Timeline of personal productivity

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This is a timeline of personal productivity, which outlines a historical progression of key events related to productivity over the years. The timeline seeks to capture significant developments and innovations in different periods, highlighting their impact on personal and societal productivity. Notable publications are also included.

Big picture

Time period Development summary More details
Pre-1800s Pre-Industrial era to early industrialization In this time, personal productivity is limited to manual tools, basic writing instruments, and manuscripts. The focus is on recording information and managing basic tasks. As societies begin to organize themselves more formally, basic systems for managing tasks and information emerge.
1800s - Late 20th century Industrial Revolution to the Information Age The rise of factories and the Industrial Revolution influence work structures but dont't immediately impact personal productivity tools. Frederick Taylor's scientific management principles in the early 20th century emphasize efficiency and standardization in the workplace. The introduction of personal organizers like the Filofax and the emergence of personal computers mark a shift toward more organized personal productivity.

Towards the late 20th century, the advent of personal computers, Microsoft Office Suite, and email revolutionize the way people manage information, fostering the digital era of personal productivity.

Late 20th Century onwards Digital Age to Present The rise of smartphones in the early 2000s allow individuals to carry powerful productivity tools in their pockets, blurring the lines between work and personal life. The 2010s witness the dominance of cloud-based productivity tools, enabling seamless collaboration and accessibility from anywhere. The integration of artificial intelligence and automation into productivity tools aim at streamlining tasks and providing personalized assistance. Towards 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates the shift to remote work, emphasizing the importance of digital collaboration tools and flexible productivity solutions. Finally, the rise of large language models, like GPT-3, further increase productivity. These models automate tasks, generate content, and assist in various applications, streamlining processes and enhancing efficiency across industries.

