Time and productivity

I’ve been in Ghana, at a village in central region, where people would spend time in the afternoon having tea together and just watching vehicles and livestock pass the village without doing much. They probably did a lot of work in the morning already at their fields and it was too hot to work anyways. So they rested.

In New Zealand, the dairy industry peaks at a certain period where the cycles of the cows’ lactation were somehow optimised. People worked intensively during the peak periods and then there would be lull periods where people worked shorter hours and produced much less.

In many sectors and aspects of life, there are seasons, cycles and time of activity, and lull. Yet the modern, urban life seems to think that productivity is achieved by squeezing every ounce of time, forgetting that resting can be productive. The mobile devices we carry with us do indeed give us greater ability to do work on the fly but all that attention, and capacity might be wearing us thin and wearing us out.

Over the past decades where we experienced the most improvements in quality of life and changes in standards of living in the world, it was mostly when productivity was gained through the world working together more and more, through trade and international supply chains, smoothing out volatility through more accurate transmission of price and volume signals. Taking this to the next level, of individual productivity, will unlikely make that much of a dent for the progress of humanity even if it makes one feel great.

Perhaps then, it’s time to recognise the cycles and seasons we ought to have in our lives.