Why the cult of hard work is counter-productive

From footballers’ work rates to the world of Big Data, the cult of “productivity” seems all-pervasive – but doing nothing might be the best thing for your well-being and your brain.

By Steven Poole [1] Published 11 December 2013 http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/12/right-be-lazy

From footballers’ work rates to the world of Big Data, the cult of “productivity” seems all-pervasive – but doing nothing might be the best thing for your well-being and your brain.

Recently, I saw a man on the Tube wearing a Nike T-shirt with a slogan that read, in its entirety, “I’m doing work”. The idea that playing sport or doing exercise needs to be justified by calling it a species of work illustrates the colonisation of everyday life by the devotion to toil: an ideology that argues cunningly in favour of itself in the phrase “work ethic”.

We are everywhere enjoined to work harder, faster and for longer – not only in our jobs but also in our leisure time. The rationale for this frantic grind is one of the great unquestioned virtues of our age: “productivity”. The cult of productivity seems all-pervasive. Football coaches and commentators praise a player’s “work rate”, which is thought to compensate for a lack of skill. Geeks try to streamline their lives in and out of the office to get more done. People boast of being busy and exhausted and eagerly consume advice from the business-entertainment complex on how to “de-fry your burnt brain”, or engineer a more productive day by assenting to the horror of breakfast meetings.

Why Energy Efficiency Regulation is Bad for Consumers

Letter to the Editor June 28, 2009
http://newsblaze.com/story/20090628051425zzzz.nb/topstory.html ( dead link)

Comment About Earth Day Network Applauds House Passage of Climate Bill

Susan Bass says "It will actually save consumers hundreds of billions of dollars in energy costs."
It keeps being trotted out how energy efficiency is "so good for consumers".

Yes, ban consumers from buying what they want and applaud the savings!

When Greater Efficiency Becomes Inefficient

Renny McPherson Co-Founder, RedOwl Analytics
Joe Flood  Reporter, author, archery coach

Posted: 05/06/2014 11:54 am EDT Updated: 05/06/2014 11:59 am EDT

There's a mystery lurking at the heart of the American labor market that is confounding today's managers and leaders. The U.S. workforce is more efficient than ever, with productivity rising 102 percent from 1970-2012. But as anyone working in social media will tell you, this very same group of productive people has also driven the incredible growth in website hits, Twitter activity, and Facebook usage, thanks to procrastination and boredom at the office.

According to Gallup, 70 percent of American workers say they dislike or even hate their job, and 20 percent are so dissatisfied that they "roam the halls spreading discontent," costing an estimated $450-$550 billion in lost productivity each year. At the root of much of that discontent is an issue of trust -- according to a new survey by the American Psychological Association, only about half of employees feel their company is open and upfront with them, and a quarter of people simply don't trust their employer.

What Machines Can’t Do

FEB. 3, 2014 NY Times David Brooks

We’re clearly heading into an age of brilliant technology. Computers are already impressively good at guiding driverless cars and beating humans at chess and Jeopardy. As Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology point out in their book “The Second Machine Age,” computers are increasingly going to be able to perform important parts of even mostly cognitive jobs, like picking stocks, diagnosing diseases and granting parole.

As this happens, certain mental skills will become less valuable because computers will take over. Having a great memory will probably be less valuable. Being able to be a straight-A student will be less valuable — gathering masses of information and regurgitating it back on tests. So will being able to do any mental activity that involves following a set of rules.

But what human skills will be more valuable?

Trowbridge, William P. “The Economy of Single-Acting Expansion Engines.”
Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers 3 (1882):254-261
cited in Knoedler, Janet T., “Veblen and technical efficiency.” Journal of Economic Issues
Dec97, Vol. 31 Issue 4, p1012, 16p

There cannot be, from the nature of finance and pure mechanics, any exact mechanical relation between abstract mechanical laws and financial operations. The former are invariable and immutable, the latter dependent upon bargain and sale.

