Productivity is a measure of output over time. All other things being equal, the more you produce per minute, the more productive you are. And economists understand that wealth (for a company or a community) is based on increasing productivity.
The simplest way to boost productivity is to get better at the task that has been assigned to you. To work harder, and with more skill.
The next step up is to find people who are cheaper than you to do those assigned tasks. The theory of the firm is that people working together can get more done, faster.
The next step up is to invest in existing technology that can boost your team's output. Buying a copier will significantly increase your output if you’re used to handwriting each copy of the memo you've been assigned.
The step after that? Invent a new technology. Huge leaps in value creation come to those that find the next innovation.
The final step, the one that that eludes so many of us: Figure out better things to work on.Make your own list, don't merely react to someone else's.
It turns out that the most productive thing we can do is to stop working on someone else’s task list and figure out a more useful contribution instead. This is what separates great organizations from good ones, and extraordinary careers from frustrated ones.
The challenge is that the final step requires a short-term hit to your productivity. But, if you fail to invest the time and effort to find a better path, it's unlikely you'll find one.