BLOG – PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS AND MORE…

Illich’s Law or Law of Diminishing Returns: 1 simple concept

Feb 3, 2021 | Business & Life Advice, Time Management

Illich’s Law

“Beyond a certain threshold, human efficiency decreases, even becoming negative.” – Ivan Illich

What is Illich’s Law key takeaway?

Illich’s Law or “Law of Diminishing Returns” suggests that optimal productivity is reached with an appropriate balance between working time and resting time as productivity decreases after a certain period of continuous work. In short, relevant breaks are essential to staying productive.

Illustration of Illich’s Law / Law of Diminishing Returns

Illich's Law - Law of Diminishing Returns - ParetoAnalysis.Tools

How is Illich Law used nowadays?

Numerous time management methods highlight the importance of voluntary breaks to be more productive. The Pomodoro Technique is one of them.  Closely related to concepts such as timeboxing, the method suggests breaking down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, and separating them with short breaks.

How is Illich Law challenged by other time management methods?

The most apparent antagonist work approach is the “Deep Work” method that recommends a long period of deep-focus work vs. a short-one with the Illich Law’s philosophy. Deep Work is an improved version of the Carlson’s Law philosophy that supports the idea that we are more productive with continuous work period made of similar tasks. Deep Work is all about working in a distraction-free environment that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limits for maximal productivity.

History of Illich’s Law

Ivan Illich the polymath

Ivan Illich (1926-2002) was a polymath born in Austria, of French and Serbo-Croatian descent. After graduating from studies in science, philosophy, theology, and history, he started his adulthood in the USA: first as a Catholic priest, then as a pastor for Puerto Rican immigrants. His generosity for the Puerto Rican community led him to be appointed as Vice-Rector of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico.

His work as Vice-Rector galvanized an emerging criticism of policies promoting economic and technological development. He later published his most widely read books: Deschooling Society (1971), Tools for Conviviality (1973), and Medical Nemesis (1976). In each case, Illich identified what he termed the phenomenon of counterproductivity.

The principle of counterproductivity

According to to Illich, counterproductivity arises when the pursuit of a technical process undermines its original goals. In simpler words,  when a beneficial process or technology is turned into a negative one. It is an idea that Illich applies to different contexts. For example, with respect to travel he argues that beyond a critical speed, “no one can save time without forcing another to lose it…[and] motorized vehicles create the remoteness which they alone can shrink”. For Illich, the correct response was learning to practice a more disciplined and limited use of science and technology and invent alternative, especially low-scale, technologies.

“In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.” – Ivan Illich

How Illich’s Law or  Law of Diminishing Returns is referred to nowadays

In the more contemporary world, the assertation that “productivity decreases after a certain number of working hours” is referred to as Illich’s Law or  Law of Diminishing Returns. Although it is not clear if Illich has ever made such a statement, Illich’s philosophy about the drawback of a relentless pursuit of productivity and the importance of a “work-life” balance remains intact.

Conclusion and Suggestions

Reducing distractions allows value creation to happen, but keeping productivity high is also a key element in the value creation process. The Law of diminishing returns or Illich’s Law reminds us that having rest is essential to keep productivity high. Ultimately the overall and optimal productivity is reached with an appropriate balance between working time and resting time.

Having a decluttered mindset to enhance cognitive abilities is the idea to be more productive, but not everyone is relentlessly pushing toward  “producing more”. Each individual has his life philosophy. Regardless of what makes you happy, whether or not you agree with Illich’s philosophy, you can always maximize your well-being with a  Pareto Rule approach.

For more Business & Life articles with an optimization mindset approach, visit the blog of ParetoAnalysis.tools.

Table of Content

0 Comments

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 1 Easy and Smart Way of Getting Things Done with Pareto - […] is about. It is a philosophy that goes way beyond the Pareto Law and the 20/80 rule. Like Illich’s…
  2. Murphy's Law: 1 Gloomy View On How Things Turn Out Generally - […] Law, can mitigate the risk of seeing Murphy’s Law prediction turning out to be true. Illich’s Law (or The…

Laborit’s Law / Law of the Least Effort: 1 clear explanation

Laborit’s Law or the Law of Least Effort suggests that humans prefer to carry out simple tasks that give immediate satisfaction to avoid stress or inconvenience

Illich’s Law or Law of Diminishing Returns: 1 simple concept

Illich’s Law or Law of Diminishing Returns suggests that optimal productivity is reached with an appropriate balance between working time and resting time.

Parkinson’s Law – Why We work better with tight deadlines – 1 Explanation

What is Parkinson's Law? Parkinson's Law states that "Work expands to fill the time available for its completion." In short, the more time is allowed to complete a task, the more time this task will take. Parkinson's...

Carlson’s Law: 1 Simple yet Powerful Productivity Concept

Carlson's Law is about the negative impact of involuntary breaks. Taking much-needed and deserved intentional breaks is one thing - getting involuntarily distracted is another. It is proven: interruption seriously...

Hofstadter’s Law and the Planning Fallacy

Hofstadter’s Law falls into the Planning Fallacy category by stating “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law”.

How to build a Pareto Chart in Google Sheets in 2 Easy Steps

This easy step-by-step tutorial shows how to build a Pareto Chart in Google Sheets. Download now the Free Google Sheets Pareto Chart template for immediate use.

Best Microsoft Excel Guide Books – Top 3 for Data Analysis

These 3 Best Microsoft Excel Guide Books provide Excel users with Powerful Data & Business Analysis techniques that go beyond Pareto Analysis and Pareto Charts.

Optimize Easily your Well-being with the 80/20 rule Approach

Happiness, the feeling of positivity, really is the foundation of productivity. - Miguel McKelvey Everyone deserves to have a happy and fulfilled life. Take control now of your well-being by applying the simple yet...

How to do a Pareto Analysis in Excel in 5 simple steps – Easy tutorial

This tutorial explains how to do a manual Pareto Analysis in Excel in 5 simple steps. A Pareto Analysis is particularly useful to focus on what really matters as the Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

The Powerful 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less

The Powerful 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less. A new perspective on the Pareto Principle.

Pareto Analysis Excel Add-In

Buying the Pareto Analysis Excel Add-In is a risk-free experience. If you are not happy with it, you simply get your money back. No questions asked.

Execute Better.  Execute Faster. Automate any Excel Pareto Analysis.

Pin It on Pinterest