eat up a lot of resources. We end up exhausted and stressed out, drained of energy.

Therefore, simplistic approaches to productivity never work.  Productivity is a complex animal, and to see it roar, you need to leverage different drivers to maximize value and minimize resources.

What drivers am I talking about? You will soon see it.

Most of us fail to realize that to become more productive, we need to take a 360-degree approach to our well-being and the way we work. Our cognitive functions will never be at their best if we don’t pay attention to what haunts us in the course of our working lives. For instance, stress, mental fatigue and exhaustion.

Ask yourself, how long you sleep?

How energetic are you during the day?

How well do you manage your stress level?

How efficient do you use your time?

Do you procrastinate? And so on…

All these factors influence work productivity. If you overinvest your human resources, it may negatively affect your health. You must have heard that some executives and managers end up with serious diseases, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Therefore, the question is not how to be productive, but how to be productive in a healthy way.


What Is Healthy Productivity, Then?

We said before that the productivity is proportional to the value you generate and inversely to the resources you use. In fact, the main resources we have are our physical and mental capabilities. In short, personal productivity depends very much on how much individual effort and energy we invest.

An extremely high personal investment makes our bodies suffer. In the long run, it may have very unfavorable consequences for our health and well-being.

Jim Rohn once said: “take care of your body. It is the only place you have to live”.

To be highly productive, it is important to invest our human resources in the healthiest way.

The healthy productivity ratio looks like this:


                                                            The value generated by your activities

Healthy Productivity =                 ——————————————————

                                                           Your healthy personal human effort


12 Healthy Productivity Drivers

At Manager Up, after carrying out massive in-depth research, we have identified 12 key elements that directly influence productivity and health. We decided to call them the 12 Drivers of Healthy Productivity.

Eight of the twelve drivers are positive and four are negative. To be more productive, your objective should be to maximize (or improve) the positive drivers and minimize the negative drivers.

Let’s first focus on the positive drivers:


8 Positive Drivers of Healthy Productivity

 1. Productivity and Human Energy

 This is the key driver of healthy productivity. I think it is not difficult to see the correlation between personal energy and productivity. When you are very tired, your productivity is close to zero. In fact, you often feel like sleeping.

On the other hand, when you have had a good night’s sleep, then go to the gym for a moderate physical workout and eat a good energetic breakfast, you feel like a young god or goddess.  Your energy makes you fly, and you are able to do a great many things with minimal effort.

In 2007, the Harvard Business Review published an excellent article: “Manage Your Energy and Not your Time”. The article says that a day has a limited number of 24 hours: it cannot be stretched. But our human energy can be increased in a practically infinite way.

Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy point out that our energy originates from four different sources: emotions, body, spirit and mind. If you cleverly manage these wellsprings, you have practically endless possibilities to recharge yourself.


2. Productivity and the Quality of Sleep

Do you remember the last time you had a long business dinner and afterward you went to a bar with your team? And then you ended up in bed very late.  When the alarm clock rang the next morning, you felt like anything but working, but you had to push yourself out of bed. The meeting was supposed to start on time, and you didn’t want to arrive late.

How productive were you in that meeting? Was it easy to focus? Or you were simply trying to get through the day?

A lack of sleep undermines performance and productivity. Without enough sleep, we cannot think, learn and solve problems efficiently. Attention and memory are impaired. Our productivity is at the rock bottom.

By the way, sleep problems are not only caused by late business events. More common causes are stress, jet lag or eating too much for dinner.

One study estimates that sleep-related productivity loss amounts to almost $2,000 per employee each year. Plus, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to illnesses that increase absenteeism.  That, of course, decreases productivity in a significant way.

Sleep deprivation may be related to both sleep duration and to quality. Research shows that poor sleep quality makes us less stress resilient.

Do you want to be productive tomorrow? Make sure that you sleep like a baby tonight.


3. Productivity and Physical Exercise

 “I don’t have time for a gym” is something I hear from many readers.

The same readers complain that their careers are not progressing well. They are not as successful as they would like to be. Their relationships do not give them satisfaction and, and, and…

Your career and success depend very strongly on your productivity.  There are dozens of studies [1] [2] [3] that have proved that exercise boosts productivity. This means that gym goers do more in the same period of time than couch and desk potatoes.

