Time Management and The Celebration of the Mundane

It’s weird or interesting how certain stories go viral and what such viralness says about the state of American society, media, and culture today. On one extreme, stories about Trump and Aleppo go viral, being shared many times, but these are big stories involving important people and important events; such virnalness is expected. But then on the other extreme you have mundane stories going viral, that don’t involve terrorism or major political figures, such as a recent article by The Guardian Why time management is ruining our lives, which got over 400 comments and was shared on Facebook over 12,000 times, in addition to also going viral on Reddit and elsewhere. The viralness of ‘boring’ stories about day-to-day stuff is in contrast to the excitement of the imminent Trump presidency, terrorism, or ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

This phenomena of boring stories doing so well is related to the post-2013 anti-democracy movement, and how people are walling themselves from the hype of the mainstream media to focus on their ‘inner circle‘. You have the cacophony of Trump and all this stuff going on, but people have had enough. Democracy and the mainstream media are linked, because they both involve persuading the masses to care and participate; without the participation of the masses, both cease to exist. The media needs your attention; democracy needs your votes. This is also related to millennials choosing to live a ‘boring‘ life of self-sufficiency, self-improvement, and frugality, in contrast to their activist-minded, work-driven, spendthrift boomers parents who want people to ‘get involved’, and also how institutions and conventions such as democracy are being challenged.

As for the content of the article itself, the author conflates time management with efficiency and productivity, but they are not always mutually inclusive: the former is deontological; the later two are quotients (results divided by time). One can be very assiduous about doing calculations with pen and paper, but this is an unproductive and inefficient use of time when computers can do the job in a few seconds. In pre-2008 culture and society, good-paying jobs for mediocre, obedient people were abundant, and as epitomized by Dibert, point-haired bosses ruled, in contrast to today where productivity, efficiency, and quantifiable results (value creation) are more important than diligence and conformity, and the labor market is much more competitive. In pre-2008 society, employees weren’t creating as much value as they thought they were (or that companies wanted), and a lot of overpaid jobs were lost to never return. People were practicing good time management but the were fired anyway. Managing your time is less important than learning how to create value. Too many people are stuck in a ‘pen and paper’ mindset thinking that they can just get by with hard work.

The culture of Silicon Valley, which despite its leftism is on a per-capita basis the richest region in the world, values wily ingenuity over obedience. Elon Musk of Tesla, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Travis Kalanick of Uber, all from the Silicon Valley and are the antithesis of the pointy-haired boss and are among the most successful and well-respected CEOs and founders alive, don’t care about your time management strategies – they care about results, first and foremost. Uber’s whole business model is about making the transportation industry more efficient. Economic and labor trends suggest that the world is becoming like Silicon Valley, not Silicon Valley resembling the rest of the world. Silicon Valley, which exited the 2008 crisis unscathed, is a role model for the rest of the business world. Hard work and diligence, in and of itself, is not a virtue anymore – value creation and signaled competence is.