Focusing on the right things can help you maximize your effort and generate better results.

But how can we be sure what the right things are?

In business and professional settings, teams and employees often use key performance indicators (KPI) as a guide. These KPIs are usually some type of business metric that correlates with a specific work or field.

Lawyers, for example, measure their work performance by the amount of time they spend representing a client. They bill clients by the hour at rates corresponding to their level of seniority.

This is an example of conflating time (an input) with results. Lawyers reason that their time is valuable. By extension, they value this time by charging an hourly rate for their services.

The Locksmith Paradox

The locksmith paradox perfectly illustrates the problem of focusing on inputs rather than outputs. 

Picture a locksmith who fixes a broken lock in one hour. The customer who is satisfied with his service happily pays $100 for the task.

The locksmith continues to perform this service, eventually becoming better at his work. 

The customer contacts the same locksmith again for the same task. Since he is more skilled and efficient, the locksmith can now complete the same task in half the time. The locksmith charges $100 for his service to the confused customer.

Believing that he was paying for an hour of work, the customer was upset by the shorter time the locksmith took to repair the lock. Instead of $100, the customer was only willing to pay $50 for the half-hour of work.

Even though the results were identical in both instances, the customer’s perception of value had changed.

Imagine if you were the locksmith. Instead of being better compensated for your efficiency and improved skill, you are penalized simply for getting better at your job!

The Illusion of Work

We see this all the time in the workplace. Where bosses focus on face time instead of real productivity, employees are forced to play the corporate game.

Workers are more inclined to put on a show and create the illusion of work than stay engaged in their jobs and tasks. Sometimes to appease upper management, they stay on longer than they should and clock more hours than they have to.

Now that we understand the problem of confusing outputs with inputs, what can we do to manage this paradox?

Focus on Outputs not Inputs

We can start by choosing to focus on efforts on outputs. 

If we apply this to training, an intensive workout for 30-45 mins is better than spending 2 hours in the gym.

What matters is the output. Are you truly being productive with your time?

What are your deliverables? If you’re a painter who can complete painting a roof in 5 hours, is time the only reflection of your work?

What is the value you are providing to the homeowner? Are you using reflective painting to keep the house cool during the summer? Is the paint a special mix that can withstand the rain and snow during the fall and winter?

Focusing on outputs can significantly impact how we behave and act. 

If you decide to read a popular book from the New York Times’ bestseller list, are you simply wanting to be seen with it? Or are you actively taking notes, summarizing the important chapters so you can apply what you’ve learned?

Consider the benefits of detaching yourself from inputs. You get more time and leverage as a result to perform meaningful activities and work.

If you’re an entrepreneur who charges based on the value you provide, it can lead to a higher earning potential in the long run.

Rather than trying to look busy, you are delivering actual results and value and being rewarded for it.

Measuring Impact

It’s hard to quantify impact if you don’t properly define your output.

I started this podcast as a means to engage, inform and inspire others. That sounds like a lofty goal and one that is hard to measure. 

After all, I can’t really tell if I’ve truly made a difference in someone else’s life. 

Do I judge my product and it’s value by the number of likes, the amount of signups on my email list or the listeners on each episode of the podcast?

While comments on my Facebook page,Twitter and Instagram are certainly appreciated, it’s hard to really know just how much impact Quite Franklin has had.

Though I seek to inspire and motivate, it’s my hope that anyone who reads and interacts with my content finds something useful. And that they can translate it into a better habit, routine or mindset for long-term success.

What types of output do you use to measure your own value? What are the deliverables in your field that you are driven to excel and achieve?

Share them in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!