Why Productivity Is Bunk

Productivity is about SO much more than To-Do lists, hacks, and efficiency.

I’ve been writing about productivity and personal development for over ten years now. Every few years, discussions of productivity fall out of favor — I’ve had a few people I respect and am inspired by go so far as to say “I don’t give a rat’s ass about productivity and neither does anyone else who’s worth talking about.”

Why is it that productivity can be chopped liver?

Because productivity has been associated solely with the techniques and life hacks that enable a select few people to get more done more efficiently, people spend hours and hours finding new ways to be quicker at things they don’t need to be doing in the first place. Learning to become more efficient at things you don’t need to be doing isn’t being productive — it’s wasting time and energy.

Because productivity has been so closely aligned with “work” and cranking widgets, people feel torn between being productive and enjoying quality time with family. Sure, you could slough off your family and get more work done, but you haven’t become more productive — you’ve just gotten more work done. In the meantime, you’ve neglected a critical part of what it means to be a thriving person.

Because productivity has been measured by the production of key deliverables, creatives think that the hours they spend braintornadoing and playing with ideas means they’re not being productive. Chasing ideas, though, is what enables creatives to do what they love doing — sometimes it pans out to a deliverable product, sometimes it’s just playing with ideas. It’s the process that separates talented creatives from, well, everybody else.

Because productivity has been connected with Doing More Things, we’ve taken on more and more without considering whether we need to quit doing everything that’s not moving us towards our real (meaningful) goals. If being more productive means Doing More Things, you can let me off the bus now.

All of that is why productivity is bunk.

And all that is wrong. Productivity is about figuring out what you want to be and making it happen. It addresses both the end at hand (why you’re doing what you’re doing) and the means (the way you’ll get it done). In the final analysis, you can’t separate personal development from productivity.

I can’t think of one person worth talking about who hasn’t thought about what they want to do and how to do it. I can’t think of one person worth talking about who didn’t have goals and who didn’t have challenges to overcome to achieve those goals. I can’t think of one person worth talking about who didn’t want to help others live from the inside out.

You care about finishing the stuff that matters. I care about it. So let’s not focus so much on the conversations other people are having about “productivity” that make it bunk and instead talk in ways that help us do what we’re out to do.

That means that we’ll be asking better questions about productivity and focusing on the fundamentals because we know that it’s not rocket science. We’re going to make a few mistakes along the way, but we’ll wake up and really show up regardless of yesterday’s win, loss, or draw. We’re pros that way.

Those are things worth talking about because they help us live lives worth living.

This post was also recorded as an episode for the Productive Flourishing podcast (listen below!). Hear more episodes and subscribe on iTunes here.


Charlie Gilkey is an author, business advisor, and podcaster who teaches people how to start finishing what matters most. Click here to get more tools that’ll help you be a productive, flourishing co-creator of a better tomorrow.