David Ignatow : SELF-ANALYSIS

I am not writing because I feel as though
I am standing in my grave, looking out
upon the poetic excitement among the poets,
the businessmen stashing it away,
the lovers exuberant, the executives fierce
in their vision of efficiency. Each
has life by the hair.

Stephen Leahy:  Corporations Need Treatment
Documentary Argues Published,Tuesday, January 20, 2004
The Inter Press Service http://www.ips.org

TORONTO - Corporations are not only the most powerful institutions in the world, they are also psychopathic, a new Canadian documentary on globalization elegantly argues. While the corporation has the rights and responsibilities of “a legal person”, its owners and shareholders are not liable for its actions. Moreover, the film explains, a corporation’s directors are legally required to do what is best for the company, regardless of the harm created. What kind of person would a corporation be” A clinical psychopath, answers the documentary, which is now playing in four Canadian theatres.

“Everything we do in the world is touched by corporations in some way,” says ‘The Corporation’ writer Joel Bakan. Six years ago he was researching a book on the subject and teamed up with documentary makers Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, and then set out to drum up enough money to make the film and to do more than 40 interviews.

Christopher Lee, Federal Workers Score a Victory
Study Says They Outperform Private Contractors in 89% of Cases
Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Page A25

Federal civil servants proved they could do their work better and more cheaply than private contractors nearly 90 percent of the time in job competitions last year, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

An OMB report released yesterday found that such competitions, the cornerstone of President Bush’s “competitive sourcing” initiative, cost federal agencies $88 million in fiscal 2003. But they are projected to bring savings of $1.1 billion in reduced personnel costs and overhead during the next five years, the report said. Clay Johnson III, OMB’s deputy director for management, said the report confirms Bush’s belief that requiring federal employees to compete for their jobs promotes government efficiency, even when the work stays in-house. Congress this year required agencies to report annually on competitive sourcing efforts amid concerns that the initiative was taking money away from programs.

SEBASTIAN MOFFETT,  It Didn’t Succeed, So Iwate Prefecture Decided to Give Up Unprosperous Japanese State
, Egged On by Its Governor, Goes Slow and Likes It 
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL June 30, 2004
Page A1

MORIOKA, Japan—Nothing was going right for the residents of northern Iwate prefecture. Try as they might, the people of Iwate seemed stuck in a poor backwater, with factories closing, shaky state finances and few prospects. So, three years ago, Gov. Hiroya Masuda sent out a bold new message: Just give up. “We don’t make an effort in Iwate,” Mr. Masuda declared in a nationwide ad campaign that has run annually since 2001. Iwate should build traditional wooden houses rather than modern buildings, he said. Instead of striving like the big cities for economic growth, people should take pride in their forests.

James Surowiecki,  WHAT AILS US 
The New Yorker, July 7, 2003
Page 27

Forgive American consumers if they feel a bit perplexed. Policy makers and pundits have been warning them about the prospect of deflation (a prolonged and widespread decline in prices), but there's no sign of any decline in many of the prices that people pay every day. Car insurance premiums jumped more than nine per cent last year. Health-insurance costs are soaring, to say nothing of the cost of a haircut. Cable-TV prices have risen sixteen per cent since 2000. And then there's college: tuitions at private colleges have jumped 5.6 per cent annually over the past three years, according to the College Board, and public colleges are even worse. In times like these, it's hard to get worked up about deflation. Why the divergence? It may have something to do with Mozart.

in US Airways’ Attache, November, 2003
Pages 13-14

STEINWAY AND SONS, the venerable piano maker celebrating its one-hundred-fiftieth anniversary this year, still makes expensive instruments the old-fashioned way-literally. Most of the methods and many of the tools used at the factory in a gritty sector of Queens, hard by the East River, date to the late nineteenth century. From the laminated wood rims to the cast-iron frames, many components closely resemble those invented in the 1870s by various members of the Steinway family, which has dominated the high-end-piano trade the way Shaquille O'Neal dominates the paint.