Full timeline

Year Event type Details Location
8000 BC Artifact The world's oldest known calendar" is thought to be a Mesolithic configuration in Warren Field, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. This arrangement, consisting of twelve pits and an arc, is identified as a lunar calendar.[1] United Kingdom
1300 BC – 1201 BC Artifact The oldest known boxwood writing tablet with an ivory hinge is one that would be found among artifacts retrieved from the Uluburun Shipwreck, dating back to the 14th century BC near Kaş, Turkey.[2] Turkey
1440 Artifact German inventor Johannes Gutenberg creates the printing press. This hand-cranked press utilizes movable metal type with raised surfaces, rolling ink over them and pressing onto a sheet of paper. This invention facilitates mass production of books and improves access to information.[3] Germany (Holy Roman Empire)
1564 Artifact A large graphite deposit is discovered in Borrowdale, England, leading to the introduction of graphite for writing and replacing lead as a writing material.[4] United Kingdom
1776 Concept development Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations introduces the concept of productive and unproductive labor.[5] While primarily pertaining to economic productivity at the societal level, the concept is indirectly related to personal productivity, as individuals can draw insights from Smith's distinction by focusing on tasks and activities that contribute meaningfully to their goals, whether personal or professional. United Kingdom
1791 American polymath Benjamin Franklin creates the earliest known to-do list, emphasizing the concept of daily productivity and contributing something valuable to society each day.[6][5][7] United States
1793 Artifact American inventor Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin, a machine that would revolutionize cotton production by efficiently extracting seeds from cotton fibers. This innovation reduces the labor required for cotton processing, leading to increased profits for planters. The higher profits incentivize planters to expand their crops, creating a demand for additional labor.[7][5] United States
1850 Artifact Day planners become popular, emphasizing planning's role in increasing productivity during the Industrial Revolution.[5]
1874 Artifact The first commercial typewriters are introduced, playing a crucial role in enhancing personal productivity. Before typewriters, written communication was primarily done by hand, which could be time-consuming and prone to errors. The typewriter would revolutionize the way people create documents by providing a more efficient and legible method of writing.[8]
Early 1900s Henry Ford's introduction of the moving assembly line reduces car assembly time, making automobiles more affordable and emphasizing the role of efficiency in manufacturing.[7]
1940 Richard and Maurice McDonald apply Henry Ford's principles to fast food, introducing the “Speedee Service System” and reflecting societal trends in maximizing time and productivity.[7]
Late 1940s The Kanban method originates in Toyota's production system.[9] It would gain popularity in the software development world in the 2000s. Japan
1950s The Eisenhower Matrix, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix or Time Management Matrix, is introduced. It is a renowned productivity tool derived from President Dwight Eisenhower strategic approach as a 5-star general during World War II. The matrix classifies tasks into four quadrants based on urgency and importance. President Eisenhower's efficient leadership during his two-term presidency exemplified effective prioritization, resulting in significant accomplishments such as the Interstate Highway System, NASA's creation, civil rights legislation, and strategic management of the Cold War. Popularized by self-help author Stephen Covey, the matrix would remain a valuable tool for individuals seeking to enhance time management and task prioritization skills.[10]
1974 Concept development Mark Snyder publishes study titled Self-monitoring of Expressive Behavior, in which he introduces a social psychological concept called self-monitoring, involving self-observation and self-control guided by situational cues for social appropriateness. The study develops a reliable self-report measure, the Self-Monitoring Scale (SM), to assess individual differences in self-monitoring.[11][12]
Late 1980s Time management The Pomodoro Technique is developed by Francesco Cirillo.[13] It is a time management method designed to enhance focus during study sessions. Users choose a singular task, set a timer for 25-30 minutes, and work without interruption until the timer expires. Subsequently, a 5-minute break is taken for activities such as walking or relaxation. This cycle is repeated for four rounds, each consisting of focused work and short breaks. Following the fourth round, a more extended break of 20-30 minutes is advised. This structured approach aims to improve concentration, minimize distractions, and optimize productivity during study or work endeavors.[14]
1989 English computer scientist Tim Berners Lee at the CERN invents the World Wide Web, which significantly improves productivity by providing easy access to information, communication tools, and collaborative platforms.[7] Switzerland
1990 Literature Dr Edwin Locke and Dr Gary Latham publish A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance, which emphasizes the importance of establishing specific and challenging goals. The book outlines five additional characteristics crucial for successful goal setting. Their research highlights the motivational power of clear objectives and provides insights into optimizing task performance through effective goal-setting strategies.[15]
1992–1994 Artifact IBM creates its first smartphone, the IBM Simon, which releases for purchase in 1994.[7] Smartphones play a significant role in personal productivity by providing a multifunctional tool that assists individuals in managing various aspects of their lives. United States
