The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done

The knowledge sector’s insistence that productivity is a personal issue seems to have created a so-called “tragedy of the commons” scenario, in which individuals making reasonable decisions for themselves insure a negative group outcome. An office worker’s life is dramatically easier, in the moment, if she can send messages that demand immediate responses from her colleagues, or disseminate requests and tasks to others in an ad-hoc manner

I find myself returning to this question a lot: can the United States ever escape its individualism? Should it? Most recently this came to mind in a small way, when I was reading over Cal Newport’s “Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done.” The article is interesting for a number of reasons — as a history of Merlin Mann, 43 Folders and Gettings Things Done, and a critique of mechanisms of modern industrial “knowledge work” — but it illuminates this point rather well. Through our individualism, we have cultivated a workplace environment that incentivizes autonomy and personal efficency. A greater collectivism at work, thinking of others first, may lead to a less stressful, more productive workplace for everyone. But it is not something I think we can every truly do.

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