Photo by Andreas Klassen on Unsplash

From KonMari to GTD: The Rise (and Oppression) of Productivity Culture

Rachel Wayne
10 min readApr 22, 2022

Despite all the conveniences of modern life, it seems we have less time than ever before. Every hour we’re spared by a machine that washes our dishes or vacuums our floors, we’re now frantically spending on a side hustle (or, if you’re like me, stuck in traffic). The constant crunch makes me desperately wish that Hermione’s Time-Turner in Harry Potter were real.

Meanwhile, we have that many more chores to do because we’ve shifted from hand-me-downs and cast-iron cookware to fast fashion and takeout. Our world quickly becomes filled with stuff. Every gadget needs two other gadgets to function. Every product with planned obsolescence lingers in your house until you find time to repair or replace it.

As George Carlin quipped, “Your house is a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff! Sometimes you gotta move … gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore!”

So, we’re pressed for time and space, constantly busy and crowded by stuff.

It’s no wonder that productivity and decluttering books, apps, and other “stuff” now compose a $59.1 billion industry. As we futily seek order for the chaos, gurus such as David Allen and Marie Kondo are making big money off their books and products.

But are these products actually making a difference in our lives? What if the issue isn’t the cluttered house or long to-do list, but the aggressive push for us to be productive and tidy in every aspect of lives? Could the idea of productivity itself be the problem?

Churning It Out: How the Industrial Revolution Shaped Our Culture

If there’s one thing that makes humans human, it’s that we make things. Sure, we’ve seen other animals use tools, but no other species compares to our level of manufacturing. For many millennia, humans have crafted everything from cookware to weapons to toys. Some, such as arrows, didn’t take long to make, while others required much skill and devotion:

Sharon Mollerus, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Rachel Wayne

Artist/anthropologist/activist writing about art, media, culture, health, science, enterprise, and where they all meet. Join my list: