Beware of Being Too Productive

If you're too productive, you just may find yourself getting fired...for being too lazy! With Get-It-Done Guy's expert advice, this won't happen to you.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #322

Today’s topic is heresy, pure and simple. Yes, I have a super-successful podcast about personal productivity. But oddly, I’m not a huge proponent of unbridled productivity. Today, we’re going to explore why. This is the stuff they made me take out of the first draft of my book, Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More, for fear it was too controversial!

My Stance on Morality

In the last few decades, employers figured out that you could work salaried employers harder and harder without paying them anything extra. By increasing productivity, they could pay everyone the same, but make a lot more profit for shareholders.

So for years now, we’ve preached the gospel of productivity, without mentioning better pay or shorter hours. Personally, I think you should share in any benefit created by your productivity.

Now that you know where I stand, let’s get down to what it means to be productive. .

How Productivity Should Work

Let's say you currently do 20 units of work each day. It would take 5 days to produce 100 units. But then, say you figure out how to increase efficiency to 25 units a day. Now, you can produce 100 units in 4 days. So you should get the 5th day off with pay, since you are still producing the same amount for the company, right?

Or, you can still work five days a week, but now you’re producing 125 units. That means the company is selling 25% more, and thus getting that much more profit. You’re still working five days, but you should be getting some part of that profit, since you’re producing more in the same amount of time.

Not in the 21st century, you don’t! Instead, the company sees that you can produce 25 more units a day, so they fire your cubicle mate (who never bathed, so you’re glad they’re gone) and expect the newly-productive you to cover both jobs. No raise, of course. All the profits go to the company and shareholders. After all, you should be happy you still have a job.

Make Productivity Look Inefficient

When you get more productive, what does that actually look like? You finish your work more quickly, and have more free time. You grab your latest copy of X-Men, put your feet up on your desk, and start reading. Why? Because you’re more productive, that’s why!

But your boss seems something different. There you are, reading a comic book with your feet on the desk. Do they think, “Now there’s a productive employee who deserves a raise!” Of course not. They think, “Why did I get stuck with this lazy jerk who isn’t working hard? I need to reduce their salary or give them more work.”

This happened at my first job. My manager chastised me for not working weekends. I pointed out that I got all my work done during the work week, and had met every single goal on schedule. He didn’t care. Seeing me working Saturdays was how he judged productivity. Actual work output had nothing to do with it.

When you find a way to increase your productivity, do it, but don’t make it obvious. If there’s any way to work from home part time, do it. Then, you can do your super-productive work while you’re at home, and as far as anyone else knows, you’re putting in a full 8-hour day. In reality, you’re doing 8 hours of work in 23 minutes, and then relaxing in the hot tub you built with all that time you saved.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.