Making the Switch from Time-Oriented to Task-Oriented Productivity

Joe Martin
3 min readMay 27, 2016


The majority of the working world is not productive throughout the work day. If you work at a larger company, you’ve probably noticed this first hand. I can’t tell you how many times I felt jealous of friends texting back & forth all day, or having the time to research things like Fantasy Football, while they were at work.

Time-Oriented Productivity

This is your traditional workplace setup, which I compare to my time working for a corporate based, multi-million dollar .com company. My productivity…my “contribution to the team” was based on being present. Having a butt, in a seat, at a desk, between the hours of 9am to 5pm.

WHAT I got done wasn’t as important. The company seemed to value the illusion of people working, more than it did the actual work itself. And if I worked faster to get something done quickly, a new project would simply fill that void.

Conditioned Expectations

Having worked in similar environments from my first job at a bowling alley, I ended up applying these principles when I established my own team. I created hours that they were required to be there. Flexible hours, but set hours nonetheless. I encouraged meetings because, well, that’s how things got done at previous places I worked.

I instilled the same underlying infrastructure I fought to get away from.

Task-Oriented Productivity

When we focus more on “tasks” than “time”, we’re given the chance to get ahead. In traditional, service based businesses, you’re charged per hour. If a web designer works on your site for X hours, you owe that individual X multiplied by their hourly rate. Meaning the faster someone is at their, the less money they’ll actually make.

In business, we switch this model to value-based pricing. Where instead of paying per hour, a client pays a single price for a completed project. Now, the web designer can be rewarded for working faster. He can finish early and still make the same amount of money. In applying this to productivity, I want to take this same principle and apply it to my own working style.

Fighting to Get Ahead

Since starting my own business back in 2005 I lost the meaning of the word “bored”. I wasn’t allowed to be bored. There were too many things to do. Instead, I switched into 2 modes — productive, or not productive. I was never rewarded for working faster, or harder, because the second I was done, there was something else to do.

Hitting a Moving Target

If you’ve ever lost weight, you’ll run into people who say “damn, you look skinny”. It’s something you don’t necessarily notice because you’re seeing very small changes every single day. You compare yesterday to today, because that’s the last time you saw yourself.

Without setting specific metrics, or goals (such as a target weight), you’re constantly aiming at a moving target. There isn’t the chance to feel accomplished because even though you may have hit your target, that target has now moved.

Measuring Based on Tasks

By measuring productivity based on tasks, you have the opportunity to feel accomplished. You can end each day looking back at what you accomplished and planning what things you need to complete the next day.

This is the switch I’m making. To create, plan, and schedule a specific set of tasks that need to get done each week. To compete against myself to work faster, to be more productive than “the next guy”. If my ultimate goal is to achieve the 4hr work week, it’s time to start creating a system that fits those 40hrs into just 4.



Joe Martin

Entrepreneur, author, and TEDx Speaker who believes real world interactions are more valuable than digital ones.