Everything You Know About Productivity is a Lie

If thinking is a key component of your job, focusing on productivity is a waste of time

Jason McBride
6 min readJul 29, 2020

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Image by Jason McBride — a collage created from licensed Canva images

We live in a world of empty slogans and meaningless mantras. But, of all the empty phrases in our culture, none are as damaging as productivity.

Productivity sounds nice. It sounds technical, efficient, and powerful. Most of us have bought into the idea that to be successful you have to be productive. You probably end most of your days looking at your to-do list and scolding yourself for being so unproductive.

Productivity used to be a term of art in the discipline of economics. Now, it is a multi-billion-dollar cash cow for the self-help industry. What does productivity mean?

The most common answer is the equally vapid phrase, “getting shit done.” But what shit are you getting done?

In the knowledge economy, productivity is meaningless. It is a leftover from the first industrial revolution. It might have mattered how many widgets you could crank out on the assembly line in 1950. But measuring the amount of thought you put into an article, design, or line of code is impossible. Productivity is an unmoored metric in the knowledge economy. It doesn’t measure anything worth tracking.

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Jason McBride

Freelance Writer & Illustrator | Poet & Visual Essayist | Amateur Human | he/him https://weirdopoetry.com