Sep 17, 2011

Productivity for tossers or tossing productivity

For more than a week now since a respected colleague shared the link, I have kept an essay in a tab of my browser and referred back to it time and again, reading and reflecting on its content. Time to share and anchor it here so my tired old eyes can find it later and to make space in my tab menu now.

Zen Habits is a blog to which I am referred on occasion, and which I read with interest, but which I never get around to bookmarking due to a personal aversion for labeling anything Zen. A word which means so many things to many people is often useless for effective communication.

One of the reading experience of my high school days which impressed me most was a short story by Heinrich Böll, in which an office manager ran about in a frantic manner exclaiming "Es muß was geschehen!" ("Something must happen!") or words to that effect. Now I do not recall the title, and, as I have learned time and again, my memory can betray me as to the exact words or circumstances, but what is important here is not the accuracy of the citation, but the abiding effect of the text 35 years later, so I'm uninterested in sorting out the actual details with the help of Google. As I remember, the little man falls dead at the end of the story. Something happened.

Productivity is spoken of widely, often by me. However, it is a much more complicated matter than we usually acknowledge. Sometimes metrics fail or are simply irrelevant, no matter how well they are construed. I can sing the praises of Dragon Naturally Speaking for taking dictation to a new level or show you marvelous tricks with memoQ for handling complex content, but I cannot make the more important judgment of whether that activity or that text is really a productive, enriching use of your time.

"Toss Productivity Out" is a nice reflection on various truisms to which many of us hold dear. Read, enjoy and dispute its points.

Real life and productivity are about qualities, less about quantities. And as one sober colleague has noted, one should observe attempts to redefine quality with a very critical eye.

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