Triangular Theory of Productivity

Although some of the techniques I’ve discussed, such as serial tasking, can be very helpful to get the right things done in a very efficient manner, these are not enough by themselves. I hope this model is helpful for thinking about your professional life.

Productivity Triangle
Imagine an equilateral triangle, one where all three sides are the same length and all three angles are 60 degrees. The first angle we will label Passion (P). The second angle we will label Skill (S). The third angle we will label Value (V).

Yet, most people have a productivity triangle that is lopsided and does not look like a nice equilateral triangle as one or more of the ‘angles’ is out of alignment. Why?

Think about your own life for these three attributes:

Passion: The great mythologist of the 20th century, Joseph Campbell, advised everyone to “follow your bliss” and not to be afraid to live a life that was full of what they loved. Passion means exactly what it sounds like: to be so excited that you cannot wait to wake up in the morning to work on it some more. I do not think it is a surprise to anyone that when one is engrossed in an activity that is very enjoyable, one is more likely to dedicate a high-quality effort for a longer period of time without stopping.

Skill: Everyone has certain natural gifts and core competences. One can excel in these areas after honing these abilities with dedicated practice. When you have mastered certain tasks, you can produce superior results very efficiently. Experts can do extremely difficult things in a very short time frame.

Value: If you worked a 40-hour week, but had no output for that entire time, it would be possible to count your value at zero, even if you were occupied with busy work or minor tasks every minute. Remember: your compensation in the competitive world is based on your final results, not the time spent on a project.

Consider these questions:

  1. Are you doing something that you truly love?
  2. Are you doing something in which you excel?
  3.  Are you doing something in such a way that it that creates the maximum possible value?

The most productive people can answer yes to all three questions for their career or vocation. When Passion, Skill, and Value are all congruent with one another at a very high level, it is easy to be incredibly productive and very successful too as one can happily complete tasks better and faster than others in the same field.