Published May 5, 2017|5 min read
Juicero has taken some well-deserved licks over the past few weeks.One hundred and twenty million dollars in venture capital funds raised by the company? Impressive. The fact that investors didn’t realize Juicero’s bags of fruit and veggies, squeezed into a glass by a $400 gizmo with enough force "to lift two Teslas," putting the "juice" in Juicero, could be done in the same amount of time by hand? Absurd.Revelations that Ivanka Trump had tweeted about it a year ago? Sounds right.But Juicero struck a chord with people. It juices for you! It would tell you when your juice was about to expire so you knew exactly when to order more instead of wasting precious time at the grocery store! It saves you the two minutes it takes you to juice something yourself, or the thirty seconds to pour juice from a carton!We’re on a quest to reach peak productivity – to squeeze as much out of our day as Juicero does out of its bags – and Juicero is the embodiment of that.In the end, though, it failed. And in the process, it embodied not only our quest to be more productive, but the reasons why we never get there.Juicero is just the latest in a long line of technology flops that were supposed to make our lives easier, more affordable, less stressful. But they rarely do. We’ve adopted the mentality that just because something is connected to the internet, it’s better. Juicero is one such "smart" item, part of the interconnected Internet of Things that so often seems anything but smart in daily practice.Consider smart homes. Lights, locks, fridges, thermostat – all connected to the internet. All open to a variety of security risks (your smart fridge gets hacked and a third party is able to access your credit card information because your fridge is, obviously, set up to automatically order food items) and headaches (one manufacturer’s smart hub doesn’t work with another manufacturer’s smart bulbs, but that’s okay because they’ve stopped supporting their products and they won’t work by year’s end anyway). You’re paying for the privilege – and headache – of restarting your garage door opener and making sure its firmware is updated. Productive!Or think about smart credit cards, the latest of which recently shut down after collecting $9 million from customers and not providing a refund. But let’s say the Plastc card you ordered actually was delivered. Sure, you’d need to load all of your cards onto it, and it probably doesn’t come with a chip so it’s already outdated, and there’s a good chance that there will be a swipe failure and you’ll have to use your old, dumb credit card, but it has an app, so…And it doesn’t stop there. We complain about the price of cable TV – rightfully so – and are so caught up with cord cutting that we don’t realize that our Sling TV service costs more than a cable package. Segways were supposed to revolutionize human transportation and then...didn’t. That dream died the first time a Segway encountered a sidewalk curb. None of our infrastructure was optimized for the Segway, so it became an unpractical chore to use.We become so enamored with the next big idea coming out of the next startup that Silicon Valley is willing to throw money behind that it feels like no one stopped to ask if the idea was, you know, a good one. Or, put another way:
This tendency says less about the items in question than about our approach to being productive. It becomes an "at all cost" endeavor to be more productive.For example: Bullet journaling is a way of planning out your tasks that involves creating, by hand in a notebook, an index, a monthly calendar (that involves both the days of the months and a separate tasks list), a daily calendar, three different bullet types, priority rankings, and collections of related tasks, all the while updating new lists and migrating old lists as you go.Sound confusing? It kind of is. That’s why some people suggest taking what works from bullet journaling for you and discarding the rest. After you’ve finished gutting the system to fit your needs, writing out everything, memorizing every different bullet type and module, and defending your method of journaling, it’s time to start actually using the journal. (Purists argue this isn’t true bullet journaling.)Or take Inbox Zero. Devised by Merlin Mann, it was a way for people to deal with the ever-present issue of a never-empty email inbox. But, after a series of talks, YouTube fame, and a book deal, Mann doesn’t even believe in the process anymore. As he told The Guardian:"If you’re just using efficiency to jam more and more stuff into your day … well, how would you ever know that that’s working?"Sure, some innovations really do provide new benefits. The Nest thermostat, for instance, makes automatic adjustments that use less energy with minimal efforts—a win both for your wallet and the environment. Budgeting apps and savings automations can take mundane tasks off your plate.More often than not, though, we either overspend for perceived improvements in productivity or focus on the wrong things and end up being more unproductive than we were in the first place. We should work to simplify and remove things, not add more items and systems that require more effort to master.We seem to need a system to help us feel more productive. Whether it’s fitting more tasks into our day or getting more out of our money, it’s not important how we do it, or even why – added pressure from work, financial strain at home – just that we do it. We have an item or a system in place, and we’ll make it work because we’re that desperate.This is how we end up with a journaling system that’s more complicated than doing the actual tasks it documents. It’s how we spend more time worrying about emptying our inboxes than we do about the contents of those emails. It’s why we’ll spend an entire afternoon setting up a smart home instead of just continuing to flip light switches.And that’s how, instead of having so much more time and being so much healthier, we’re left with a $400 juicer.But at least it can lift two Teslas.
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