Apparently, the minutes logged reading about how to increase productivity are like the calories consumed from tidying up the edges of a day-old cake. Magically, they don’t count. When all you want to do is pretend to be productive by killing some time in between great thoughts, they’re there. Post after patronizing post with neat, snappy advice on improving to do lists, prioritizing, filtering, and focusing. FastCompany and LinkedIn are prime offenders. You literally cannot spit without hitting another snarky but shallow “how to.” (Actually, I advise against spitting on or near your computer. That’s gross.)
Perhaps what makes this content supremely annoying is that much of it is written or inspired by tech start-ups—who, I think, live and work in a parallel universe. My professional environment has so little in common with what I imagine Google to be like that I just don’t know that their “best practices” translate.
There is an especially obnoxious niche reserved for working moms. I believe (and it’s been proven in, like, a lot of studies) that moms are the most productive people on the planet. Simmer down—I’m not saying smartest, most creative, or best smelling--just most productive. This segment of the working population just gets shit done. No joke. So with a lot of love for Huffington Post, I must say that they’re among the worst offenders for posting unhelpful advice. Nothing is more annoying than regurgitated silliness encouraging women to say “no” more and make peace with a little dirt on the floor. We’re there. What we need is something a tad more practical like… a details-obsessed fairy to come in after we’ve FINALLY left in the morning to pick up the dumped vitamins before the dogs eat them, dial into this pointless, too-early conference call and make agreeable sounds like “mmhmm, great idea”, and click send on the diapers.com order.
Productivity topics are so prevalent because there is a demand. These articles get hits. Readers will click because we are all self-conscious about our down time. We’re all hoping for one, magical suggestion that resonates so profoundly that we’re forever focused on the most important tasks at hand. Unlikely, I’m afraid. Productivity can’t be created or forced.
Instead, we all should acknowledge and embrace the reality that productivity (and its driving force, inspiration) are fleeting and irregular. Feeling inspired? Jump on it. Like now. When struck with an idea or insight, we can and will accomplish more in the first 2 hours of sketching, conceptualizing, and defining than you will in the subsequent 200 hours of researching, refining, and reporting.
So, if you’re feeling a productivity lapse it’s really more about a lack of inspiration. Find something inspiring and watch all those little pieces of advice just fall into place naturally.