1993 Artifact American multinational technology company Apple Inc. ships the first devices of the Newton, its personal digital assistant (PDA). The Newton, equipped with a stylus and running Newton OS, is the first PDA to feature handwriting recognition. It allows users to take notes, store contacts, manage calendars, send faxes, and more. The introduction of the Newton marks a significant milestone in Apple's attempt to innovate in the handheld device market.[16] United States
1994 Literature American author Stephen Covey publishes The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.[15] Highly successful, this book provides advice on personal development, teamwork, self-renewal, mutual benefit, proactivity, and strategies for achieving private and public victories.[17] United States
1997 (January 16) Software Microsoft Outlook is released, becoming a popular tool for email management, calendars, and tasks.[18] United States
1997 The 80/20 Principle, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, gains significant prominence in the business world. This principle posits that roughly 80% of outcomes result from 20% of inputs or efforts. The concept becomes widely known through the book The 80/20 Principle authored by Richard Koch, whose work offers insights on how this principle could be applied to improve efficiency and effectiveness in various aspects of life and business. The book emphasizes the importance of identifying and focusing on the critical few factors that contribute the most to desired outcomes, rather than dispersing efforts evenly across all factors.[19]
2001 Getting Things Done (GTD) is introduced by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.
2001 Smartphones are integrated with the internet, allowing users to access online services and information directly from their mobile devices.[7]
2003 Literature Canadian-American motivational public speaker and self-development author Brian Tracy publishes Goals!, which draws on over 20 years of experience and 40 years of research to offer a practical strategy for setting and achieving goals. Tracy outlines seven key elements of goal-setting and 12 steps to accomplish goals of any size. The book emphasizes determining strengths, values, and true goals, building self-esteem, and overcoming obstacles. Tracy provides a "Mental Fitness" program for character development, guiding readers to become individuals capable of achieving any goal. The book uses simple language, real-life examples, and would be utilized by over 1 million people.[15] United States
2007 Artifact American businessman Steve Jobs unveils the first iPhone, a groundbreaking moment in smartphone evolution. The introduction of mini software applications (Apps) would revolutionize the concept of mobile devices, significantly impacting productivity by providing versatile tools and functionalities on a single device.[7] United States
2007 (November 20) Ali Abdaal opens his Youtube channel. United Kingdom
2009 (December 22) Literature Atul Gawande publishes The Checklist Manifesto, which explores the effectiveness of checklists in managing complex tasks across various fields. Gawande, a renowned surgeon, draws on examples from aviation, medicine, disaster response, and other industries to highlight the efficacy of checklists in preventing errors and improving outcomes. The book underscores the simplicity and versatility of checklists as a tool for professionals dealing with increasing complexity.[20]
2010 (April 3) Artifact The iPad is first introduced, popularizing the use of tablets for productivity and entertainment.[21] United States
2011 Literature Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry publish Personal Kanban: Mapping Work, Navigating Life, which introduces the concept of Personal Kanban, shifting the focus from mere productivity to effectiveness. Drawing inspiration from Lean principles in manufacturing, the book applies them to individual and team work. It emphasizes visualizing work to transform overwhelming workloads into actionable flows and limiting work-in-progress to enhance completion rates and value understanding. The authors advocate for choosing the right work at the right time, understanding the impact of actions, and creating value in personal, professional, and social aspects of life. Personal Kanban serves as a practical and achievable framework for improving work and decision-making.[22]
2012 (December 7) Literature Hal Elrod publishes The Miracle Morning, which introduces a transformative approach to life that promises significant improvements in various areas. The book suggests that by dedicating just six minutes each day, individuals can experience profound changes in happiness, health, success, fitness, energy levels, stress reduction, financial situations, and relationships. The author contends that this "not-so-obvious" secret, known as The Miracle Morning, has been practiced by thousands globally and can lead to the life one has always desired. The book encourages readers to wake up to their full potential and embark on the journey to an extraordinary life.[23] United States
2013 Literature Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington publish The 12 Week Year, which provides a guide to transforming the traditional annual goal-setting approach into a more dynamic 12-week execution cycle. The book challenges the conventional 12-month thinking, emphasizing the advantages of shorter cycles to avoid complacency and enhance urgency. By condensing the year into 12 weeks, the approach fosters focus, clarity, and a heightened sense of urgency, ultimately leading to increased productivity and impactful results. The book serves as a practical resource for individuals and organizations seeking to improve their execution effectiveness, offering insights from experts in the field of execution and implementation. It encourages a shift in perspective to accelerate the journey to success.[24]
