March 2, 2016

Productivity Hacks Are a Waste of Time

Let's examine Google's top search result for "productivity hacks" and break them down. Hopefully we'll feel better about ourselves afterwards.

Productivity hacks should be banned from the internet. There, I said it.

They’re the lowest form of “original” content and seem to always reuse the same, weak suggestions. Get more sleep, wake up early, exercise, don’t sweat the details, stop doing bad stuff… And yes, before you say something snarky, we’ve been known to talk about productivity from time to time. Why? Because unproductive people need procrastination material. And giving advice is easy.

Wanting to be more productive isn’t a bad thing. In fact, everyone would benefit from exercising more, working toward a personal goal, or getting an extra half hour of free time every day. That’s not the issue here.

The problem is people are turning to bullsh*t content pumped out by Jane Smith who studied journalism at NYU even though she really wanted to join the Peace Corps, is probably underpaid and living in a tiny apartment, and has to bend over backwards to hit her quota of posts for the week.

Just look at the Google search results for “productivity hacks:”

  • 23 Best Productivity Hacks of the Year (Inc)
  • 13 CEOs and Founders Reveal Their Top Productivity Hacks (Inc)
  • 15 Productivity Hacks for Procrastinators (Lifehack)
  • 15 Productivity Hacks That Speed Up Your Efficiency (Lifehack)
  • 17 easy productivity hacks that will help you crush it in 2016 (Business Insider)

You get the idea…

Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner says that “productivity hacks” is searched an average of 250,000 times each month. That’s 250,000 people wanting to improve their lives in some way, desperately hoping that Google’s search algorithm can steer their life in the right direction.

And, based on click-through rate studies, 33% of those poor, inefficient souls will click on the first result. That’s 82,500 people a month landing on Inc. contributor Larry Kim’s productivity techniques for 2015.

To save you some time, here are my interpretations of each of Larry’s 23 suggested hacks:

  1. Turn Off Alerts – Ignore people and all the useless shit you have on your phone and you’ll be less distracted.
  2. Ignore the News – Cut yourself off from the outside world and only care about your Asana to-do list. If something big happens I’m sure you’ll hear about it.
  3. Exercise in the Morning – Since you’re most likely fat or out of shape, exercising will make you feel better. Get it done with early on so you can’t skip it later.
  4. Have 30-Minute Meetings – Talking to people is generally a waste of time so make meetings as short as possible.
  5. Drink Water – Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty. Get ready to visit the bathroom every half hour.
  6. Give Yourself a Break, Man! – Feel good about yourself even if you’re an unproductive waste of space.
  7. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No – You can’t do everything all the time. Hurt people’s feelings by telling them “no” to their thoughtful birthday invitation.
  8. Hug Your Dog – Wait, what? Apparently pets make you feel better. I’ll be sure to remember that next time I’m scraping liquid “blessing” off the sidewalk with a thin plastic bag.
  9. Make the Most of Lost Hours – If you’re waiting in the airport line, be “that guy” and take care of your important conference call. Have a long commute? Listen to a podcast so you feel smarter.
  10. Silence Your Inner Perfectionist – Get it done, don’t dwell on the smallest details.
  11. Down With To-Dos, In With Scheduling – Use your calendar to block off time.
  12. Declutter That Desk – You’re probably a slob and clutter leads to stress. Throw out that rotten apple you thought you were going to eat last week.
  13. Equip Yourself With an Arsenal of Productivity Tools – Create accounts with as many time-management apps as possible so your life can be controlled by computers. They’re more reliable.
  14. Begin With Brussels Sprouts – This is a weird way of saying: do your least favorite tasks first to get them over with.
  15. Eat Breakfast! – Everyone says breakfast is the most important meal of the day so blindly believe them, eat something that’s not terrible for your health, and be productive!
  16. The Two-Minute Rule – Do shorter tasks immediately so you don’t waste time making a note to “go to the bathroom.”
  17. Don’t Drown in the Shallow End of the Pool – There are small things and there are big things. Worry about the big things.
  18. Verbal Commitments – Tell people you’re going to commit to stuff and make it hurt that much more when you inevitably cancel.
  19. Get Your Sleep On – Before you can go to the gym, eat breakfast, make commitments, or eat brussel sprouts, you have to sleep.
  20. Sign In on Sunday (Just for a Minute) – People get stressed about Mondays so ruin your stress-free weekend by thinking about work.
  21. Make Bad Habits Difficult for Yourself – Spend too much time watching TV? Hide the remote in your neighbor’s doghouse. That’ll work.
  22. Make Sure Your Goals Are Realistic – Don’t expect too much from yourself and you’ll be happier when you achieve your minimum.
  23. Stay Positive! – Didn’t we already cover this one??

Now remember, like with any list of productivity hacks, smile smugly for 10 seconds and slowly nod your head like you just had a life-changing revelation. Imagine a life where you wake up at 5 a.m., do some yoga, volunteer at the local soup kitchen, and write in your happiness journal… all before getting to work at 8 a.m.

Then do absolutely nothing different, hit the snooze button on life improvement, and move on to the ‘21 Annoying Little Things That Any iPhone User Can Relate Too.’

Want some real advice? Just commit to being a better person and hold on for dear life. You’re never going to be perfect, you’ll always want to procrastinate, and donuts are freakin’ delicious for breakfast.

If there’s one takeaway from the list, it’s to stay positive. And don’t read these types of lists.

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