The Alternative Productivity Manifesto

May 7, 2008 at 4:58 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Here’s something interesting, whether you agree or disagree is up to you, read on:

Since World War II, productivity in the U.S. has doubled. So we should be working 20-hour work weeks, right? Well, we’re not. We’re working more. In fact, we’re working more than medieval peasants, and the 40-hour work week hasn’t changed since 1940 even though productivity levels have been growing steadily since then. Productivity simply isn’t helping most people: it’s not making them happier or leading to more free time.

The Productivity Industrial Complex
You and your company need to get things done – lots of things[.] You have invested heavily in the human factor … but are you getting all the results from your people that you could? Are they maximizing their output?
-The David Allen Company

Photo by Stewf
The Productivity Industrial Complex is a marriage between corporations and an entire industry of productivity companies, gurus, consultants, and solution-makers who help corporations squeeze every ounce of productivity from their workers. Organizations like The David Allen Company, for example, make the bulk of their income from corporations looking to “maximize their employee output,” and it’s no surprise that they have a Fortune 500-studded client list which includes Lockheed Martin, Deloitte & Touche, and the U.S. Department of Defense (see here for more of his clients).

This manifesto is largely a response to the Productivity Industrial Complex . . .

Alternative Productivity’s Tenants
“Productivity” is an Industrial Era economics term that applies to factories, machines, and economies. When applied to people it often has a dehumanizing effect and negates both individual differences and unique talents.
If your productivity increases, but your pay stays the same, then you’re effectively taking a pay cut (same goes if you begin working longer hours for the same pay).
The 40-hour work week hasn’t changed since 1940 and is ridiculously outdated.
If you’re consistently having trouble focusing, it’s often because you’re focusing on the wrong things (i.e. things you’re not passionate about or things that aren’t best suited to your skillset).
Increased productivity should equal less time on the job. If you’re getting more done, you should get more vacation time.
Most best-selling productivity gurus are working in the interests of large corporations and often advocate values and approaches that are not in the best interests of individuals.
Increased productivity should result in greater carefree time, more vacations, and more time away from work. Most of the time, however, it does not.
We are living in a time and place that is more “productive” than ever before, but high levels of productivity aren’t making us any happier.
Productivity should be designed around our lives, not the other way around.
The workforce is laboring for more hours and for less pay, taking fewer vacations, and generally burning out.
The best way to increase productivity is often to quit a lot of things.
Productivity often poses as the self-development genre but it is not. Self-development and productivity are two very different things. What is best for us as individuals is often bad for productivity.
The societally scripted routes to success via productivity are failing us.
Products marketed towards busy people (e.g. “Productivity for Busy People,” “Cooking for Busy People,” etc.) only serve to reinforce the problem and often glamorize, excuse, and support the unnecessarily busy life and cult of hyperefficiency.

Hacks, tweaks, tricks, etc. have emerged from a productivity hobbyist culture, are largely insufficient at solving bigger life problems, and often do not increase productivity. These hacks etc. are vestiges of the largely “techie” demographic of the early (but self-reinforcing) blogosphere.
Early to bed, early to rise does not necessarily lead to greater productivity. Contrary to several blog posts advocating early rising as a means to greater productivity, the practice of early rising can actually be harmful.
More technology often leads to decreased productivity.
Hyperfocusing on productivity often gets in the way of the messy, circuitous, and discursive routes of personal development.
When most people speak of productivity in the office, they’re usually speaking about a specific kind of productivity: cubical-land, desk-job, information-worker productivity. The methods used to produce this kind of productivity often do not generalize to other contexts.
No productivity system can put you in a zen like, meditative, or mind like water state. A calm, focused, and meditative mind leads to greater productivity, but productivity systems cannot create a mind like water.
Too much productivity can turn you into a real tool.
Massive value creation often happens during times when no work is ostensibly being accomplished and productivity levels are ostensibly nil.
What makes people productive varies considerably from person to person.
Productivity is often a necessary evil: if you dislike your job, you’re going to need a water-tight productivity system in place to keep you on task.
Productivity should be designed around lives, not the other way around.
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