Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I am not interested in maximizing Productivity.

Productivity = Output / Input

(Efficiency == Productivity)

So all I have to do to be more productive is to reduce Input. This is easy. Just write a code generator. I can write 100,000 lines of code in one day. Incredibly productive. Not very effective.

But then again, I'm not interested in maximizing Effectiveness either.

Effectiveness = Output / Expectations

So all I have to do to be more Effective is to reduce Expectations. "This will never work." "It worked!" Infinite effectiveness. But not very valuable.

Value = Whatever the customer says it is.

I'm not really interested in maximizing Value either. It's too hard to measure. So here's the only thing I'm really interested in maximizing:

Value Delta = Tonight's Value - This Morning's Value

So here are my simple rules to maximize my Value Delta:

  1. Work on only one thing.
  2. That thing must be the most important thing.
  3. Keep working on that one thing.
  4. Take sensible breaks.
  5. I control my time, no one else.
  6. No text, cell phones, twitter, facebook, messaging (see #5).
  7. Assess my Value Delta several times per day.
  8. Bad Assessment --> change something.
  9. If I am in Coding mode, be at the computer.
  10. If I am not in Coding mode, be anywhere else.

How do you measure your value at that level of granularity Ed?

Given that Value == whatever the customer says, how do you measure the change in value of the project over the course of a day? (Excluding the trivial case of you completing exactly one "value" per day)

Do you make a reasonable guess at the overall value of a given project, then compare % completed as a % of the total value? (How then do you handle the receding goalposts of scope creep?)

I often find it difficult to measure the value of my work mid-project. It's usually only at the end when I can, for example, point to how many hours-per-person-per-year of work I've saved other people.

How you measure...

Simple answer:

I guess my original post was a long round-about way of saying:

Bad measure: "Do I feel like a had a good day?"

Better measure: "Do I feel like I got a lot done today?"

Best measure: "Do I have more valuable stuff built now than I did this morning?"

Sometimes we should just use the simplest measure and leave it at that.

how many hours-per-person-per-year of work I've saved other people

Oddly, in my experience, this is a poor metric. Example: I wrote a sophisticated workbench to make inventory planners much more efficient. And they were. All 8 of them. Then I made a 5 minute change to enable factory supervisors sort their dispatch list 8 different ways. Which helped 800 people become more efficient. That's why I don't even try to measure "value" anymore. I let the customer worry about that. I stick with daily deltas as my best measure.

So, if I understand you correctly, you treat this as a binary and not as a quantity.

  if total_value_end_of_day > total_value_start_of_day
    NOT productive
Do I have that right?

Pretty much.

Do that enough days in a row and you'll have little else to worry about.

(I'd say "good" instead of "productive".)

Productivity isn't necessarily the wrong term here. In the context of individual productivity, your Input is always going to be a unit (say, a day) of your time. While you can split your time between a number of different tasks, your overall productivity still has 'one day' in the denominator (at least until cryogenic freezing is an option). Second, Output doesn't need to be measured in lines of code, it can be Value. The way you have written 'Value Delta' as a difference of two Values measured one day apart you have obscured the fact that time is in the denominator. The interesting quantity for a given interval is (Value Delta) / (Time Delta), which can reasonably be called efficiency or productivity.

The ultimate metric is product, not productivity, you are correct about that. One seeks to maximize their production in the course of their lifetime.


1. Productivity = product / unit of time

2. Time is a constant (there are only 24 hours in a day, we cannot stretch time aside from living healthier)

Thus, maximizing productivity is practically the same thing as maximizing product, our ultimate metric.

If you're going to play a pointless game of semantics, you should at least take a second to check your definitions:

"pro┬Ěduc┬Ětion: (Economics) the creation of value; the producing of articles having exchange value."

100,000 lines of generated code would have no value and, therefore, your productivity would not be "incredible" at all, it would be zero. You knew what he was asking for, no need to try to rewrite his question.

What you call "semantics", I call "a critical distinction" that needed to be pointed out.

In my early years, I wasted a lot of energy trying to be more productive, efficient, effective, (call it whatever you want), until I learned one of the most valuable and counter-intuitive lessons of my career: it really doesn't matter how "good" you are, how "well" you work, or how good you "feel".

All that really matters is whether or not your cumulative contributions keep increasing. Take care of that and you won't have much else to worry about. Don't do that and you'll end up worrying about all the wrong things.

The word was productivity, not production.

"Productivity is a measure of output from a production process, per unit of input."

"the ratio of the quantity and quality of units produced to the labor per unit of time"

[1] http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=productivity

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Productivity

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact