Posts tagged productivity
Balaji Srinivasan asks in a Twitter thread why we’re not far more productive given the technology available and gives five possible explanations…
The Great Distraction.
All the productivity we gained has been frittered away on equal-and-opposite distractions like social media, games, etc.
The Great Dissipation.
The productivity has been dissipated on things like forms, compliance, process, etc.
The Great Divergence.
The productivity is here, it’s just only harnessed by the indistractable few.
The Great Dilemma.
The productivity has been burned in bizarre ways that require line-by-line “profiling” of everything.
The Great Dumbness.
The productivity is here, we’ve just made dumb decisions in the West while others have harnessed it.
(via Balaji Srinivasan)
I imagine a spectrum where at one pole we have an assembly line worker, and on the other we have a mathematician trying to prove a famous conjecture. The productivity of the former is constrained only by physics, and may glean a few percent here and there with better tools, methods, and discipline. The latter, by contrast, may have the best tools, methods, and discipline, spend an entire career working diligently, and still not succeed. We live somewhere in between.
what does it mean to be productive if what you are producing is bad? Or even if it is good for you, it may be bad for others, who may endeavour in turn to make it bad for you.
The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster. Two years after his Google talk, Mann released a rambling and slightly manic online video in which he announced that he had signed a contract for an Inbox Zero book. But his career as a productivity guru had begun to stir an inner conflict. “I started making pretty good money from it” – from speaking and consulting – “but I also started to feel terrible,” he told me earlier this year. “This topic of productivity induces the worst kind of procrastination, because it feels like you’re doing work, but I was producing stuff that had the express purpose of saying to people, ‘Look, come and see how to do your work, rather than doing your work!’” The book missed its publication date. Fans started asking questions. Then, after two more years, Mann published a self-lacerating essay in which he abruptly announced that he was jettisoning the project. It was the 3,000-word howl of a man who had suddenly grasped the irony of missing morning after morning with his three-year-old daughter because he was “typing bullshit that I hoped would please my book editor” about how to use time well. He was guilty, he declared, of “abandoning [my] priorities to write about priorities … I’ve unintentionally ignored my own counsel to never let your hard work fuck up the good things.” He hinted that he might write a different kind of book instead – a book about stuff that really mattered – but it never appeared. “I’m mostly out of the productivity racket these days,” Mann told me. “If you’re just using efficiency to jam more and more stuff into your day … well, how would you ever know that that’s working?”
According to Keynes, the nineteenth century had unleashed such a torrent of technological innovation—“electricity, petrol, steel, rubber, cotton, the chemical industries, automatic machinery and the methods of mass production”—that further growth was inevitable. The size of the global economy, he forecast, would increase sevenfold in the following century, and this, in concert with ever greater “technical improvements,” would usher in the fifteen-hour week. To Keynes, the coming age of abundance, while welcome, would pose a new and in some ways even bigger challenge. With so little need for labor, people would have to figure out what to do with themselves: “For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won.” The example offered by the idle rich was, he observed, “very depressing”
Kindle Book 23. Oliver Burkeman’s Help!: How To Be Slightly Happier and Get A Bit More Done.
More than a century of studies show that long-term useful worker output is maximized near a five-day, 40-hour workweek. Productivity drops immediately upon starting overtime and continues to drop until, at approximately eight 60-hour weeks, the total work done is the same as what would have been done in eight 40-hour weeks. In the short term, working over 21 hours continuously is equivalent to being legally drunk. Longer periods of continuous work drastically reduce cognitive function and increase the chance of catastrophic error. In both the short- and long-term, reducing sleep hours as little as one hour nightly can result in a severe decrease in cognitive ability, sometimes without workers perceiving the decrease.