“Did I already tell you about my morning routine? I wake up at 4am after a wonderfully refreshing two-hour sleep. I read a couple of books (history, philosophy, business administration) while listening to my favorite podcast: In today’s episode, they spoke about the importance of concentration. Cool stuff. Then I hit the gym. I have this super special technique of checking email while doing the deadlift that I’m kinda super proud of. On my way home I invest in a couple of startups while investing in my inner self: Did I tell you I LOVE MEDITATION?!?!?!?! I also like to post a couple of LinkedIn updates here and there, but I might as well do it later. There’s so much time! Okay, bye now, gotta prepare for my webinar.”
Silicon Valley, and the tech industry in general, ingeniously created a cult of productivity. There are a gazillion task managers and to-do list apps (in fact, the founding team behind Pitch previously created one called Wunderlist) and time management techniques (Pomodoro, anyone?) and apps for tracking time and progress and what not — along with a gazillion articles and videos and (paid) workshops and Extremely Fierce online debates about how to stay productive, how to manage distractions, which technique is good, and which is bad, and someone on the internet is wrong. Again.
All of which is good and fine, up to a certain point — but this directs attention to the how, conveniently bypassing the why.
Yes, there is good productivity; no questions about that. Learn basic keyboard shortcuts of your operating system and the apps you use the most (side note: see below for more on that) — and you’ll save yourself a lot of time spent moving the cursor around and clicking those tiny icons. Learn to type 80 words per minute (test yourself here) and you’ll save yourself A LOT of time. (Plus it’ll give you an enormous upper hand in heated Slack arguments.)
There’s another, darker side to productivity, though. Getting obsessed about how much you’ve done throughout the day. Letting that largely define you as a person entirely. Boasting 80-hour work weeks, no weekends, etc. Designing a super-optimized schedule in which not a minute of your day goes into something “unproductive” — like having a proper lunch, off-desk, or taking a walk, or some good old thinking. Okay, this begins to feel like pure socialism speech slash unsolicited well-being advice. But I’d just posit that humans are not meant to be super-efficient robots, and we have feelings, and ups and downs, and more productive days/weeks, and less productive days/weeks, and it’s all totally absolutely okay, and this whole maximum output factory-style optimization of everything is simply not sustainable in the long run. And then you have that whole “burnout in tech” conversation going on on Twitter for God knows how many years now. What have we done!
All that being said, there's also a big wave of companies (often those who were remote pre-pandemic) with a new age productivity mindset. The evangelists of “you do your best when you get your rest,” “we don't want you to work for the sake of working,” four-day work weeks, unlimited vacation, sabbaticals, etc.
Unfortunately, it’s not just about Work productivity. Our brains are trained to keep going, to always do more, and that's why we don't know what to do when we're supposed to stop. (There’s a good reason why the entire U.S.A. was learning how to make sourdough bread during the lockdown.)
And so, companies who suddenly find themselves remote shouldn’t really worry about their employees being productive or not: for better or for worse, the drive for productivity is inherent.
I’m not going to lie to anybody, though: I, too, paired all of my socks (and more than once) — instead of finishing this article.