johnsu01 (johnsu01) wrote,

Honesty, productivity and capitalism

These three things aren't playing nice together. I think we need a realignment. I'm issuing a plea to stop pretending like you are working harder than you are, so that we can bring expectations down a bit. Who's in? (Updated 2005-07-20)

Lately it feels like I've been seeing an increasing number of productivity "tips" which are actually just ways of deceiving each other. These deceptions are ways to either give the appearance of productivity, or to project a reasonable excuse for a lack of productivity.

A couple of small examples.

43folders has this "tip":

Messy house? Always keep several get well cards on the mantel.... so if unexpected guests arrive, they will think you've been sick and unable to clean.

Or the story referenced on Slashdot this past week about little white lies for white collar workers:

"Instead of being a slave to technology, you can master it, you can make it look like you are working when and where you are not," said Marc Saltzman, 35, the author of "White Collar Slacker's Handbook" published in June.

It goes on to talk about rolling the computer clock back to make it look like you wrote e-mails in the past.

This all coincides with the story that has capitalists everywhere cringing --- people totally slack for an average of two hours during their work day.

Maybe these things are a sign that we are working too hard? No, I think they are a sign that we are pretending to work too hard, and we are working too hard at pretending to work too hard. There's an illusory level of productivity we are all supposed to achieve, and projecting the impression of having achieved it is apparently more important than being honest with each other.

Beyond that, I think one of the main ways to be more productive is to focus on simplifying my life. I don't see how keeping up all of these deceptions is going to make my life any easier.

Put get-well cards on the mantel? I'll have to concoct some story about the illness I didn't have; remember what that story was, to be prepared for future interrogations; and have some kind of backstory for the person who sent each card. This sounds absurdly nonproductive to me, and it's only going to put me more behind on cleaning the house. Did I remember to stop at the drug store to pick up the cards? Did I remember if I've used any of these stories before? No thanks.

These kinds of standards won't fade away unless they have to coexist with reality. If we continue deceiving each other, that will never happen, and we'll all end up having to game each other to keep our productive reputations. It's not good for our ethics or our actual productivity.

Update: 43folders added a note that the messy house thing was a joke. I didn't mean to be critical of them or this one post in particular --- there are lots of these things floating around, and they are all funny --- from phony get-well cards to fake background noise and staged cell-phone calls to escape situations we don't want to be in. But, even though they are jokes, people do actually do these things. There are even different business models around them. When I got my first cell phone, it had a feature where I could set a timer and it would ring, so that I could pretend I had a call --- this was a feature advertised separately from the alarm. So, what do we make of these things? They are both silly jokes and actual practices.

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Tags: 43folders, capitalism, honesty, productivity
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