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Posted by Philip on 12 March 2017, 2:44 pm in , , , , , ,

My problem with productivity

Last week a colleague sent a link to this article on Task-Based Thinking (TBT) vs Outcome-Based Thinking (OBT). Briefly, its point was that TBT makes you less productive than OBT because the former leaves you thinking, "What do I need to do today?" instead of, "What outcomes do I want to achieve today?"


I read it, as I have hundreds of similar "be-more-productive" blogs, and found myself getting really pissed off. Why the hell do I need to be more productive? What's wrong with doing what needs to be done and feeling like that's enough?

The author was basically saying that when you use OBT, you get to the point that your plate is never empty — there's always so much else to achieve that some things never get done. Bugger that.

Maybe I'm projecting. I'm a pretty productive person. Perhaps I naturally use OBT. I use to-do lists inconsistently (checking off to-do lists is supposedly classic TBT behaviour), so maybe I don't need to worry about being more productive.

But that's how this bloody article made me feel. I felt like I should be wading in a never-ending sea of potential achievement, constantly prioritising what is worth achieving and ignoring what can be left to stagnate in the puddle of not-worth-achieving trivia.

This pressure to be ever more amazingly productive is an insidious industry. Ironically it seems to be led by white American men – Tony Robbins, Dale Carnegie and Tim Ferriss come to mind — hailing from a country now run by a megalomaniac tyrant.

I think of the rising incidence of stress, anxiety, depression, cancer and suicide and wonder what role our western productivity-obsessed culture has to play. A hundred years ago, being productive meant doing enough to own a house, buy clothes and put food on the table. Now if we dare say we've finished what we needed to do today, we're to-do list-ticking under-achievers without enough outcomes to drown in.

I think this pressure to be continuously more productive is harmful. Expectations to be checking emails 24/7, working until the job is done and going the extra mile is damaging to our psyches, families, communities and societies. Let's stop being more productive and start doing enough of what's important, constructive and genuine. 

I may be writing this on a Sunday, but I'm doing it because I want to — not because I'm trying to prove how productive I am.

And now I'm off to watch Netflix — it's next on my to-do list.

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