There is a dark side to productivity. Our tendency is to assume that being productive is a defining characteristic of success. To work efficiently is to get more done in less time without stress. But what exactly is being produced? What are the cumulative effects and long-term consequence of our productivity? Moreover, has productivity lived past its time?
For the record, productivity is not all bad. But it is far from being all good. There is a downside, but it is often ignored. Where are all the books about why productivity is a problem? Where are the “antidote to productivity” websites? Where are the anti-productivity gurus?
You know the promise. Productivity is the promise of getting things done without stress. It is an opportunity to engage in deep work. It optimizes your work. It helps you to make money and have the lifestyle you want. And, beyond work, it is even a way to become the best “you” possible. However, the darker consequences of productivity include rampant individualism, near -sightedness, and competitive greed. And it’s all in a day’s work.
A popular form of victimization is time management. The rhythm of your life proceeds in blocks of time faithful to the incessant drone of this then that. Time blocking, task completion, and calendars as imprisonment. Confinement masquerading as focus, intent, and work. The familiar malaise of subservience to a mechanized life.
The gurus tell us that productivity can be pulled out of its industrial origins to facilitate peak performance, lead to the optimal you, or grant you access to an ideal life. They offer themselves as experts in possession of something you need in exchange for your time and money. Buy my book. Listen to me talk, usually for far too long. Attend my conference. Take my course. Clap for me. And after all that, you’ll feel better. For a while. Then return to the old path of being on your way to nowhere that matters.
Productivity can be “hacked” too. A productivity hack is a catchy little ditty offering solutions to problems you didn’t know you had. And probably don’t. But it is your attention they seek. Come in and visit. Click over here. Sign-up for this. Read more about that. Most of all, stay here for a while and buy this and that. We will help you. We will teach you the right habits. You’ll feel better, for a little while. Then you’ll need more productivity again. A medicine that guarantees addiction.
Productivity is the medium of mass victimization. It enslaves body, mind, and spirit in the false urgencies and incessant efficiencies of industry. You are assimilated into all the invisible assumptions, attitudes, and beliefs no one questions anymore. Collectively, productivity is the weapon of temporal enslavement. And life inside a vast machinery of routines, habits, processes, and systems enforced through blind allegiance. And all of this, conveniently ignorant of long-term consequences.
What is the end result of this? Wealth inequity. Climate degradation. Psychological victimization. Expert manipulation. Alphabetic pollution. Deceptive advice. Striving but never arriving. And the delusion of an authentic you in the pleasant guise of truth. Let’s all get to work.
But more than this…
Productivity does not optimize your time. It steals it from you, like a thief in the night.
Productivity is how time passes you by.