The dark history of our obsession with productivity
In the late 18th and early 19th century, during the Industrial Revolution, machines moved production from handmade in the home to factories. A frenzy of producing more goods more quickly became a kind of national pastime.
Low-wage factory workers, many of whom were children, toiled in unsafe conditions for decades before labor unions put measures in place to protect workers from the excesses of the push for productivity.
This is a professional note extracted from an online article.
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As workers, we are obsessed with getting stuff done. It is then clear why there seems to be a bottomless well full of advice, hacks, tools, tricks, and secrets to help us pack more into the waking hours.
According to IBISWorld research, productivity software alone accounts for an $82 billion market.
By 1850, day planners were proliferating. Productivity became inexorably linked to the virtue of working hard.
Etiquette manuals of the era suggested that the daily planner was a means for self-improvement.
In the frenzy to be more productive, we have become less so.The procedures and methods in use are over a decade old. Until more robots and AI are incorporated to take over rote tasks, the downward trend will continue.
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People in societies such as ancient Greece, imperial China, Medieval Europe, and colonial America did not measure people's well-being in terms of monetary earnings or economic output.
The turn toward financial statistics means that instead of considering how economic developments could meet our needs, it instead is to determine whether individuals are meeting the demand of the economy.
Until the 1850s, social measurement in 19th-century America was a collection of social indicators known as "moral statistics," which focused on the physical, social, spiritual, and mental conditions of the people. Human beings were at the center, not dollars and cents.
What led to the pricing of progress in the mid-19th century was capitalism.
Capitalism is not just the existence of markets. It is also capitalised investment, where elements of society and life - including natural resources, technological discoveries, works of art, urban spaces, educational institutions, and people - are changed or "capitalised" into income-generating assets that are valued by their ability to make money and yield future returns.
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In his self-help book "Smarter, Faster, Better", Charles Duhigg observes that we are now masters of our own time.
The onus to manage our time, attention, focus and priorities is ...
There are an endless number of distractions, attention sapping ‘urgent’ tasks and other requests for action (like an email) that sap our limited energy and willpower, filling our days with stress and unnecessary procedural work.
... like the SMART(Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound) goals, which are taught in every management class, are themselves part of the problem, distracting us from any actual productivity towards the realization of the said goal.
Another example is ‘Stretch Goals’ which are so audacious that they start to demotivate and decrease confidence.
Before the Industrial revolution, everyone worked out of their home and sold their goods from there. With the Industrial Revolution came the need for automation and factories, and employ...
Just after WW2, there was a rise in corporate headquarters and larger office spaces and cubicles. During this time, the 8-hour workday was established.
Then came the advancements in computers and technology that lead to remote workers of today. The internet and public WiFi allowed employees to do everything they would in their cubicle, but outside the office. They can also work all hours of the day.
4.3 million people currently work from home in the United States at least half of the time, and this figure has grown by 150% in the last 13 years.
Remote workers tend to have higher engagement rates and higher productivity levels. Once they switch to remote work, they rarely want to become office bound again.
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