2016 (January 5) Literature American nonfiction author Cal Newport publishes Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, which is a guide to cultivating the skill of deep work, defined as the ability to concentrate on cognitively demanding tasks without distraction. Newport argues that deep work is a rare and valuable skill in today's economy, offering extraordinary results and true fulfillment. The book provides actionable advice, drawing on stories and examples. Newport suggests that professionals should consider quitting social media and advocates for practicing boredom to enhance deep work. Overall, the book encourages readers to embrace focused success in an increasingly distracted world.[25] United States
2017 (February 28) Literature American author Mel Robbins publishes The 5 Second Rule, a self-help book exploring the concept of the "push moment," drawing on scientific principles, historical anecdotes, and real-life stories from various domains. The core idea is to leverage a simple tool – the 5 Second Rule – to propel oneself towards positive actions. By counting down from five, individuals can overcome self-doubt, procrastination, fear, and uncertainty. The book emphasizes the transformative power of this technique, citing its broad appeal with over 8 million views of Robbins' TEDx Talk and adoption by executives in leading organizations to enhance productivity, collaboration, and engagement. The book provides practical insights on building confidence, breaking procrastination habits, conquering fears, alleviating worries, and expressing ideas with courage. Overall, it seeks to present a universal solution for the common challenge of self-limitation, emphasizing not just knowing what to do but the crucial aspect of knowing how to make oneself do it.[26]
2018 (September 25) Literature Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky publish Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day, which offers a four-step daily framework to help individuals take control of their time and attention in a world filled with constant distractions. Drawing on their experience designing Google products and the renowned "design sprint" methodology, the authors provide a customizable set of practical tips and strategies. The book emphasizes small shifts in habits and environment to optimize energy and focus, allowing readers to intentionally make time for what truly matters in their lives. It's a guide to reclaiming control over one's schedule and priorities.[27][28]
2018 (October 16) Literature American writer James Clear publishes Atomic Habits, which would be considered a highly practical guide to habit formation. Clear distills essential insights into building positive habits and breaking negative ones. The book provides actionable strategies, emphasizing the power of small changes for significant results. With a focus on productivity and effectiveness, the book would gain widespread acclaim for its straightforward approach.[29] United States
2019 (February 5) Literature Cal Newport publishes Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, which advocates for a more intentional and mindful use of technology. Newport provides insights into overcoming the overwhelming digital distractions that contribute to anxiety and stress. The book introduces a 'digital declutter' process, guiding readers to reevaluate their relationship with social media, prioritize meaningful conversations, and rediscover the joys of offline experiences. Described as the Marie Kondo of technology, Newport's book offers practical advice for regaining control over devices and achieving a calmer, more purposeful life amidst the chaos of the digital world.[30]
2019 Smart devices gain increased relevance as IoT (Internet of Things) and AI devices infiltrate the workspaces, enhancing productivity. Entire smart systems emerge, dedicated to optimizing energy usage and management efficiency in modern establishments.[7]
2019 Statistics The global productivity management software market is valued at US$45.81 billion, anticipating to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.4% from 2020 to 2027.[7] Worldwide
2020 (August 9) Research A study explores the distinction between workaholism and overcommitment, often used interchangeably to describe excessive job involvement. The research, involving 133 employees, aims to disentangle these constructs by comparing their antecedents and health consequences. The results show a relationship between the two but highlight that overcommitment is uniquely linked to job burnout, serving as the true negative aspect of work drive. This has implications for personal productivity as it emphasizes the importance of recognizing and addressing overcommitment to mitigate negative consequences. Additionally, the study links workaholism to conscientiousness and overcommitment to neuroticism, offering insights into how personality traits influence work-related behaviors and productivity.[31]
2020 (November 12) Literature Cal Newport publishes The Time-Block Planner, which introduces the time-blocking method, a time-management strategy employed by highly successful individuals like Elon Musk and Bill Gates. The planner facilitates task prioritization, enabling users to focus on crucial matters without being distracted by emails, social media, or external demands. By adopting the time-block method, individuals can efficiently organize their schedules, push aside distractions, and concentrate on impactful work.[32]
2021 (March 2) Literature Cal Newport publishes A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload, which challenges the prevailing email-centric approach to work and advocates for a more productive and fulfilling work environment. Newport argues that constant digital communication has created a counterproductive "hyperactive hive mind" workflow, leading to reduced profitability and overall dissatisfaction. Drawing on investigative reporting, he proposes clear processes, reduced administrative tasks, and streamlined communication to redefine how tasks are managed. Newport envisions a future where the knowledge sector evolves beyond email dependence.[33]

