The productivity porn trap

Do you find yourself continually consuming information about how to be more productive?


There are big societal expectations surrounding people’s economic output; we hear so much about the grind, the hustle, The 5am club, the 4am club.

“Billionaires wake up at 5am and you should too!”


We’re bombarded with information on what we should be doing to be more successful than we are; how replicating just one or two habits of the world’s super wealthy can make us just like them.

This information, while insightful, can be counter productive and without context can also be damaging.


Not hitting these targets can make us feel inadequate, stressed, anxious, or with imposter syndrome. As we continually read about how to be more productive, we tend to procrastinate on tasks that are tedious and don’t feel like they contribute to net productive output, such as admin work. Delaying these tedious but required tasks, in turn triggers more stress and we look for better ways to be more productive and the productivity porn cycle continues. All of this is exacerbated by the constant game of one-upmanship that’s played:

“I had 7 hours of back to back calls”;
“You think that’s bad, I had 9!”

“I have 250 unread emails”
“Mate, I have 400!”

Instead of scouring the internet for tricks that Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk use (it’s worth noting that while they wake up early, they also go to bed early and so are getting a nice 7-8 hours sleep a night!), it’s more worthwhile to invest time putting in place the systems and structures that work for you. Identify the areas or times when you are your own bottleneck and address that.


To change your state is to change your output.


Taking a break during the work day for exercise may seem counterintuitive but it’s more beneficial in the long run. Exercise positively impacts the brain's dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus, attention and reduce stress. Likewise meditation has been proven to increase focus, concentration and reduce stress and anxiety. Breaking up the number of continuous hours in front of a screen makes us less stressed, more attentive and ultimately more productive.


‘Always on, always available’ mentality can have its benefits providing it works for you rather than being projected on to you due to external expectations. In these times of working from home, when our social outlets have diminished, it’s important we look after our mental and physical health to prevent stress, anxiety or burn out.


If you are the person who responds to the statement “I’ve had 7 hours of calls” with “I've had 9!”, be sure you’re not exacerbating the situation. Consider instead probing into their statement to find out if it’s just conversational or if this person is truly struggling. Don’t immediately shut them down in a game of one-upmanship.

Rebalance your Productivity!

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