“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” Bill Gates
20 years ago, I went through a deep teenager crisis which completely disrupted my life trajectory. From being best student in class and a competitive judo player, I became the shadow of myself, dropped out of school, and picked up multiple addictions.
This experience changed my life forever. I was only 18 but I thought back then that I was like already dead and would never feel joy again. Surprisingly, though, this fiasco turned out to be the most fruitful phase of my life.
It started as a reaction to a minor tension between my parents. I was probably not mature enough to understand and accept what was going on. As a result, the paradigm of success I had at the time was not making sense any longer and it exploded in pieces.
In a desperate attempt to numb the pain, I indulged into self-destruction. I stopped sport competitions, started to smoke, first a cigarette, then a joint, then a bong, etc. I was hanging out with the wrong crowd.
I needed meaning but could not find it anywhere. I had picked up philosophy classes but what they were teaching there seemed superficial and did not answer my questions –or my distress. I dropped out of university after a month.
I felt increasingly isolated. I stopped talking to people. I would just write notes to my mother. I had built a hut in the forest where I would spend most of my time, in the loneliness of my morbid thoughts. So when people say “If only I could be 18 or 20 again…”, I think to myself that it was actually the worst time of my life.
It took me some time to recover. My parents had the wisdom not to push me. I did not want any help. They were confident that I would somehow get back on track. The odds seemed against them at that time. But actually they were right. I made it through.
In retrospect, I realize that there were many steps involved in getting over failure and building my life back. Let me try and share them with you.Advertising
1. Give up the victim mindset
When something bad happens, we tend to picture ourselves as victims. As a result, we adopt a passive attitude: if the world did us wrong, then it should also make things better again for us. It is as if we were trying to convince ourselves that there is nothing we can do to bounce back. After all, it is a comfortable thought: if there is nothing we can do about it, we have nothing to do but bemoan our fate.
The first step in my “recovery” process was a mindset shift. I simply realized that nothing was going to change by just waiting for it. I had been through tough times but I could not expect the solution to come from outside. I had to hold myself accountable for what was coming next. No one will look after you if you don’t start by looking after yourself.
This realization did not come overnight. It took me almost a year to get there. Of course it was frightening. When you are at the bottom, you can’t fall lower. If you try to come back up, you expose yourself to failure again.
But the biggest risk at this stage was not to take any risk at all. By maintaining self-destructive behaviors, I would just lose any chance of a better life. What did I have to lose but the hell I was living in?
I had touched the bottom and pushed it with my foot. I was ready for action and committed myself to getting back to the surface. There was a long way to go.
2. Change the setting
Our lives are deeply influenced by our environment. The place where we live, the people we know, etc. They are part of our identity; they are constant reminders of who we have been to date. To a certain extent, they anchor us in our past.
This is natural, and even comforting. But it may be unhelpful when we strive to create change in our lives. People sometimes expect us to behave in a certain way which makes it difficult to adopt new behaviors.
When I decided to rebuild my life, I felt the urge to break free from the past –at least temporarily. I enrolled at the university in a town where I knew no one. It made it less awkward to try and be the new me that I wanted to be. There was no sign from the past; I could focus on the present. It was like a cocoon in which I could be born again.Advertising
Sometimes changing the outside makes it easier to change inside. This is what behavior psychologist James Prochaska calls “Environment Control”.
Depending on the severity of your setback, you may not have to go as far as moving country or city. But taking a 1- or 2-week break at least can prove beneficial. It will facilitate the introspection process and help you get a fresh perspective on the situation.
3. Know yourself
Major breakdowns shatter our identity. In order to move on with life, we have to rebuild a sense of self.
Who am I? How did this fiasco come along? Where do I want my life to go from now on? I knew I needed answers to these questions in order to get back on track.
When life doesn’t go the way we want, we tend to avoid mirrors and the ugly reflection they send back to us. Yet facing the mirror and raising awareness is essential to pick ourselves back up after a fiasco. Without self-awareness, any behavior change process has very little chance to mature.
I used two mirrors: reading and dreaming. I would read voraciously anything that could help me understand the situation better: psychology papers, books on mental illnesses and spiritual experiences, biographies from people I felt somehow related to, articles about substance abuse, etc.
This is also when I started to write down all my dreams. I had a Dictaphone next to my bed and I would wake up at night to record a few words and remember the dreams the next day. I became an expert dreamer! I could remember up to 20 dreams per night very vividly. I didn’t feel the need to analyze them. By simply acknowledging them and exploring my subconscious, things were getting clearer: my fears, my aspirations, the people I loved, what mattered to me.