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The initial version of the timeline was written by Sebastian Sanchez.

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What the timeline is still missing

  • Event types: Literature, Youtube channels, mobile apps, artifacts, research
  • research on procrastination, multitasking, perfectionism, lack of prioritization, constant interruptions, overcommitting, lack of planning, not taking breaks, ignoring health, disorganization, fear of delegating, negative self-talk [1].
  • Research on coffee, caffeine
  • https://productivityknowhow.com/history/the-evolution-of-productivity/

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See also

External links


  1. Owano, Nancy. "Scotland lunar-calendar find sparks Stone Age rethink". phys.org. Retrieved 20 December 2023. 
  2. Payton, Robert (1991). "The Ulu Burun Writing-Board Set". Anatolian Studies. 41: 99–106. doi:10.2307/3642932. 
  3. "1440: Invention of the Printing Press". History of Innovation. 7 October 1440. Retrieved 3 December 2023. 
  4. "The History of the Pencil". Pencils.com. Retrieved 20 December 2023. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "The dark history of our obsession with productivity". fastcompany.com. Retrieved 22 December 2023. 
  6. Goessling, Tim (8 September 2014). "Living a day according to Ben Franklin". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 3 December 2023. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 "A Short History of Productivity". www.linkedin.com. Retrieved 15 January 2024. 
  8. Cortada, James W. (2015). Before the Computer: IBM, NCR, Burroughs, and Remington Rand and the Industry They Created, 1865–1956. Princeton University Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-4008-7276-3. Archived from the original on 2018-06-26. 
  9. "What is the Kanban method? • Board Kanban • DoneTonic". DoneTonic. 8 June 2021. Retrieved 5 January 2024. 
  10. Chitalwala, Sakina (17 February 2023). "Understanding and Applying the Eisenhower Matrix". Young Scholarz. Retrieved 13 January 2024. 
  11. Snyder, Mark (October 1974). "Self-monitoring of expressive behavior.". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 30 (4): 526–537. doi:10.1037/h0037039. 
  12. Snyder, Mark (October 1974). "Self-monitoring of expressive behavior.". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. pp. 526–537. doi:10.1037/h0037039. Retrieved 22 December 2023. 
  13. "Pomodoro Technique: Unveiling the Productivity Powerhouse and Its Pros and Cons". www.linkedin.com. Retrieved 7 January 2024. 
  14. "Pomodoro Technique | Dietrich Arts & Sciences Undergraduate Studies". www.asundergrad.pitt.edu. Retrieved 13 January 2024. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Philippe, Alex (3 February 2022). "A Brief History of Productivity Methods — Part 1: The Goal-Setting Trend". ILLUMINATION. Retrieved 3 December 2023. 
  16. "Apple Discontinued the Newton 25 Years Ago Today". macrumors.com. Retrieved 22 December 2023. 
  17. Covey, Stephen R. (2004). "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". google.com. Pocket Books. Retrieved 5 January 2024. 
  18. "What is Microsoft Outlook? | Features & Functions of MS Outlook". BYJUS. Retrieved 5 January 2024. 
  19. Gray, Judy (13 December 2018). "Key Ideas from the 80/20 Principle - Richard Koch: The Secret to Achieving More with Less". google.com. Independently Published. Retrieved 13 January 2024. 
  20. Gawande, Atul (1 April 2010). "The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right". google.com. Henry Holt and Company. Retrieved 15 January 2024. 
  21. "Looking back at 10 years of the iPad, Apple's revolutionary tablet". AppleInsider. 4 April 2020. Retrieved 5 January 2024. 
  22. Benson, Jim; Barry, Tonianne DeMaria (2011). "Personal Kanban: Mapping Work, Navigating Life". books.google.com. Modus Cooperandi Press. Retrieved 14 January 2024. 
  23. "The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)". books.google.com. 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2023. 
  24. "The 12 Week Year". Goodreads. Retrieved 7 January 2024. 
  25. Newport, Cal (5 January 2016). "Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World". books.google.com. Little, Brown Book Group. Retrieved 5 January 2024. 
  26. Robbins, Mel (28 February 2017). "The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage". books.google.com.ar. Savio Republic. Retrieved 13 January 2024. 
  27. Knapp, Jake; Zeratsky, John (25 September 2018). "Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day". Crown. Retrieved 20 December 2023. 
  28. "My Favourite Productivity Book of All Time". youtube.com. Retrieved 20 December 2023. 
  29. Clear, James (6 January 2022). "Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones". books.google.com. Penguin Random House. Retrieved 5 January 2024. 
  30. Newport, Cal (5 February 2019). "Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World". books.google.com. Penguin Books Limited. Retrieved 10 January 2024. 
  31. Avanzi, Lorenzo; Perinelli, Enrico; Vignoli, Michela; Junker, Nina M.; Balducci, Cristian (2020-8). "Unravelling Work Drive: A Comparison between Workaholism and Overcommitment". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 17 (16): 5755. ISSN 1661-7827. doi:10.3390/ijerph17165755.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  32. Newport, Cal (12 November 2020). "The Time-Block Planner". books.google.com. Penguin Books, Limited. Retrieved 10 January 2024. 
  33. Newport, Cal (2 March 2021). "A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload". books.google.com. Penguin Publishing Group. Retrieved 10 January 2024.