What was the original intent of labor-saving devices?

Vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, washing machines, electric irons, hay thrashers, computers, the wheel, the rifle, the iphone…all have been touted as labor-saving devices. Why? Why did we want to save labor? Why do less?

I’ve been pondering this on my 40 days to change for good this year. I’m focusing on efficiency – doing the work that needs to be done ‘good enough’ and not trying to make it perfect. Emails back and forth to clients are shorter for example. It has worked out pretty well so far, although accompanied by some old fear that something’s not quite right, as if this new way of doing the work is somehow dangerous.

Why would I want to be more efficient? It frees up time I used to not have. Now what?

There are two choices. I can do more work, or be done and go enjoy myself. Or work on filling the wood shed (which is a strenuous version of enjoying myself) or a thousand other non-work-related ‘things-to-do-when-you-own-a-house’. 

I’ve been experimenting with choosing to not do more work. That leaves enjoying myself. What a concept!

This was the original intent of selling labor-saving devices to the harried housewife of the 1940s. Get the chores done and enjoy yourself. At least that was the concept the Mad Men sold. Think of the Jetsons. In the future everything onerous will be done by robots. The only thing left to do is to get into wacky misadventures or sit on the couch eating bon bons.

The computer really helped, and the smart phone really helped. No more faxes, letters typed and sent. No more traveling face-to-face. No more filing cabinets. The list goes on and on. All that time freed up.

Well, how are we doing with enjoying that time? Everyone I meet out in the world, every team I work with, every executive I coach – there’s not enough time to get everything done in the day. There’s a greater scarcity of open time than any in modern history

We took that time and…filled it up with more stuff to do.

I think modern advertisers realize this and have given up. Labor-saving devices are now sold as productivity tools. So we can be more productive, get more stuff done. The treadmill speed can increase.

If this is you and your life? If it is, is it working for you? 

What would you like instead?

This entry was posted in Purpose, 40 Days Change. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
Do you want to be at your best every day?
Subscribe with your email address
Enter Your email address:

Be at your best by following Rob Fletcher on Twitter:@robfletcher1