150. The Two Types of Productive People
After careful consideration, I admit it: I was wrong.
In the early stages of the COVID lockdown, I believed that only the entrepreneurial-minded minority would be able to work productively from home. It can be a really hard thing to do, working from where you live. It’s just not possible for the masses to do it productively.
I’ve started a few businesses from my home and know the struggle required to maintain focus. There are so many different distractions, not the least of which is the damn kitchen. It constantly beckons with its seductive, snackly wooing. (Disclaimer: maybe that kitchen wooing just happens to me.)
Extrapolating from my personal challenges with working from home, I assumed worldwide productivity would come to a halt and we’d soon be living a post-apocalyptic free-for-all. Naturally, I stocked up on survival supplies.
In Which I Realize I Was Mistaken All Along
In a 2021 study of 16,000 workers, the results indicated a 13% increase in productivity with remote work.
In another similar study, 77% of people proved to be more productive when they work remotely (even when they are sick).
One reason for this is:
“Workers in a home environment report they are less distracted by co-workers, spending 30 minutes less talking about non-work topics, and spend 7% less time talking to management.”
I was flabbergasted when I learned about these results. Bewildered even. Perhaps stupefied.
After a little bit of time wallowing in those synonyms, I then became curious. This curiosity led me to the realization that not everybody is like me, after all. Apparently, the world doesn’t actually revolve around me. Who knew.
All of this has led me to a new theory on productivity personalities. This theory, which I’ll tell you in a second, revealed to me an insight into leadership I’d never before even considered. In the process, I came to realize that I’m not the type of person I’d been trying hard to be.
Here’s my theory:
There are two types of productivity personalities in this world, Structured and Fluid. The most successful company cultures of the future will be the ones that cater to both of their processes.
Take another sip of your coffee and let me explain.
The Productivity Personalities
Structured workers are ones who thrive in a structured environment. They rely on the 9-to-5 format to keep them focused.
The Structured personalities are most productive when they box their day into defined segments between work and personal. They work until quitting time, at which point they turn off their computer, don’t answer emails and don’t delve back into work until it’s time to start again.
Structured workers do best when there is a clear barrier between work and personal time.
Not so for Fluid workers.
Fluid workers move seamlessly between work and personal matters. They require more fluidity throughout their day in order to be most productive.
Fluids don’t confine their workday to a structured time period. In fact, the continuous change helps fluids be focused and productive on the task at hand.
Perhaps they have some meetings in the morning, then they go for a run or do a little exercise. They come back and do more work before they run errands and get ready for cooking dinner. Maybe they jump back into emails after dinner.
In the end, Structured and Fluid workers end up working the same amount of hours, have a similar life/work balance, and result in the same basic levels of productivity. They just need to approach work in different manners in order to accomplish the same goal.
The Wow Moment
For decades, I was under the impression that a “good worker” was Structured. Show up to the office at the official start of business hours, work constantly throughout the day, don’t leave the office before it’s officially quitting time. Those are the rules.
For decades, I was under the belief that I was a Structured worker. Or, rather, that I needed to be a Structured worker in order to thrive.
But, as I said up at the top, I was wrong. On both counts.
People are productive in different ways; some are Structured and some are Fluid. Effective leaders will understand and respect how each of their employees works best. In fact, it’s important to understand how you work best.
Great company cultures will honor the difference between Structured and Fluid workers, regardless of their physical location. No longer should every office worker be expected to adhere to a Structured environment if that is not how they can be most productive.
It’s not about physical presence, it’s about productivity.
(Of course, this doesn’t work well without having clear leadership goals - but that’s an entirely different round of beers. )
As for me, I’m learning to accept that I’ve been living a lie as a Structured worker, and better embracing my true Fluid self.
What about you? Are you most productive in a Structured or Fluid environment?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me or put ‘em in the comments.
“Focus on being productive instead of busy."
- Tim Ferris