Omaha, NE, 68138

Are You Productive?

Are You Productive?

Are You Productive?

A very hot topic right now in the business world. While flex schedules and working virtually weren’t uncommon throughout Corporate America, the COVID pandemic and all its changes forced the hands of many businesses to transition all in on such formats. Employees rave about the benefits of working from home, many refusing return to the office.  Strongest among the rhetoric in favor of remote work is the claim of increased productivity.

What exactly does it mean to be more productive? By definition, productivity is the effectiveness of an effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.  That definition is very much in the eye of the beholder as it means very different things to different people. 

A manager would understand an employee saying she is “more productive” as someone getting more work done than she had previously in the same amount of time.  An employee saying he is more productive working from home is likely indicating he is now able to tend to an array of personal tasks (laundry, house cleaning, meal prep, exercise) during the work day.   Still another person may mean she can get the same amount of work done in less time; technically she is more efficient than productive and the manager should demand twice the output or pay half as much…but that’s another conversation.  

The idea of productivity is a focal point for companies struggling to find the right recipe melding employees’ desire to work from home and re-establishing an in-person office environment.  Which truly is more productive?  Depending on perspective, the bigger question may be who is more productive for whom?  

I find this concept just as interesting and relevant within the confines of the dojo.  Two students can attend the same class and leave with very different experiences.  How you say?  If both sought getting a great workout and took the same class, we have to examine the amount of effort each exerted.  One may have gone HAM (hard as a MF) while the other just casually went through the motions.  One walks away exhausted while the other barely a sweet.  The attending coach would view one busted her butt (productive) while the other just wasted everyone’s time (not productive).

As a coach I often view a training session much differently than the student.  I often question students post sparring about what they worked on that session?  A blank stare is not uncommon.  I’ll press the issue asking if they had any specific goal going into the session.  Generally, the answer is no, they were just trying to win…sometimes survive.  Then what made you better today?  I’m looking for the method behind the madness.

I am a firm believer that a productive training session, especially sparring, is one in which you were working on specific goal, ala Malcom Gladwell’s idea of deliberate practice to develop mastery of a skill.  The ultimate determinant if a skill is adequate is the ability to execute under duress or pressure from another person.  When a person is focused on “winning” he is often not putting any thought into what he’s doing. 

Instinct and habitual movement drive.  Bad habits are reinforced because a feeling of winning validates the action.  They never force themselves to stop and evaluate much less have a plan above and beyond the normal repertoire.  The result is a one trick pony never developing a broad skill set beyond their comfort zone…side note: read David Epstein’s Range for an appreciation of breadth of knowledge and skill.

Too often students go into training with no plan, no goal.  Yes, the system, the curriculum, the programming, and the coaches are in place to guide a student.  That does not alleviate the need to be present, in the moment, or remain aware of what you are doing by have a goal and plan in place.  Grit and Determination are wonderful attributes when accompanied with Direction and Focus resulting in a Productive Effort.

Everyday Is Training Day – Reap What You Sow