Finding The Final 5% of Productivity – Saving Minutes to Find Hours!

Finding-The-Final-5%-of-Productivity-Jonathan-Creaghan“Imagine for a moment the following scenario…” Bill, a colleague of yours, has just checked his e-mail and received a note from a person with whom he has a tense relationship. There is a recurring issue between the two of them, that won’t go away. He interprets this e-mail as “snarky” and “bullheaded,” so he sits there at his desk, his mind filling with scenarios and responses he would really like to send back. This internal “chatter” goes on for 10 minutes as he stews in his own emotions. He sends a reply in an equally “dry” tone and immediately regrets sending it, so he stews further in guilt for another few minutes (say 20 minutes).

Total productivity loss: 30 minutes.

As he was working on something else at the time he received the e-mail, he needs to refocus his attention: another 5 minutes to build back momentum.

Total productivity loss now: 35 minutes.

As a result of this decaying relationship, there is a heaviness and running conversation weighing within him of which he is barely aware — that won’t go away. Total time spent in chatter, tension, and loss of productive action – significantly more than 35 minutes. Especially if he takes it home, which he is apt to do.

Total productivity loss now: immeasurable with a significant cost to his inner well-being and probably his family time. Who won’t get his full attention when he gets home.

Now multiply that 35 minutes by 3 (the number of times it recurs during a month) and you see that he wasted an hour and half of time. But this is not the end of the story, because Bill and his nemesis also sit in meetings together. How productive do you think they will be? Since Bill is not the only person who wastes time reacting to emails, we can safely multiply that over the number of employees that work at his company as well.  It could run into the thousands of minutes, 100 employees translates into 3500 minutes a day (approximately 58.3 hours). Now I know that not all people, everyday, stew and keep tension inside them, so I have exaggerated somewhat to make a point.

Start to connect productivity to thought and perception rather than action and performance. ” ~ Jonathan Creaghan Tweet this!

 In error, we connect productivity to performance.  Technological gadgets are invented to save time and effort: smart phones, e-mails, laptops, and tablets were all designed to make our lives “easier and more efficient”. But my experience tells me that these endeavors don’t get at the answer to real and profound productivity improvement that exists within us and between us.

Let’s dissect the above scenario for a moment. We find that Bill is unproductive because of his limited perceptions and conclusions he made about the message in the email. Unable to break free of habitual responses, interpretations, and judgements of whom this other person is and what happened to create this situation in the first place, he follows predictable responses that waste time and energy for all involved. And the funny thing is, if you were to ask Bill if he was productive, he would say “Yes”.

When Bill learns to examine his own thinking, he is free to discover a more accurate “picture” of reality and certain things begin to occur. His mind begins to relax and open up, the resulting clarity allows him to accurately perceive situations, create options for responses, and to reconnect with what is really going on. With less “head chatter” and unnecessary emotions, Bill will be able to distinguish between actions he needs to take and those that are unnecessary.

The source of productivity is within thought and perception itself. We can perform efficient actions with the help of gadgets, but ultimately to find the final 5% of workplace productivity, we will need to learn how to work with our thoughts.

About Jonathan Creaghan

"Solutions for the Human Side of Business

For 25 years Jonathan Creaghan has helped people and organizations successfully maneuver change by using an approach to leadership and thinking that is both simple and leading edge.

He is a specialist in working with challenging situations that can only be solved when the usual approaches have run their course. His goal is to help his clients discover “unpredicted answers to their unanswerable questions”. These questions can exist in the minds of leaders during times of change and challenge, or can persist for years on end and typically have to do with the human side of their business. To accomplish this Jonathan has taken his considerable experience working with thousands of people and hundreds of leadership teams, through a process he calls Deeper Dialogues. The sole purpose is to teach people to literally Think Differently® thereby creating solutions that generate real ROI.

Leaders have used Jonathan’s expertise to:

• Turn around key employees who were close to termination
• Transform leadership teams to work better together
• Handle overwhelming growth so people, systems excel
• Get through financial crises and bank special loans situations
• Grow their businesses 300 – 400% or more
• Implement key growth strategies in record time

Jonathan is the author of several books including Thinking Differently® About… Change – Implementing Growth Strategies that Stick. His books are published across the globe in several languages.

Connect with Jonathan Creaghan


  1. What a great drain our thoughts can be if left to wander and stew.
    Your comment that “The source of productivity is within thought and perception itself.” was a new concept for me which I will ponder, of course keeping my thoughts in check!

  2. Great post Jonathan, and a refreshing view about what really goes on! I wonder how much time and productivity is really lost because of the ‘baggage’ that organisations and teams have accumulated? I dread to think.

    If we could just persuade teams across the world to press the ‘reboot’ button in the form of, as the germans say “putting the fish on the table’ and addressing the un-addressables…

    Thanks for a very thought provoking contribution.

    Warm wishes


    • Thanks David for your important question. It is a challenge for people to understand their life will be better if they deal with the “fish on the table” or as we say “the elephant in the room”.


  3. Hi Jonathan. What a great post! I appreciate your comparison of productivity to thoughts and perceptions as opposed to actions and performance. Your writing clearly shows the importance of good interpersonal relationships among team members and the negative business impact that exists when the relationships “go south”. Those who know me have often heard me say, “It’s all about relationships.” Your post proves that. Thanks so much!

    All the best,


  4. Never thought about this issue in this way. But i can agree with you. Thank you Joanthan for this new insight.

    Kind regards,


  5. Hi Jonathan,

    I like your post. From situations that I’ve witnessed in organizations, the lost time from head trash and poor working relationships is significant. Without addressing these situations, it leads to internal battles, sabotage and lost business.

    Thanks for shining the light on this issue.



  1. […] Start to connect productivity to thought & perception – rather than action and performance.  […]

  2. […] “Imagine for a moment the following scenario…” Bill, a colleague of yours, has just checked his e-mail and received a note… [FULL POST] […]

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