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A Brief History of Productivity: How Getting Stuff Done Became an Industry

January 30, 2017

By Amanda Zantal-Wiener

Productivity Guide

Anyone who’s ever been a teenager is likely familiar with the question, “Why aren’t you doing something productive?” If only I knew, as an angsty 15-year-old, what I know after conducting the research for this article. If only I could respond to my parents with the brilliant retort, “You know, the idea of productivity actually dates back to before the 1800s.” If only I could ask, “Do you mean ‘productive’ in an economic or modern context?”

Back then, I would have been sent to my room for “acting smart.” But today, I’m a nerdy adult who is curious to know where today’s widespread fascination with productivity comes from. There are endless tools and apps that help us get more done — but where did they begin? Download our complete guide here for more tips on improving your productivity.

If you ask me, productivity has become a booming business. And it’s not just my not-so-humble opinion — numbers and history support it. Let’s step back in time, and find out how we got here, and how getting stuff done became an industry.

What Is Productivity?

The Economic Context

Dictionary.com defines productivity as “the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services.” In an economic context, the meaning is similar — it’s essentially a measure of the output of goods and services available for monetary exchange.

How we tend to view productivity today is a bit different. While it remains a measure of getting stuff done, it seems like it’s gone a bit off the rails. It’s not just a measure of output anymore — it’s the idea of squeezing every bit of output that we can from a single day. It’s about getting more done in shrinking amounts of time.

It’s a fundamental concept that seems to exist at every level, including a federal one — the Brookings Institution reports that even the U.S. government, for its part, “is doing more with less” by trying to implement more programs with a decreasing number of experts on the payroll.

The Modern Context

And it’s not just the government. Many employers — and employees — are trying to emulate this approach. For example, CBRE Americas CEO Jim Wilson told Forbes, “Our clients are focused on doing more and producing more with less. Everybody’s focused on what they can do to boost productivity within the context of the workplace.”

It makes sense that someone would view that widespread perspective as an opportunity. There was an unmet need for tools and resources that would solve the omnipresent never-enough-hours-in-the-day problem. And so it was monetized to the point where, today, we have things like $25 notebooks — the Bullet Journal, to be precise — and countless apps that promise to help us accomplish something at any time of day.

But how did we get here? How did the idea …read more

Source:: HubSpot Blog

      

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