Daniel Mcginn, "No PC Required"
Newsweek, April 21, 2003
Page E-16

But when it's time to prepare his clients' 1040s each spring, Larson turns to a different technology: a Pentel 0.5 Twist-Erase graphite pencil and an old-school Texas Instruments calculator. In the age of TurboTax, he powers through 200 or so tax returns each year by hand. Larson, 59, has looked at tax software, but he's not convinced they'd make him more efficient. By doing returns the old-fashioned way, he believes he's paying closer attention. "I feel I'm giving clients more of their money's worth," Larson says.

The Onion: "48-Hour Internet Outage Plunges Nation Into Productivity" 
(Note: "The Onion is a Parody Website )

BOSTON—An Internet worm that disabled networks across the U.S. Monday and Tuesday temporarily thrust the nation into its most severe maelstrom of productivity since 1992.

"In all my years, I've never seen anything like this," said Price Stern Sloan system administrator Andrew Walton, whose effort to restore web service to his company's network was repeatedly hampered by employees busily working at their computers. "The local-access network is functioning, so people can transfer work projects to one another, but there's no e-mail, no eBay, no flaminglips.com. It's pretty much every office worker's worst nightmare."

 According to Samuel Kessler, senior director at Symantec, which makes the popular Norton Antivirus software, the Internet "basically collapsed" Monday at 8:34 a.m. EST.

Douthwaite, Richard. Strengthening Local Economies for Security in an Unstable World
England: 1996. ISBN 1870098641
Page 34

In current conditions, then, selling things outside our immediate areas to earn the money to buy the goods and services we must have to survive cannot be considered the basis for a sustainable, stable local community. What we must do instead is look at the resources of our areas and see how they can be used to meet our communities' vital needs directly rather than via the conventional, indirect, produce-for-someone-else-and-buy-one's-requirements-in route.

I know we have been taught that this latter indirect route is more efficient because it takes more resources to grow bananas in Ennis, Essex or Essen than in Ecuador. My response to this is threefold.

Twitchell, James B.  Lead Us Into Temptation
New York: 1999. ISBN 023111518
Page 12

What sets American culture of the late twentieth century apart is not avarice, but a surfeit of machine-made things. What is clear is that most of these things in and of themselves simply do not mean enough. So we have developed very powerful ways to add meaning to goods. This is a chicken-and-egg situation, to be sure. For it is American production and marketing techniques (advertising, packaging, branding, fashion, and the like) and our eagerness to embrace them that have produced surplus. Consumption of things and their meanings is how most Western young people cope in a world that science has pretty much bled of traditional religious meanings.

Page 53

Peters, Tom in Anthony Sampson’s Company Man
New York: 1995 ISBN 0812926315
Page 2

Read more novels and fewer business books.

“People Who Need People Are New Hampshire People”
Philadelphia Inquirer
Page A3

Score one for humans. New Hampshire officials have replaced toll-taking machines on the state’s most traveled thruway with—now get this—people. For the first time, people are working all 16 booths at the Hampton toll on I-95, the direct route from Boston to New Hampshire. They’re also being phased in at other tolls. With human toll-takers, 600 to 700 drivers an hour breeze through, compared with the machines’ average of 400. Nice to know that we as a people are making a comeback.


Brilliant, Ashleigh, From .sig Quotes
November 16, 1997
Page 46

To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first, and call whatever you hit the target.”

Inoue, Shinichi. Putting Buddhism to Work
New York: 1977. ISBN 4770020240
Pages 20-1

One Zen proverb runs: “The way to Enlightenment is easy—just avoid picking and choosing.” Picking and choosing reveals the human tendency to prefer one thing over another for oneself alone, often at the expense of other people and other living things. This tendency is a manifestation of the ego-mind. In Buddhism, release and freedom from this process is called Enlightenment.

Archetypically, we can trace this development in the human psyche from the Genesis account of Adam and Eve eating from the tree of knowledge.