in The Myth series

The original transcript of the dialogue between Me (M) and the Enlightened one (E).

M:

My better half often asks me why am I so obsessed with this thing called productivity that I end up setting a very unrealistic yardstick to measure my day today performance.

E:

That’s because you seem to be highly influenced by what you read in the web space. In fact quite a significant proportion of internet landscape is inundated with list of innumerable hacks to help you master this craft.

M:

So you don’t buy this business of productivity hack?

E:

The very premise on which this myth is often propagated is that we humans are much more capable to function at our optimum level, but for some reason or other we are not being able to sustain our optimum performance.

Even if we happen to accept this premise without much of the challenge then we are tacitly agreeing to the fact that humans are indeed programmed to perform at their optimum level.

Do you really think that it’s a plausible fact to agree?

M:

What’s wrong in peak performance?

E:

You must be well aware that even the best of automobile masterpiece is built with multiple levels of gear options, then how do we expect that human bio-chemical machine should work always at its optimum productivity by being engaged in top gear.

Isn’t it a bit too much to expect from this bio-chemical machine?

Do you really think that this bio-chemical machine can be maneuvered best at its peak level?

M:

But I from my own experience can tell that performing at peak feels nothing less than blissful.

E:

So do racing your car in top gear…

Remember, the blueprint for our present society was created during the industrial revolution. When the assembly line was invented, factory owners started hunting for workers who could easily fit like cogs in a machine.

The most common demand for people to rise early for work, reach office on designated time, and disconnect from the outside world may stem from a number of reasons. And not all of them were primarily introduced into the existing system purely to increase productivity.

M:

So how do you define productivity?

E:

In purely economic terms, the measure of productivity is simply the rate of output per unit of input. The research showed that eight hours per day, five days per week was the optimal time for every factory workers to produce its maximum output. Accordingly 40-hour work week was accepted as an industry benchmark.

Our economy has long since evolved from blue-collar to white-collar, and despite research to the contrary, the majority of workers still find themselves on the wrong side of this normatively accepted benchmark.

Modern information age is often dominated by knowledge workers and creative entrepreneurs; here the output is not necessarily units of cars, but rather challenging and innovative ideas or creative new products.

M:

Therefore measurement of productivity becomes that much more challenging?

E:

Precisely.

Are dozen of innovative ideas produced in a four hour marathon brainstorm session is better than one idea sparked during a four minute quick shower?

Are we willing to count those four minutes as work?

Which ideas are better?

There is absolutely no doubt that getting organized is extremely beneficial. However, managing every aspect of your life down to the smallest detail can be counterproductive.

While being organized is certainly necessary, it’s also crucial that you remain flexible.

M:

Why?

E:

First, instead of increasing your productivity, an overly elaborate system will consume all of the energy and time you need for the actual work.

While you’re focusing on getting organized, you might totally miss your focus on the very work that such organization is designed to serve.

For instance, imagine that you want to become more active and healthy, and thus develop a very detailed plan to fit a certain amount of running and strength-building exercises into your tight schedule.

If your system depends upon meticulously recording your pulse rate and increases in muscle mass, you may end up spending more time on updating and maintaining that training plan than on exercising.

Second, trying to tightly control and manage every aspect of your work and life can make you inflexible and impede your creativity.

M:

So you mean to say that too much of micro management has some inbuilt rigidity that can prove counter-productive.

E:

If your management system is too detailed and rigid, you might fail to seize a great opportunity. For example, you might end up turning down an invitation to a conference that would be highly beneficial for your career, just because you’ve committed to a schedule that has no built-in flexibility to respond to unexpected events.

A rigid system might also damage your creativity. For instance, some fiction writers organize the practicalities of their work very strictly. The result is that all of their novels adhere to basically the same plot, with the only difference being the details of characters and settings – for instance, perhaps one novel is set in Paris while the other unfolds in Brussels.

M:

So what’s the recipe to avoid these straight jacket rigid systems?

E:

You need to remember that for any system to be effective and sustainable it has to result into both output and continuous progress.

Any system is a customized and continuous effort to bring the best out of you. This can only be established after a lot of experimentation. There is absolutely no way that you could simply replicate the existing system followed by someone whom you would like to emulate. Believe me this imitation is never going to throw you results that could be sustained for too long.

By investing in developing a highly personalized system for getting your best work done, you might free up your cognitive bandwidth for more creative output. And as a result you would no longer be bothered about your optimum performance anymore.


Let me know your thoughts, I’d love to hear them ! ?

Have an amazing weekend!

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