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Productivity Culture Has an Empathy Problem

Inclusive Productivity

Optimizing our life and time should not be at the expense of those who eventually get to do the ‘small-time’ routine tasks that reinforce the wage gap. It promotes the gig-work economy and makes the less fortunate work for it, as they feel it is an easy way to earn a few bucks.

Inclusive Productivity is when we recognize this imbalance and understand the larger systems at work, ensuring others also can do the stuff that is essential to them.


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Productivity Culture Has an Empathy Problem

Productivity Culture Has an Empathy Problem


Key Ideas

Smarter Faster Better

As we struggle in the constant back and forth of e-mail, the pseudo-work invention from the 80s that have transformed work culture across the world, it’s hard not to feel as if we are just being productive for the sake of it.

Today’s productivity culture does not take into account real-world factors, like not having anyone to delegate stuff we don’t want to do, or cannot do.

Essential Stuff

According to the author Greg McKeown, if we try to give ourselves more time for our self-care and essential activities, that only benefit us, people are bound to be disappointed. By making more time for what’s “essential” in your life, you’re necessarily going to disappoint other people.

The tips and tricks provided by most productivity articles gloss over the fact that people are not treated fairly, equally and are not of the same type. They are complex humans, not computer terminals.

Different People, Different Expectations

The productivity technique like blocking a few hours for no-distraction ‘flow’ work sounds doable for one kind of person but may be interpreted as laziness or hostility when implemented by someone with a different race or gender.

The Culture Of Perfectionism

We are losing empathy, patience and compassion due to our obsession with productivity and self-improvement, as it is giving rise to a culture of perfectionism. Adding to this mix is the infinite choices out there, driving our mind to a toxic, perfectionist state.

We are increasingly blind to others needs in our pursuit of working better, smarter and faster and squeezing every drop of productivity out of our limited time.

Inclusive Productivity

Optimizing our life and time should not be at the expense of those who eventually get to do the ‘small-time’ routine tasks that reinforce the wage gap. It promotes the gig-work economy and makes the less fortunate work for it, as they feel it is an easy way to earn a few bucks.

Inclusive Productivity is when we recognize this imbalance and understand the larger systems at work, ensuring others also can do the stuff that is essential to them.


Craving for normalcy
Craving for normalcy

With all the 2020 events, we all want life to be normal again. While we are starting to adjust to the new normal, many of us are not adjusting in a good way. We let go of positive routines and repl...

Behavioral Activation Therapy - BAT

The idea behind BAT is that we have to do happy to feel happy. Instead of our mood changing what we do, we need to change what we do to fix our mood. The first principle of BAT is to change what you do. Engage in the right activities and positive feelings will follow.

We can't wait until we feel better before we act. Emotions perpetuate themselves. We have to move now and break the cycle of our feelings. This is how we grab hold of happiness.

The Balance Between Leisure And Mistery
  • Pleasure is vital, but we want the kind that will last and not leave you even more stressed than before you started. We're looking for a deeper satisfaction that comes from truly meaningful activities like relationships, exercise, and reading.
  • Mastery can be thought of as a feeling of accomplishment. Progress in goals that are meaningful to you, whether it pays the bills or not.

Create a balance between leisure activities and mastery.

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Measuring Productivity: Input vs. Output
Measuring Productivity:  Input vs. Output

There are two extremes of evaluating productivity: Input vs. Output

  • Input: The salaryman works long hours and is mostly judged on input. The person is judged by his ...
Only Judging Outputs

Some consultants are paid when the company profits go up, but no money is owed when there is no profit.

But, early management theorists noticed just having a consultant made people work harder. A consultant can make a fortune, even though the advice is worthless. The problem with the pay-for-results consultant is that the payment comes too soon. An extended period could give better insight.

Big-Picture and Fine-Grained Detailed

A dimension in measuring productivity is looking at the big picture or fine-grained details.

  • The big picture: Looking back over the years, how much difference did it make?
  • Fine-grained means adding up the hours worked, which gives an immediate measure of progress.

But there is a trade-off. The big picture is slow to measure and may only be visible in the long run.

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Productivity Shame
Productivity Shame

Work is never finished, and we are unable to disconnect from it, causing us to experience productivity shame, impacting our happiness and creativity.

The modern working pro...

