"True Wealth Isn’t About Money"

J.D. Roth leads off this article on the relationship between happiness and money with the opening line of his book Your Money: The Missing Manual:

You don’t want to be rich — you want to be happy. Many people mistakenly believe that the former leads to the latter. While it’s certainly true that money can help you achieve your goals, provide for your future, and make life more enjoyable, merely having money doesn’t guarantee happiness.

Let’s replace the word “money” here with “productivity”. It’s nothing new that “money can’t buy happiness” but productivity can’t create happiness either.

Roth continues:

Money is a tool. As with any tool, a skilled craftsman can use it to build something amazing: a meaningful life filled with family and friends. But if you’re not careful, if you don’t have a plan, the life you construct with your money can be a tenuous thing — even dangerous.

In the same way, how you get things done is just a tool. A skilled craftsman uses tools to accomplish something with greater efficiency so they can either get more work done in the same amount of time or get something done sooner so they can get on with things. They do it so they can go home and see their family, have more time for their hobby1, or go make something new.

True productivity isn’t about completing things, it’s about what’s left over when you’re done. Focus on the wealth you gain as an outcome of being efficient. Be productive to have more time to spend with friends not just to test drive a new thing you read on some blog2. Getting really good at getting things done will come when you have great reasons to be productive. Tweaking your system will still happen but it will be deliberate.

You don’t want to be productive, you want to be happy.


This week, whenever you start planning out your day, whether it’s over your morning coffee or when you first get to your desk, pick a reason why you are going to be productive that day. Make that the reason you cross things off on your list. Work efficiently so when you leave work you can go do that thing and not because your boss needs you to get some TPS report done.

Focus your attention on where you want your wealth to be and not the tools that will get you there. If that’s your focus, you’ll come across the right tools to take you to your wealth.

  1. If GTD stuff is your hobby, go find a better one.↩︎

  2. This blog included.↩︎