Physical exercise makes you healthier, taking fewer sick leaves, while experiencing less disabilities. Furthermore, being fit will change your physical appearance. Believe me, people perceive obese individuals as less capable and successful.

No doubt, physical exercise is one of the foundations of healthy productivity.


4. Productivity and Task Management Systems

 Most of you have heard at least once about the Eisenhower Matrix or the Getting-Things-Done method by David Allen. Some of you use these or similar productivity systems at work.

But has science really proved that we need a task management system to be more productive? Our intuition says that we do and… that’s true. Science confirms what we know by instinct.

Task management systems are useful as they reduce the time needed to define priorities.  And it is proven that our brains work at their highest productivity level if there are clear directions and things are ranked in the order of importance.

They also serve as a kind of external memory. Knowing that everything is saved in one place and no critical data gets lost reduces stress and confusion.

It is said that the best task management system for productivity should measure the delivered results and not just the objectives and strategies. In this way, you can measure your real productivity.


5. Productivity and Time Management Systems

 Your day has 24 hours. Do you use them well?

Even if you have a good task management system, you must ask yourself if managing your time in the most effective practice.

Do you deliver projects on time or do you procrastinate? It is obvious that procrastinators are less productive, but how to stop procrastinating?

Do you do one thing at a time or juggle many priorities simultaneously? The former is typical of monochromic people and the latter for polychromic folks. Your attitude may be culturally driven.

Do you have days when you do more than on other days? Why? Maybe it has something to do with the way you invest your time on the productive days?

How do you manage interruptions? Do you know how to say no to incoming requests?

These are all important questions to be answered. It is crucial to analyze your time-wasting behaviors. Research shows that there is a relationship between certain time management systems and productivity.


6. Productivity and Personal Confidence

We seldom understand the real importance of self-confidence. Believing or not in yourself may decide not only your project’s but also your career’s success.  

All projects face issues, problems and obstacles. Self-confidence creates an inner strength to overcome any form of adversity. By being self-confident, you embrace challenges. You do not give up after failures. You simply deliver again and again.

Self-esteem moves us from thinking about something to really doing it. It speeds up the creation process. Thus, it increases your productivity.

Why productivity?

Richard E. Petty, a professor of psychology at the University of Ohio, says that without self-esteem there is no action. When facing a challenge, we first judge our ability to overcome it; and only if we are confident that we can do it, do we jump into action. For Petty, confidence is a magnifier of thought. Self-confident people have a growth mindset. This is a concept further developed by Professor Carol Dweck from Stanford University.

People with a growth mindset strongly believe they can achieve more. They are more stress resilient and challenge themselves more frequently.  


7. Productivity and Office Ergonomics

 When people are asked what drives productivity, office ergonomics seldom sits on the top of the list. People either do not understand the connection between ergonomics and productivity or they think that the influence is very limited.

Although from the short-term perspective the importance of ergonomics is not significant, the wrong ergonomics has significant consequences on productivity and health long term.

First of all, a lack of office ergonomics significantly increases the risk of back and neck pains as well as other musculoskeletal disorders. These medical conditions increase absenteeism and disabilities, which directly influences productivity.

Interestingly, sick leave days depend not only on the type of desk we have, but also on the type of office. For example, people working in large open spaces become ill more frequently than people working in small cells.

Furthermore, inadequate workplace lighting causes visual stress, such that our eyes suffer and our productivity decreases. The productivity difference between ergonomically optimized and suboptimal spaces could be as high as 17%.

Moreover, beautiful, well-lit offices are simply nice places to spend your time. Ergonomics likely indirectly influences employee motivation, which again raises productivity. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to have a closer look at your workspace.


8. Productivity and motivation

The conventional wisdom says that motivated people work better and faster.

They are more creative and persistent. They are simply more productive.

Once again, the conventional wisdom is right. Motivation is the force inside which makes you do things. It pushes you to act.

What drives this force? People are motivated by many different things. Some by money and some by intangible benefits like recognition. We also are motivated by our goals and ambitions. The ambitious (and realistic) goals inspire us. But be careful not to set unrealistic objectives for yourself or your team.

Furthermore, we are driven by our thoughts and beliefs. If you believe that you are good at something, it is easier to be motivated during this activity. If you believe that your manager does not like you, your motivation drops, even if he/she really likes and respects you. Our thoughts and beliefs determine the things we will focus on and will do in the future.

