In a recent piece on The Muse – Screw Productivity Tips That Only Make Your Life More Stressful – I wrote:
I’m sure there are some professional levels you cannot reach unless you do the most important thing first, every morning. But I do pretty well, and I like to ease into things with two cappuccinos and Instagram. I don’t want to live in productivity bootcamp, where my day begins at 5 AM with a cold shower and the very hardest part of my day.
The article was a response to constant work-hacking posts suggesting we schedule ourselves down to the minute, work according to a timer, reward ourselves according to a timer, and otherwise take all the elegance out of work.
And then fave-comedy-website Reductress took it to the next level with 7 Simple Tips To Keep You Productive and Completely Alone. For instance:
Set time limits for meetings and enforce them mercilessly.
Each time you enter a room, defiantly set an hourglass upon the table as a visual reminder that time is always running out for each and every one of us, but especially productive people like you. This keeps everyone focused on the topic at hand and motivates your colleagues to get out of your presence and on with the rest of their lives as soon as possible. How’s that for synergy?
Much of the productivity advice I read today is intended for knowledge workers, and especially the self-employed – some of whom can work from their armchairs starting at 11am if they want.
And yet there are many self-help articles about scheduling every half-hour of your day the night before, or the Friday before. Oh, and make sure you’re doing it all at your standing desk. THAT DOESN’T REMIND ME OF A FACTORY AT ALL.
You can be effective without treating yourself this way.
The Reductress article hits quite pointedly on the social effects of uber-productivity. See 4-Hour Workweek pic above – a woman at the Bullish Conference told me a tale of discovering that her boss had really taken the book to heart, and that was why her life was suddenly miserable – he had sneakily outsourced all of his work to her.
On a less exploitative but merely annoying note, I have developed a spidey sense for the sort of highly structured productivity of people who have very limited time and therefore make you feel sort of stupid for trying to make small talk with them, or god forbid inviting them out for a drink. You ask them to do something and if they agree, they will do exactly that thing and no more. Connections will not be made. There will be no magical conversation afterwards. There will be no magic.
A lot of business, and entrepreneurship, and magic-making depends on serendipity, on lackadaisical transition times, on wondering what to do next and doing something unexpected. On just talking to people.
Don’t be so productive that you’re not effective. Don’t be so productive that you just end up doing more – so much more – of the same thing, indefinitely. And don’t be so productive that you annoy the living shit out of all the interesting people you could be doing business with.