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The Science of Productivity Explained

The Science of Productivity Explained

It is no secret that many of us aim to be as productive as we possibly can. In the fast-paced world we live in, the importance of high productivity is something we are reminded of on a daily basis. To some of us, productivity may come in the form of using a stand up desk at work in order to clock a quick workout done whilst on a video call. To others, productivity means focusing a to-do list on the most important tasks at hand. 

Whether you work in an office, a factory or for your own business, productivity helps you get more done in the least amount of time possible. However, what exactly does productivity mean? To understand the importance of productivity, we first need to fully grasp its scientific concept. Today, we dive into everything you need to know about the science of productivity, so keep on reading to find out more. 

Defining Productivity

To put it simply, productivity is often defined as a ratio between the output volume and the volume of inputs. In other words, productivity measures how efficiently inputs such as capital, labour, materials and equipment are being used in an economy to produce a given level of output. In a nutshell, productivity is about excelling at the tasks that generate the most value – not doing the most tasks. As a wise man once said, work smarter, not harder

What Are Inputs? 

So, what exactly are we talking about when we refer to inputs for productivity? Here are a number of examples when it comes to various resources used to create goods and services:

Capital: Capital is the property used by businesses to produce goods and services. It includes both physical assets and intellectual property. Some examples of capital include buildings, software, machinery and vehicles. 

Labour: Labour input is the time people spend working to produce goods and services. Your labour input comes in the form of staff (employment), hours per worker, and human capital per worker. 

Raw Materials: Raw material inputs are components required in the manufacturing of products. Raw materials will vary according to the industry you are in, but a simple example would be the need for items such as flour, butter and eggs if you run a bakery business.

Purchased Services: Purchased services inputs are services purchased from other businesses in other industries or sectors. Examples include legal services, accounting services, marketing services and repairs. 

Energy: Lastly, as we all know, energy is needed for almost anything and everything in life. Energy inputs for productivity include electricity and fuel. 

Output VS Input

As mentioned earlier on, productivity is measured at the rate at which output of goods and services are produced per unit of input (labour, capital, raw materials, energy etc.). It is calculated as the ratio of the quantity of output produced to some measure of the quantity of inputs used. 

As such, high productivity can be achieved by either reducing the raw materials, labour, and time put into the production process or producing more with the same amount of production factors or resources. Additionally, productivity is something that is fluid – it can grow or shrink depending on a number of factors. Since most of us are primarily interested in the growth of productivity, this is what we will focus on in today’s article.

Productivity Growth 

As its name suggests, productivity growth refers to an increase in the value of outputs produced for a given level of inputs, over a given period of time. Many factors can affect and contribute to productivity growth. These include economies of scale and scope, workforce skills, technological improvements, management practices, changes in other inputs (such as capital or raw material), competitive pressures and stages of the business cycle. 

At an industry level, productivity growth is vital in allowing the industry to compete with other sectors of the economy for resources and maintain overall competitiveness. 

Why Does Productivity Matter? 

As we now know, a high level of productivity results in an economy being able to produce—and consume—increasingly more goods and services for the same amount of work. Productivity has also been the driver of long-term improvements in living standards. 

For example, the average Australian worker in 2022 is able to produce as much in a single hour as it took a full day’s work to produce in 1901. This meteoric productivity growth has allowed incomes to rise even though working hours have fallen. Thus, workers are able to enjoy more leisure time away from the office. Furthermore, productivity growth has allowed Australia’s GDP to continually increase at around 3.4% per year since the Federation. 

The 4 Essential Components of Productivity 

Thankfully, we are all capable of raising our productivity levels through the roof. Here are the 4 essential components of productivity, simplified: 

Strategic Planning: Having a strategic plan provides management the roadmap to align the organisation's functional activities to achieve set goals. To boost productivity, be sure to write down exactly what you want to achieve in order of importance. Everything else can wait.

Remaining Focused: In today’s hectic world, staying focused can be somewhat challenging. To remain focused, you need to be able to zero in on just one project at a time. Forget about multitasking; instead, put all of your focus and effort into just one task until it is complete.

Choosing Wisely: There are only 24 hours in a day, and ensuring that we utilize our time wisely is key. Of course, this can only happen if you make the right choices. Always focus on what matters by choosing the tasks that deliver the biggest bang for your limited time.

Consistency: When you consistently work on your goal, you acquire the elements that generate confidence in yourself and your abilities. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you move, as long as you don’t stop doing whatever you’re doing.

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At first glance, productivity may seem like an utterly ethereal concept – you can’t see it, touch it or feel it. However, as we have seen today, the science of productivity plays an irreplaceable role in all our lives, in one way or another. 

We hope that this article has given you some new insight into productivity and the elements that contribute to improving our standards of living, economies, wages and more.

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