Self-understanding leads to self-acceptance. It is the cornerstone of any genuine reconstruction process.Advertising
4. Body first
Critical setbacks in life leave us with a lot of uncertainties. We doubt whether any activity is worth pursuing.
At the peak of my personal crisis, I wouldn’t listen to any music anymore because I could not identify myself any longer with anything. Why would I listen to this song rather than this other one?
The first certainty that emerged out of the chaos was the importance of physical health. I did not know which life track I would eventually follow, but I was sure that I would be better equipped under any scenario if fit. This fundamental belief was where I started my reconstruction process from.
I went back to a healthy life with regular exercise, pushups every day, a balanced diet, no smoking or drinking, etc. The downward spiral was over. I was engaged in a process of progression which helped regain self-confidence.
When we are in good shape, our thoughts are clearer and we manage our emotions better. Our body is ultimately our home, our temple. Treating it with respect is essential to rebuilding a positive sense of self.
5. Mull it over and get it out
A life crisis is a traumatic event. We can be tempted to avoid thinking about it and live in denial in order to reduce our pain. Yet this can’t be fruitful in the long run. We have to face reality and confront our suffering if we want to go beyond it.
At the same time, we shouldn’t get stuck in unpleasant thoughts and relive in our mind the fiasco we have been through again and again. We need to eventually get it out of our system.
The way I did it was through writing. For about a year, I wrote poetry. I had some very strong feelings inside that I needed to crystallize in order not to drag them along. This was my emotional catharsis.Advertising
Creative activities such as journaling or painting can be immensely helpful in getting you over the bad aftertaste left after a personal fiasco. The point is not to create a masterpiece, but to let go of limiting emotions.
6. Set goals
Goal-setting probably saved my life! As I engaged in a reconstruction process, I felt deeply frustrated with where I stood. Setting personal objectives allowed me to set eyes on a new horizon and move forward. I was perhaps very far from where I wanted to be but I was on my way there, step by step, day after day.
I wrote a list of the goals I wanted to achieve in life, organized them by category (physical, intellectual, artistic, etc.), and kept a daily log of the activities that were me getting closer to these aspirations. This provided me with a sense of direction and helped me be at peace with my present self.
By setting goals, you make yourself responsible –you adopt the viewpoint that you can do something about your situation. By having goals, you take ownership of your destiny and become the architect of your life.
Don’t set too many at first. Try with three to five simple goals, with a focus on daily or weekly habits. Make them S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound); e.g., exercising 3 times per week, reading 20 minutes per day, or drinking 2 L of water daily.
When failure becomes an opportunity
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill
If you had asked me back then, I would have told you that I would rather have avoided this fiasco. It’s only years later that I recognized how beneficial it had actually been. A breakdown may shake you but it does not destroy you –it de-constructs you. The bricks of your life may be scattered all over the place but they are still here. This gives you a rare chance to rebuild from scratch the life you want.
It took me some time to get back on track. I eventually managed to enter a prestigious university and started a career in investment banking. 12 years later, I launched my own venture to help people reach their own life goals. It was a way to close the loop: failing, growing, and sharing.
The lessons I have learned and the habits I have picked up through this personal crisis stay with me to this day. This fiasco ended up having a positively transformative impact in my life.
When you experience personal chaos, you may not see the light at the end of the tunnel right away. It may feel like everything is over. Don’t freak out, it could well be instead a blessing in disguise and a rare opportunity for you to step back and build the life you want.
Last Updated on January 6, 2021
14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress
Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”
In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.
For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.
For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.
Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.
Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.
Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.
How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques
Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:
1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals
Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.
For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.
2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives
Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.
Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:
Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made
3. Create a System
Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left?
This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.
You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.
Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.
Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.
4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!
We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.
If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.
Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.
Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.
5. Use a Ratings Scale
Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.
Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.
It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.
6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”
This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.
You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.
You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.
7. Offer Feedback Forms
Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.
First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.
Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.
You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.
8. Track Cost Effectiveness
This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.
Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.
Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.
9. Use Self-Evaluations
Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.
Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.
10. Monitor Time Management
This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity.
The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.
While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.
11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition
We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.
Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.
For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.
Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.
Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).
From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.
12. Utilize Peer Feedback
This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.
Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.
Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.
It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.
13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure
When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.
Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.
Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.
14. Use an External Evaluator
Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.
They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.
While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.
These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.
The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.
The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.
More Productivity Tips
- 50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time
- 35 Quick and Simple Tips for Better Productivity
- 40 Powerful Productivity Quotes From Highly Successful People
Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com
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