Why productivity can actually be dangerous

The other day I saw an article about speed reading. It gave various techniques that allows a person to read faster and absorb the same amount of material. It occurred to me that in some circles there is a trend to be as productive as possible using various tricks like this: speed reading being one of them but also waking up by taking cold showers, building a routine, eating special foods, and of course consuming caffeine.

However, productivity taken to this extreme is actually harmful and dangerous. It is dangerous because accomplishing things can be addictive and thus it can put your mind on autopilot where you continue to do things because you are used to them and they result in tangible goods. In other words, a life of productivity can actually be like the life of a rat in a maze, running around for rewards in various corners.

Continually absorbing information can actually reduce the pleasure of natural discovery as well. For those of you who have taken to reading huge amounts of math, haven’t you noticed a subtle transition from being naturally curious to being a machine that can solve problems? This is why intense productivity is harmful, because it reduces us from naturally curious and empathetic individuals to machines that produce for the sake of producing.

It is clear that as a society we also overproduce. We continue to innovate because if we don’t, someone else will and overtake us. If no one else were competing with us, then we wouldn’t need to produce as much. That is unfortunately a prisoner’s dilemma situation, and the key to exiting this prisoner’s dilemma is quiet introspection rather than endless productivity. Productivity is a phenomenon that we have come to glorify because it is rewarded with money, not because it makes us better people.

Thus, I advocate against being too productive. Of course, we all have to do a minimum of things in order to live and be happy: cook, clean, work, buy food, and think about what it means to fulfill a destiny. Yet, being too productive and getting too many things done can take us away from being human and it should be avoided.

Now, I am sure some people will get the wrong idea. I don’t advocate against doing hard work. If a job has to be done, then I don’t mind spending as long as it takes to do it. But productivity is different: it is creating things over and beyond what is really necessary. What is really necessary? That can only be decided on an individual bases with calm introspection and an understanding on one’s character and soul.

I recommend taking time to think about this important concept.

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