Productivity porn

13 03 2019

I first heard of this term on a podcast with Dan Ariely a while ago and I was intrigued. A quick google search revealed that it’s not a hypothetical, spur of the moment invention but rather something that’s being much discussed and written about. And that it’s a real phenomenon. It basically represents the tendency to seek more and more productivity-enhancing information, often to obsessive levels.

There is a plethora of information out there in the form of tips, techniques, tools etc., both scientific and pseudo-scientific, that seems to bombard a productivity seeker from all corners. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by this avalanche of information and this may eventually lead to inaction. There is also the danger of receiving a lot of conflicting information as well. It’s very challenging to assimilate different pieces of information and come out with a plan that works for oneself.

While I’m not obsessive about productivity, I do keep seeking productivity tips from time to time. Here is my personal journey:

Several years ago, in an effort to be more efficient and to reach my goals, I started creating and using To do Lists after learning about their utility from some resource. They definitely helped me to understand the scope of the tasks I do and like to do. But I faced difficulties in trying to tick off items on my list. Then came along the advice on attaching time bounds – basically recording your tasks on a calendar. That sounded reasonable and so for a couple of years, I happily tagged along with me a bulky organizer (this was pre-smartphone days). It seemed to work for me, at least better than just plain old to-do lists. But of course, it’s not a magic pill and didn’t solve all my efficiency and productivity goals. Moreover, it seemed a lot of work. Then I happened to read a piece of advice from a top Yahoo executive on To-do lists. Her advice on the best way to deal with to-do lists is that one shouldn’t, as a rule, seek to accomplish all the tasks listed, but one should aim to accomplish only about half of them. Her premise is that we tend to put too many things on our to-do lists with varying degrees of priority and importance, and the intention to achieve each one of them puts undue stress on self. Assuming that you would typically tackle the higher priority tasks first, we shouldn’t really bother about those on the bottom of the list. This too seemed appropriate advice. I tried to follow it, but couldn’t because I had issues with prioritizing my tasks. Either everything seemed important to me or I routinely found myself tackling first the more appealing but utterly unimportant or useless tasks, thereby indulging in classic procrastination of things that matter and draining my energy with petty things leaving very little or none for the tasks that are more important. Here tools like the Urgent/Important matrix by Eisenhower are an obvious choice to implement. These quadrants are also dubbed as Frogs, Jewels, Knats, Butterflies to drive the point home and help the users to understand the nature of each quadrant by association. I can’t say I have mastered using this tool, but it had been a huge help. But the story doesn’t end here.

I found myself continuously seeking and absorbing more productivity tips and tools like – 3-5-8 rule to organize my work day, the famous Pomodoro technique to focus on complex tasks, email management etc. You get the idea. It’s as if the act of collecting the productivity tips is in itself useful.  But have I really become more productive and efficient? Maybe a little. Over time I realized that my joy in seeking to improve my productivity is illusionary because of the phenomenon of analysis paralysis that it leads to. It all seemed such a useless chore.

But now, my objective is not to become the most efficient but rather just find my sweet spot or secret sauce of one or two ingredients that will benefit me in a big way and in the long run. Everything is much simpler now. My brush with productivity porn made me wiser. I think the connotations of this term should serve as a warning bell, urge one to take a step back, reflect on related behaviors and catch oneself when about to cross the line.

Here a couple of great articles on the term and the phenomenon:

Productivity Porn and How to Stop Fiddling and Start Doing

The Trap of Productivity Porn

 

 

Advertisements

Actions

Information

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: