Current state of productivity

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.

@holyy23

Time Management

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Productivity Obsession

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.

  • Adam Smith wrote in 1776 that there are two kinds of labor: productive and unproductive. The productive one generally adds value to the materials which he works upon, of his own maintenance, and his master's profit. However, a man grows poor by maintaining a multitude of menial servants who add to the value of nothing.
  • Benjamin Franklin put forth his own "to-do" list in 1791, stating that one should start the day asking what good shall be done and end the day evaluating what was accomplished.
Abuse Masked as 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.

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.

The Birth of Consultants
  • Frederick Winslow Taylor, an industrial engineer and efficiency expert, would get himself a consulting gig with a company, observe the workers, and calculate how they could do their jobs faster.
  • Best known as the parents of Cheaper by the Dozen, Peers Frank and Lillian Gilbreth were mining productivity by dividing human action into 17 motions and then determining which was the most efficient and effective way to do any task.
  • Michael Porter exalted the leadership of productive management practices.
  • Bill Smith, an engineer at Motorola, introduced the Six Sigma Method in 1986. It is a disciplined, data-driven approach for eliminating defects in any process. According to Six Sigma, productivity is more than revenues and profits, because profits reflect the end result, while productivity reflects the increased efficiency as well as the effectiveness of business policies and processes.

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In the new economy, knowledge workers have to manage themselves and have autonomy. They are no longer cogs in a wheel, but nodes in a neural network and their individual productivity is now more important than ever.

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Problems With 'Inbox Zero'

The people who implemented the 'Inbox Zero; method ended up getting more emails as they were replying to all their emails, with increased activity.

They also paradoxically started checking the inbox more often.

The anxiety levels increased by applying hyper-productivity.

Capitalization was key to the rise of economic indicators. Upper-class Americans began to put their wealth into new financial assets. They began to see their society as a capitalized investment and the people as capital that could be used to increase wealth.

In the North, such investments took the form of urban real estate and companies that were building railroads. Investors were putting money in communities they had no other interest in. A national business class emerged that cared less about moral statistics than about the town's industrial output, population growth, real-estate prices, labor costs, and per-capita productivity. In the South, enslaved people became pieces of capital that could be mortgaged, rented, insured, and sold.

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