The productivity hack no one wants to talk about

The complicated relationship between efficiency and wealth

People like to ask me for advice about getting stuff done – and I love to oblige. If the Pomodoro Technique did brand partnerships, I’d be its biggest shill.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of productivity advice – getting up early, eliminating distractions and lasering your focus does yield results. But lately, I can’t shake some nagging, uncomfortable, questions. Are my recent professional achievements down to efficiency, or was it money that made the biggest difference? Did I earn my productive output, or did I buy it? Is "have money" the biggest productivity hack that no one wants to talk about?

I explored this idea in a personal essay for Business Insider recently, putting my own relationship between productivity and wealth under the microscope. It all started last year when I hired a part-time bookkeeper and I realised, "Oh, it's a hell of a lot easier to manage my time when I'm paying someone else to do my admin." As I write that, I’m embarrassed at how obvious it sounds. Although I could be forgiven; few (if any) articles about the daily routines of the world’s top CEOs mention how much work gets delegated while they’re banning meetings and not checking emails until noon.

It's a tricky conversation to have, but one that I think is important. Because here’s the thing – there’s only so much control we have over our personal productivity levels. To quote from my own story:

Many are hindered by organizational issues that the rich can buy their way out of — by having the financial resources to quit a job and work for themselves or by having the harder-to-quantify social capital that helps some manoeuvre through a company with greater ease than others.

It's not only organizational constraints that impinge on our ability to be productive but also the headwinds of gender-, class-, and race-based socioeconomic systems.

The answer is more transparency — or, at the very least, context.

So, the next time someone asks me for my top tip on managing one’s time, I’m going to tell it to them straight: have money.

If you want to read the complete version of this newsletter, full of tips, links and recommendations to make your creative life more fulfilled, please subscribe to receive LANCE in your inbox every Friday.