Self-motivation determines whether you will adhere to your plan. This is especially critical if you find obstacles in the way. Your degree of motivation will decide whether you give up or continue on. To increase your own motivation or the motivation of your team members, please analyze first the motivational driver of a particular person.

I think you now get the point that motivation drives productivity. But how is it related to your health? Motivated people overcome life and work obstacles easier. They have higher stress resilience. They are simply happier.

The opposite is also true. People who are not motivated suffer in their jobs and are more prone to burnout and depression.


Negative Productivity Drivers

9. Productivity and Excessive Stress

Is feeling stressed a cheap excuse for lousy productivity? Stress belongs to an executive job, doesn’t it? So, what’s the deal?

While on one hand it is true that stress is a part of life, actually it is often helpful. Facing a challenging situation, we need a certain level to reach our goals. In this case, we speak about positive stress (eustress). A classic example is a job promotion.

The issue arises when this stress crosses a certain threshold and becomes really burdensome.  This is not difficult in our hyperconnected world. Then we speak about negative stress (distress).

Chronic distress is not an illness. However, not only does it make us unhappy, but it can lead to burnout and physical illness, too. In both cases, productivity will suffer.

Interestingly when you complain about stress in most of the cases you mean the “distress” rather than “eustress”. The eustress is perceived as something pleasant and motivational.

To sum up, we need the right amount of pressure to perform well, but distress decreases job satisfaction and mental well-being. And last but not least, it has a very high productivity cost both for you and the organization you work for.


10. Productivity and Illnesses

This is a no brainer. When you are ill, you do not work and your productivity is zero.  Well, not all people who report their illness, injuries or important medical treatments tell the truth, but this is a story for another post.

Today we are focusing on the real impact of illness on productivity. Especially in the wintertime during the so-called cold and flu season many people have to stay home. This has important benefits as our ill co-workers will not spread viruses in the office.

Additionally, the sick leave of chronically ill employees causes productivity losses in the billions of USD each year. By chronic illnesses we define, depression, diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and obesity.

How to avoid being ill? In particular, how to avoid the serious chronic diseases that can significantly decrease your and your company’s productivity. One of the ways is to follow effective stress reduction strategies. It is crucial to lead a healthy lifestyle, which is much easier than you think.


11. Productivity and Procrastination

Procrastination is defined as intention ally avoiding completing a task on time. It is actually one of the biggest barriers to productivity.

Procrastination is much more, however, than just postponing an important call from one day to the next or not delivering a management report on time. As Mel Robbins says, procrastination is a habit. The problem is not this particular call or that particular report. The problem is that procrastinators procrastinate again and again.

Have you ever asked yourself why people procrastinate?  The answer may surprise you. Procrastination is a powerful relaxation technique. Yes! Procrastination is the way to reduce stress. Procrastinators postpone stressful tasks and do pleasant things instead.

Of course, they know they procrastinate, and the act of procrastinating creates negative emotions and… additional stress. It’s a vicious circle that shrink productivity.


12. Productivity and Interruptions

In their report on interruptions, Jonathan Spira and Joshua Feintuch estimate that interruptions cost the US economy almost 600 billion/year. They estimate that almost a third of the working day is consumed by interruptions.

But it is not only the time consumed by the interruptions themselves that makes us less productive. The issue is that the interruption effect is prolonged for 23 minutes afterward. For more details ,please read this interview with Professor Gloria Mark.

Sometimes, we can do very little about our boss’ interruptions. But the good thing is that almost half of all interruptions are caused by …us! Social media, surfing the internet or frequent trips to the coffee machine, etc.

So why is it good? Because by getting a grip on ourselves, we can significantly increase our productivity.

On our website we invite you to take a journey through healthy productivity. We encourage you to assess yourself and find out where you stand in terms of these 12 drivers.

We also offer you tons of free advice on how to improve your healthy productivity:

120+ Ideas About How to Be Productive at Work

Must-Read Books on Focus and Productivity to Get Things Done

Enhance Your Performance By Listening To The Right Music

How to Train Your Brain to Focus at Work

How to Regain Energy When You Are Sleepy at Work


Manager Up helps you take your career and life to the next level.

Please let us know if you found this article interesting. We want to know what you liked and disliked? And, especially, what was missing?


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