Almost everywhere you look there's a tendency to frame "productivity" in terms of "task-fulfillment." No wonder David Allen's Getting Things Done has been a bible of work-life management since its release in 2001: It provides a tested system for prioritizing and accomplishing chores small and large.
But there's another way to think about productivity, and it has little to do with crossing tasks off your list. "For me, a productive day is when my colleagues and I have built something or sketched something or created a prototype," says Caterina Fake, cofounder of Flickr, in Inc. "Even if we've just walked it through as a thought experiment, that's very gratifying. There's too much emphasis on productivity in the factory, Ford-assembly-line sense of cranking something out and not enough emphasis on having ideas."
One way to boost productivity is to spend less time in meetings. At her current company, Hunch, she only has meetings if they're "absolutely necessary." In her Flickr days, she had a surefire rule for keeping meetings short: "An agenda [was] distributed before the meeting. Everybody would stand. At the beginning of the meeting, everyone would drink 16 ounces of water. We would discuss everything on the agenda, make all the decisions that needed to be made, and the meeting would be over when the first person had to go to the bathroom."