Cult of Productivity: Is It Time to Put a Full Stop?
One of the greatest obsessions that we see in modern times is the obsession with productivity. This is an idea that you must always be doing something to produce results. Besides work, there is less meaning and purpose to life. The cult of productivity is pushing this idea to the limits, and the results might not be positive for everyone. Burnouts and disappointment towards work have increased, and in some cases, overwork has also turned out to be fatal.
The cult of productivity seems to have flourished much in the United States. Likewise, the emergence of social media and the Internet has made it easier to convey the message over the last decades. “Hustle culture”, as they call it, is a source of pride for many young people. Life coaches and corporate gurus have been popping up like mushrooms with the golden formula for a productive and prosperous life. Social media influencers bombard their audiences with messages of workaholism. Those who do not sail the seas of productivity feel a sense of guilt of achieving less in life.
Productivity Dates Back Deeper Than You Think
The cult of productivity might be more pronounced in recent times, but the concept dates back hundreds of years ago. Before the industrial revolution, productivity was more focused on agriculture, namely the production and consumption of food. Just before the start of the 19th century, Benjamin Franklin came up with one of the earliest forms of a to-do list. The list contains an allocation of hours for different tasks and the requirements for a good, productive day.
The objective of humanity was shifting from sheer survival to a more meaningful, impact-based life. There was a need for doing something to contribute to society and humanity. After the start of the industrial revolution, there was a great incentive for those who did more in less time. Automation and productive manufacturing processes gave the greatest value to entire economies. Industries became the major source of employment generation and brought in the workforce from agriculture. People working in industries became busier, and scheduling and prioritising tasks became a critical practice.
After the Second World War, the number of women in the workforce started to grow. This means, for women with children, responsibilities grew. When computers became an integral part of human life, much work could be done in less amount of time. Similarly, with the introduction of the Internet, searching for information became quick and easy. As the rate of work was growing, so was the expectations for increased output.
Today, the cult of productivity is backed by the mainstream media and technology. There are hundreds of thousands of applications that can help you schedule and prioritise tasks. Everybody is in the race to achieve as much as possible every day. It is a sin not to be productive.
Doing More Harm Than Good
Although the cult of productivity shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, criticisms are starting to pop out. The main argument that is we focus too much on being productive rather than actually accomplishing our goals. On the other hand, we miss out on some of the human elements like socialising and experiencing outside environments. Some of the ways in which the cult of productivity actually leads to counterproductive habits are listed below.
Charging Forward Without a Sense of Direction
The first criticism against the cult of productivity is that it encourages people to charge forward without having a sense of direction. When we focus on just being productive, we prevent ourselves from thinking if our tasks are actually meaningful. Similarly, we lack time to relax and review our goals and make necessary adjustments.
When the desire for extreme productivity goes out of control, it is very easy to get burned out. No matter how hard we work during the day, sometimes the results may not be desirable. Sometimes, it may take months before we figure out something. The cult of productivity does not take this into account. The more sensible thing to do would be to create realistic goals, cancel the outside noise, and relax and review when something does not go as planned.
Missing Out on Learning Experiences
When we put too much focus on being productive, we might miss out on learning experiences. Knowledge and inspiration can come from anywhere. Sometimes, a breakthrough idea for a seemingly unsolvable problem can appear during travel or vacation, or relaxation. Therefore, we must possess the skill of observation and diversify our ways of learning.
Degraded Physical and Mental Health
One of the worst outcomes of the productivity obsession is that people trade it with their physical and mental health. The promotion of less sleep and more work is a disaster of modern times. Sleep and rest are as much important as hard work. Most importantly, if we degrade our physical and mental health, productivity will actually go down.
Taking Back Control
So, how do we get out of the cult of productivity? It is going to be hard at first, but the following simple steps can boost your journey towards a more fulfilling life.
Cancelling the Outside Noise
The first and foremost step of avoiding the cult of productivity is the cancellation of outside noise. The Internet is littered with messages of extreme productivity to a point where not belonging feels like a sin. Friends, families, influencers, and gurus will tell you that if you do not put on constant work, you cannot expect a better future. However, we must decide ourselves what is better for us. Productivity alone does not guarantee success, especially when it is the most important goal.
Planning and Discipline
Proper planning and discipline are more crucial for achieving your goals. With a proper, realistic plan, you can enjoy little amounts of improvement every day. Most importantly, when things do not go according to plan, you can start all over again the next day. When you have to change the plan, your experience will always be crucial for the next plan.
Prioritising Relaxation and Socializing Opportunities
A work-life balance is crucial for a prosperous and rewarding life. No matter what the gurus tell you, a proper balance will always work out if you have the right goals. Similarly, socialising will help you network with people who share a common interest and vision. This can significantly ease your work and increase your chances of success.
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In this blog, we have learned about the cult of productivity and how it has become an extreme obsession. Similarly, we saw the effect of social media influencers and corporate gurus in accelerating the message of extreme productivity. Then, we turned our attention to the history of productivity from the pre-industrial revolution to what is in existence today. Furthermore, we looked at the reasons why the quest for extreme productivity makes us less productive. Finally, we closed out with the ways of shifting focus from productivity to a work-life balance.
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