The Busyness Paradox: Addicted To Being Busy
  • Personal productivity is not about all-round efficiency, and it is wrong to think about your input as that of a machine in a factory unit.
  • This is further complicated by our mistaken assumption that being in demand means that we are doing a splendid job.
  • We blur our all boundaries between our work and personal life and every minute of the day is to be kept busy as we rush to attend every meeting, cross out every task from the to-do list or to answer every email that we get.
Completion Bias

Our brain starts to favour small tasks that give a false impression of productivity (woohoo! I just sent out fifty emails!) while we neglect the large, complex but meaningful tasks.

This is known as the completion bias.

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Making A Crisis Out Of Everything
Making A Crisis Out Of Everything

Our diminishing resilience and decreasing psychological threshold of handling pain and struggle is, in turn, making everything look like a crisis.

We are making a catastrophe out of eve...

Psychological Resilience

Psychological resilience is not about fake positivity and takes its power from our negative feelings. It makes our anger, sadness, failure and self-loathing into something useful and productive.

When we become sufficiently resilient, we are unstoppable and limitless.

Care For Someone Else

Our focus on the self has made us fearful and overwhelmed, especially in times of crisis. Part of our anxiety is the constant focus on oneself. Even if we do focus on others, it is only to judge them about how they feel about us, and what they think about us.

If instead of our inner selfishness, we find a greater cause to endure the crisis or risk, some deeper purpose or mission that eclipses our ego, then the crisis is taken care of.

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Our culture of work

Our culture claims that work is unavoidable and natural. The idea that the world can be freed from work, wholly or in part, has been suppressed for as long as capitalism has existed.

Exploring the abolition of work
  • In 1885, socialist William Morris proposed that in the factories of the future, employees should work only four hours a day.
  • In 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that advances in technology would lead to an age of leisure where people might work 15 hours a week.
  • Since the early 2010s, these ideas have been developed further, creating a growing critique of work as an ideology, and exploring alternatives to work.
  • Post-work offers enormous promises: In a life of much less work, life would be calmer, more equal, more communal, more pleasurable, more thoughtful, more politically engaged, more fulfilled.
Work ideology

The work ideology is not natural nor very old.

  • Before the modern era, all cultures thought of work as a means to an end, not an end in itself.
  • Once the modern work ethic was established, working patterns started to shift. Between 1800 and 1900, the average working week shrank from 80 hours to 60 hours, and in the 1970s to roughly 40 hours.
  • In 1979, Bernard Lefkowitz related in his book that people who had given up their jobs reported feelings of "wholeness." During the same period, because wages were high enough, it became possible for most people to work less.
  • During the 80s, work ideology was reimposed by aggressively pro-business governments who were motivated by a desire for social control.
  • By the early 21st century, the work culture seems inescapable.

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    Routines reduce mental fatigue

    They tell your brain what’s expected of it:

    • They reduce decision fatigue and that fight-or-flight stress that can get in the way of taking act...
    Building routines for the non-work parts of the day

    When you have a pre-existing routine, it’s easier to fit work into it when it arises.

    If you’re working from home on a regular basis, it’s good to get into a habit of showering and getting dressed, because it provides some parameters that say, ‘Work day has begun!’

    Work structure

    Develop a reserve of cues that tell your brain it’s time for work and outline a structure you can tap into whenever you need to get down to business.

    For example, work from the same place (and do nothing but work there) or listen to the same music or background noise.

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    Rethinking the 8-hour workday
    Rethinking the 8-hour workday

    Knowledge workers aren't factory workers. There is no direct correlation between how much time they spend on the job and their output.

    For knowledge workers, the 8-hour workday doesn’t make s...

    Quality vs Quantity of Time

    The structure of most working environments punishes people for efficiency and rewards them for looking busy. We need to shift our focus from the number of hours spent on something to the quality generated.

    Build the Right Environment

    To make a 3-hour workday feasible, design the right environment to make it possible.

    • Behavior is the result of environment. If you have many apps open, you’ll be more likely to be distracted.
    • Eliminate the need for willpower. Think of willpower like a bank balance. For every decision you make, you spend a unit. Design the right environment, so you avoid depleting all of your willpower.

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    The "frog"

    It is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don't do something about it.

    It is also the one task that can have the greatest positiv...

    Brian Tracy
    Brian Tracy

    "One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not be done at all".

    The ABCDE prioritization approach
    • A items : Things you must do, which will have a serious positive or negative consequence.
    • B items : Things you should do, that have minor consequences.
    • C items : Things that are nice to do but don’t have any real consequences when they’re done.
    • D items : Things to delegate so you can free up more time to do A tasks.
    • E items : Things to eliminate. Generally stuff you do out of habit.