OPD (Obsessive Productivity Disorder)

This month, Philip coins a new term with OPD, or Obsession Productivity Disorder, and reflects on our obsession with being efficient and getting things done.

Did you know that NZ has a Productivity Commission? I didn’t, until I Googled ‘productivity’ in order to write this blog. According to the website, “The Government has asked the Commission to investigate how to make overall improvements in the design and operation of regulatory regimes in New Zealand.”

Productivity is defined by Statistics New Zealand as “a measure of how efficiently production inputs are being used within the economy to produce output.” It goes on to say that a key determinant of a nation’s standard of living is an improvement in productivity.

But have we gone too far with productivity? Has it become an obsession? Do we conflate the meaning of productivity with stress, busyness and over-achievement?

The first page of a Google search for ‘productivity tips’ brings up these headlines amongst “87,900,000 results in 0.09 seconds” (that’s pretty productive):

  • 10 Laws of Productivity
  • 12 Productivity Tips From Incredibly Busy People
  • 5 productivity tips that will make you feel and look a lot better
  • 12 Productivity Tips From Incredibly Busy People
  • Productivity hints, tips, hacks and tricks for graduate students
  • 25 productivity secrets from history’s greatest thinkers
  • How to Be More Productive
  • 4 Tips for Staying Productive While You Travel – Mashable

Just in that page there’s more than 68 ways to be productive. I’m exhausted.

According to The Business Insider Australia, in 2009, the French were the “most productive people in the entire world.” They spend the least amount of time at work. Japan, in contrast, in 2011, was the most prone to workaholism, with “only 33 per cent of people [taking] all their allotted vacation days.”

Lifehacker, a blog that I follow, points out that “a quick glance at the productivity section of any app store reveals thousands of options for various email, to-do, calendar, notes, workflow, and everything else apps. Cutting through the cruft isn’t easy, but the real trick is knowing when to stop looking for the perfect app and just be happy with what you have.”

They point out that the reason there are so many productivity apps is because there are many productivity methods and the apps simply mimic these methods. They also say that the purpose of being productive is to “spend less time doing the things you have to do so you have more time for the things you want to do.”

But I’m not sure that productivity is all it’s cracked up to be. I think productivity tends to be measured on outputs, rather than the ratio of inputs to outputs. There is also a myth that being busy means you must be being productive.

So, what about ‘efficiency’? According to Dictionary.com it is the “ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort.”

Productivity and efficiency are certainly linked, but where productivity is about inputs and outputs, eficiency is about time and effort.

For my money, I’d be looking at time and effort as being more valuable than inputs and outputs. I think we are developing an unhealthy obsession with productivity, where it is measured by the volume of outputs rather than its ratio to inputs.

So, take a load off, I say. Stop being productive and be efficient. Then enjoy the time and effort you save.


This blog was originally posted on www.philippatston.com.  It has been reposted on DPSN with permission.

3 thoughts on “OPD (Obsessive Productivity Disorder)

  1. Hey Philip. The productivity commission in fact tells us that we have really good workforce participation but the fourth lowest productivity of OECD countries. I read this as inputs high, output to input ratio low ie we stuff around at work more than most cultures

  2. I think productivity is important ,as it alows you to have more free time for yourself so that you can persue your hobby or other passions. Countries like Germany,France have shown that you can have enough time to enjoy life if we become productive or produce good quality work in less time. The key is to work without much distractions and keep personal and professional life separate. Some People misunderstood productivity, being busy and productive are not at all same.

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