The last 18 months have been a major setback for the entire world. So, where should we be setting our sights on World Productivity Day 2021?
Productivity is a totally subjective concept. It means different things to different people. We gauge it differently, both as individuals and as societies. Most of us would agree that you can measure it through output – How efficient have I been? What have I achieved? Governments and businesses tend talk about it in an almost mythical way, and we love going along for the ride. Productivity, the ethereal fuel that drives humanity’s inexorable march of progress. It’s true, of course. Striving to achieve greater productivity brought us the agricultural, industrial and digital revolutions. Yet the last 18 months or so have also proven to us that being productive sometimes has to be weighed against other things. World Productivity Day 2021 can be an opportunity to reassess what the concept means to us.
Nobody is talking about re-inventing the wheel here. After all, we’re the proud creators of the most powerful focus tool available today. “Traditional” productivity is what FocusMe is all about. But maybe it’s time we broaden the definition to include not just the production of value in an economic sense, but also for society, the natural world and our own mental & physical health? The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us the limitations of our current model and challenged us to rethink a lot of things.
It's all about priorities
It’s clear that our quest for ever-increasing productivity to feed ever greater demand is leading us to crisis points on multiple fronts. Worse yet, as far as we can tell, we’re not any happier than our ancestors were. Sure, on average we live longer than they did, but a lot of that is simply down to lower infant and childhood mortality rates. On average, a hunter-gatherer that made it to adulthood could expect to reach around 70 years old or more. In other words, all this productivity is basically about having better amenities.
Obviously that’s a gross oversimplification, but the point still stands. We’ve become awfully focused on creating more and better stuff, often at the expense of the natural world and our own well-being.
Since the emergence of Covid-19 many of us have felt compelled to take up a position in the economy vs public health debate. It’s often presented in a way that makes us feel as if we’ve got to pick a side. Our tendency to frame decisions in such binary terms is part of the problem.
It’s certainly true that a collapsed economy is just as dangerous as a pandemic. There are also real risks of jeopardizing future health and productivity by shutting schools for long periods and reducing access to lifesaving treatments for people with pre-existing conditions.
Anyone who claims to have the answers to this dilemma is probably full of hot air. One thing is clear though, shortsightedness is an enemy to productivity. Without a sustainable plan for the future (and maybe also a good plan B & C), no amount of productivity will save us. There are not many species that are capable of understanding the concept of delayed gratification, and no other has used it to their advantage like we have. That said, we clearly still have a ways to go.
A new consensus around productivity is possible
Despite our shortcomings, there is also plenty of room for optimism. Slowly but surely, a new global consensus seems to be forming. Before 2020, most of us floated through life under the assumption that the rules of the game were more or less set in stone, or at least only evolved gradually. Then, almost overnight, our lives were transformed. Billions of people adopting new habits and behaviors within weeks. The workplace replaced with home offices. Travel shut down. Then, of course, there’s the not insignificant fact that we watched governments “find” trillions of dollars to make sure that the whole house of cards didn’t collapse.
So where does all that leave us? Well, we now know that real, paradigm shift kind of change is possible. It’s happened once, why can’t it happen again? While there are plenty of people who have been desperate to get back to work, many have decided that zero-hours contracts don’t offer the security they require.
Where to from here?
The narrow definitions we have for productivity and progress have had their day. The vast majority of the world’s population now agree that business as usual is unsustainable. People are burned out, nature is on fire and the biggest companies in the world are reporting record profits while their founders become the richest and most influential people in history. Artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies have already begun to disrupt the workplace and will continue to so at an exponentially accelerating pace. More and more economic and social activity moves into the online space each day.
There is a lot of uncertainty around where all of this will lead us. It’s possible to come up with utopian visions of a world where human beings have solved all our problems with technology. Machines do all the dirty work and we enjoy spending time with our families and doing leisure activities. On the other side of the coin we could have a The People vs The Technocrats situation taking place in the apocalyptic setting of a world experiencing runaway climate and environmental breakdown. It genuinely could go either way.
In the short term to medium term, we can expect a continued shift towards hybrid work patterns, a major reorganizing of the chairs as “clean” industries replace some of today’s biggest players and continued pressure on governments and the private sector to step up and ensure that the benefits of all our productivity end up in the hands of the many and not just the few.
Let's not forget about just getting stuff done...
As a business that specializes in productivity and focus, we could have used World Productivity Day 2021 as an excuse to bang on about digital distractions, beating social media addiction or any of of our other ‘usual’ topics. We hope we gave you some things to think about.
Even in a world where with a whole new definition of productivity, we’ll still need to get things done. Whether you’re looking for a way to increase day-to-day productivity while working online or trying to block out digital distractions such as social media and gaming, this is the tool that will empower you to make it happen.
Start by learning more about how it works and checking out some reliable third party reviews, or simply get started right away by clicking the button below (don’t worry, we’ll still explain everything)!