The Difference Between Productivity and Meaningful Work

Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions at work? That you’re productive, but not doing anything meaningful? If so, you’re not alone. A lot of people feel disenchanted with their jobs when they find their work personally meaningless. Although they’re being productive, they don’t feel like they’re making a difference in the world. Before you jump ship and start looking for a new job, keep reading. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the difference between productivity and meaningful work, and how you can easily obtain both.


What is the difference between productivity and meaningful work?

Understanding the difference between productivity and meaningful work will help you pinpoint what is missing in your own work situation.


What is productivity?

Productivity is the amount of work you can do in a certain amount of time. Productivity matters in the workplace because it is easy to measure- you look at the number of tasks you complete in a certain amount of time. The more you get done, the more productive you are. Productivity is often used as a measure of efficiency during performance reviews. We all feel the pressure to be productive. Although productivity effectively motivates us in the short-term, it doesn’t usually sustain us in the long run. 


The Danger of Productivity Alone

While the desire to be productive is admirable, none of us are indispensable production factories. Focusing solely on productivity will lead to burnout and dissatisfaction at work.

Working productively toward something meaningful, on the other hand, comes with numerous business benefits. Personally meaningful jobs will retain talented workers, provide a productivity boost, increase motivation, and job satisfaction.

The Difference Between Productivity and Meaningful Work article


What is meaningful work?

Meaningful work is work that has a purpose or value beyond simply completing a task. This is much harder to measure because meaningful work focuses more on how the job makes you feel and the impact your work has on the world. Meaningful work can be both productive and non-productive.

For example, a doctor may save lives through their work, but they may also spend time talking to patients and providing support that doesn’t directly lead to a cure. Similarly, a teacher may prepare students for the future, but they may also create an environment where students feel safe and supported.


Why Meaning Matters

Participating in meaningful work gives us a sense of purpose and helps us feel like we’re making a difference in the world. According to Viktor Frankl’s formula to experience a life of meaning, we all need to:

  1. Create or accomplish something. 
  2. Be involved in something greater than ourselves.
  3. Accept suffering as a part of life and use our experiences to create meaning. 

If you want to be more engaged at work, or are striving to improve employee engagement, connecting your work to a greater meaning is crucial.


Can you have both productivity and meaningful work?

It is possible to be both productive and do meaningful work, but it is a challenge that requires balance and intention.

If you focus too much on productivity, you may find yourself completing tasks that aren’t moving you toward a meaningful goal. Alternatively, if you focus solely on meaning, you may not get anything done at all! The key is to find a middle ground where you are doing work that is both productive and meaningful.

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