Machines Can’t Flow: The Difference Between Mechanical and Human Productivity
At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, it seemed machines could do anything. At that time, productivity experts predicted that machines and new technologies would mean we’d only have to work four hours a day. But, as we all know, that’s not what has happened. Instead, the definition of human productivity merged with the definition of machine productivity: more work, faster pace, more efficiently.
We tend to think of productivity as maximizing output or quantity. How much can we accomplish? How many emails, calls, and meetings can we power through? We work hard to sync our productivity with time-management techniques.
A few years ago in a set of interviews, I asked people if they managed their time, their attention, or both.
Mid-level managers talked about their best practices for time-management, and at the same time, expressed their concerns: “I just can’t get it all done. There’s no way to keep up.”
They expressed anxiety about the future: “Can I accomplish all these things?” And, angst about the past: “How could I have missed that deadline?!” Those who said they managed their time reported higher levels of stress and burn out.
In contrast, surgeons, artists, and many senior managers talked about managing both their time and attention. They didn’t manage minutes and tasks. They focused on priorities and took a long-term view. Those interviewed described doing one thing at a time, and fully engaging in that moment with that activity. They reported more “flow” states. (via Machines Can’t Flow: The Difference Between Mechanical and Human Productivity - Linda Stone - The Atlantic)