Life hacks are part of a 200-year-old movement to destroy your humanity—Andrew Taggart, Quartz
What remains deeply puzzling about the obsession with personal productivity is that it is a rather uninteresting goal. Isn’t peak productivity an oddly deflating cultural ideal, especially when put in comparison with Achilles’ heroic feats, Solon’s excellence in statecraft, St. Thomas Aquinas’s holiness, Beethoven’s beautiful symphonies, and G.I. Gurdjieff’s spiritual search? How did it become such an ideal for us to aspire to?
A more fundamental question than how we can “hack” our productivity is why we place so much importance on doing so in the first place.
These explanations can be reduced to two basic kinds. The first kind implies that much of life is burdened by mental suffering—feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed—that can, through our own concerted efforts, be alleviated or at least coped with by finding the right productivity hacks. The second suggests that life is a “middle class epic” whose finale would depict a form of satisfaction following from the completion of the most challenging tasks at work. Call it Inbox Zero Integrity.
Yet neither the desire to lessen our everyday mental suffering nor the pursuit for short-term satisfaction ultimately explains our deep cultural obsession with productivity. What drives it instead, I’d argue, is a 200-year-old movement toward making work the center of our lives.