I love reading productivity porn. You know those articles. They promise you can do more in less time with these 5 simple rules (or 1 rule or no rules at all!). The general gist of the genre is by following the author’s advice, you’ll be happier, more successful, and less stressed. You might even be able to quit your day job and live on the road working only 4 hours a week!
This post isn’t really about the relative worth of those articles, but rather their effects on my life and mindset. I understand the inherent irony here: I write about these sorts of things, too. I just hope no one thinks my musings about what works for me as a formula to get to the perfect life.
My life isn’t perfect; if it were, I wouldn’t have to read all this productivity porn.
Why I Read Productivity Porn
For me, this is such an ironic addiction because I spend a lot of time I could use actually getting work done reading tons and tons of articles on how to be more productive. I waste time reading about how I could stop wasting time.
There are a couple of forces at work here:
- I genuinely want to know how to be more productive in pretty much all parts of my life.
- I like to read for fun, but I also read extensively for my job. It’s hard to find a balance between usefulness and distraction.
- We all need brain breaks from work, and I use productivity articles to
Problem 1: The Pocket App
I love this app. I can save articles there to read in the future, and it gives me suggestions about articles based on my interests, curating the latest and most read depending on what I like to read. It’s not that much different from many aggregator apps out there, except for the algorithm. The problem with this is that clicking on one productivity porn article feeds the algorithmic beast. Every time I click on a productivity article, I tell their algorithm that I like that content, and then it suggests more of it. Before you know it, your entire feed is filled with 75 versions of the ultimate way to get more done, or 5 ways to stop wasting time. You know what keeps you from wasting time? Not reading those articles.
Problem 2: The Click Bait
These titles promise nearly impossible things. “The Only Thing You Need for Perfect Bliss” “How I Learned to Love My Perfectionism” “The One Lesson Abraham Lincoln told Albert Einstein”
Ok, that last one is a lie that I just made up, but either way, it’s all pretty similar. A listicle or a short blog post that will tell you how to attain bliss. As if you could quiet your mind or escape the trap of a poorly managed workplace by reading a blog post. 🙄 gimmie a break.
Problem 3: The Promise of Productivity
By reading these articles, I feel productive. I usually get sucked into them around my afternoon slump when I feel like I should be getting a lot more done with my work day but my brain is pretty much mush. By reading these articles, I can pat myself on the back because I finished reading an article for my own self-improvement. But then I fall down the wormhole, and an hour later I have no work to show for all that reading I did. And it’s really hard to remember the suggestions they give you. Only a few have really stuck with me: gratitude, breathe, unplug.
I’m not saying that I’m going to be any better about clicking on or reading these articles (Tim Ferris has to eat, right?), but I do think it’s important–especially in today’s media climate 😒 –to take a step back from what we’re reading and ask ourselves why we clicked, why our feeds are filled with this type of content, or even what was the point of the article in the first place.
And then go back to that age-old wisdom: breathe, practice gratitude, and unplug.