Productivity vs Hours Worked: Are You Just Punching a Clock?

Comparing productivity vs hours worked is an interesting way to look at what’s really going on. Often, we get stuck in a trend of thinking the time is what matters instead of the actual results produced.

It’s hard, in a society that values time by assigning a dollar figure, to realize hours worked don’t make you productive. The one thing every human being on the face of the planet gets is 24 hours per day. That doesn’t change no matter what, but what you do with those hours can change your life dramatically!

I am not going to get into how productive you are after working 50 hours or after working 8 hours in a day. That would require a far more scientific brain than mine and what you think is work I may define as just being busy.

Instead, I want to look at how you can get the most out of every hour of your day, when it comes to your productive hours. I also want to look at how society defines productivity compared to how we should be defining it. No more delay, let’s get right into it.

The Hourly Wage Paradigm

Hourly Wage Paradigm

I heard it growing up and still as an adult from so many family members, friends and co-workers; “if you pay me INSTERT DOLLAR AMOUNT per hour, you’re going to get INSERT SAME DOLLAR AMOUNT of work per hour.”

This is simply an excuse to be LAZY!

Yes, I just called out a large percentage of hourly workers and I was probably guilty of this for many years, myself. Heck, it was preached to me by so many people I knew that it would have been hard not to fall into this trap.

I have long been an advocate for ditching hourly wages and paying based on production. Of course, in my model, I would also be sending workers home after they hit their quota or the day, even if they only worked for four or six hours.

The hourly wage paradigm is simply a trap. You agree to be paid a certain amount per hour, so now you’re literally trading away some of those 24 hours you get in a day for a paycheck. There’s nothing wrong with this from the employee side of thing, but business owners should never pay hourly, if they can avoid it…IMHO.

Too many people think punching a clock for eight hours a day means they were productive. Why do you think so many of these same people come home after a “long” day of work only to plop down on the couch for their four hour binge watching of shows before passing out and repeating everything over again the next day?

Understanding what Productivity is, Really

Real productivity breeds confidence, energy, great sleep and even passion. Real productivity isn’t found only when you’ve punched a time clock or shown up for work. While our society would love for you to think productivity equals being busy, this is simply not true.

Productivity, at the core produces. What it produces is completely up to you. Writing this blog post right now is a very productive thing for me to do. It’s producing content for my blog. However, it’s only one form of productivity.

Along with producing at work, you need to be producing at home, in your relationships and in every other aspect of your life. Here are a few examples of productivity outside the job:

  • Hugging your Children – Produces the feeling of being loved in your children and helps you develop intimacy with them.
  • Cooking a meal – Produces food for your family.
  • Reading a book, even fiction – Produces relaxation, learning and many other things.
  • Exercising – Produces better health, lower stress and even weight loss.
  • Meditation – Produces relaxation, calmness and a feeling of being centered.
  • Prayer – Produces a deeper connection with God and better spiritual health.
  • Playing with your Children – Produces learning for your children and the opportunity to share in a relationship with them.
  • Dating your Spouse – Produces feelings of love, enjoyment and a connection with the most important person on the face of the earth for you.

So many other examples of productivity can be found outside of the workplace. Society would like you to work 12+ hours a day and spend your entire life giving up time for money. That’s not a good way to live and changing your definition of productivity is the first step in truly looking at the comparison of productivity vs. hours worked.

Hours Worked Only Matter When They Are Productive

Productivity means you have something to show for your work. When you put in the hours, there should be something to show. This doesn’t have to relate to money, but often it does in the form of sales or profits.

You could have a list of great blog ideas to show for a brainstorming session or a new eBook you just wrote. Those are very productive things. Even if the hours worked produce minimal results, you’re still being productive.

However, when the hours worked end up being 45 minutes playing on social media and 15 minutes of client calls or emails, you’re just being lazy. This is often the case for employees that are going to get paid regardless of the actual product they produce. (I said often here, not always because I know there are some hourly and salary workers that produce like crazy.)

Finding Better Productivity by Shift away from an Hours Worked Focus


Do you work a job where you know you can get the entire day’s work done in half the work day? Are you the type that will slack off so that you will get overtime and make more money?

This happens more often than managers and business owners think, but it can change. Tim Ferris touched on this just a little bit in the book 4 Hour Work Week when he talked about shifting from working in an office to working from home.

I propose something similar. If you can literally get your job done in half the work day or even three-quarters, why not try to see if your boss will let you do your job from home, assuming that’s possible?

You can start by asking if you can test this out for one or two days a week. When it goes great and you’re actually more productive, ask for those other three days. Now, you work from home and you can cut those hours from 40, 50 or even 60+ down to the hours you actually need to perform your job.

When we shift our focus from the hours worked to the actual product of our work, we usually realize how much time we waste. There have been days when my wife and I may wake up later than planned and it looks like I am working basically all day long to get things done. However, when you break it down, it doesn’t look the same. Here’s how this type of day goes.

Wake up late…maybe 9am
Walk the dogs, get ready for the day and get in my morning routine
Sneak in 45 to 60 minutes of work before preparing breakfast
Take about 90 minutes to prepare and eat breakfast with my wife
Grab another 3.5 hours of work before preparing lunch
Usually, on these days we take a long lunch break, so it’s probably 2 hours to prepare and eat lunch
Get another 3 to 4 hours of work done before preparing dinner
Take about 2 hours to prepare and eat dinner
Maybe finish up some work for an hour at most
Take the rest of the night off

Even though it seems like I am working all day, the hours worked only come out to about 8.5 to 10 on this type of day. When I am up later than planned, I take longer breaks for meals and to get some time with my wife because I know the end of the day isn’t going to leave as much time for us before bed.

Strangely enough, these days end up being some of my most productive, too. I used to give up on the day when I would wake up later than I wanted, especially if it was a few hours later, but now, I just go with it and it pushes me to be more productive.

It’s almost like I know my back is against the wall, so the productivity goes up.

Final Thoughts about Productivity vs. Hours Worked

Productivity has to be redefined if you want to truly become a productive person. Make sure you’re not just productive at work, either. Your family, your friends, your hobbies, your church and any other commitments in your life depend on you to be firing on all the productivity cylinders. You don’t get to relax your productivity just because your job work is done for the day.

While you may think putting in the hours makes you productive, it doesn’t. It comes down to whether you’d like to be someone that works harder or someone that works smarter. Often, for those early on in business, combining working smarter with putting in the time helps to speed up the process.

What do you think? Are you productive just because your paycheck shows you worked 45 or 50 hours for the week? Does it take more than just hours worked to truly be productive? Answer below in the comments.

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