I became aware of the personal productivity movement nearly a decade ago, and have been learning it seriously and honing my craft in it for around the last 5 years. Throughout this time, I've studied the movements history and noticed some patterns. There are a few particular breakpoints where major shifts in productivity thinking occurred, and, interestingly enough, I think we're nearing yet another one, which I'm calling Productivity v3.0.
The first major inception of the personal productivity movement, version 1 so to say, is a focus on productivity to be a better leader. Major thought leaders in this period included Stephen Covey, Zig Ziglar, and John Maxwell to name a few.
This focus on leader effectiveness makes sense in that personal productivity and knowledge work are inherently tied together, and in the 1950s to the 1990s, the primary people dealing with an abundance of "stuff" to do were business managers and executives.
In this period, digital tools to manage productivity hardly existed (if any at all), email wasn't a factor in information management, and paper planners were the primary mode by which people managed their lives. The pace of collaboration was more synchronous, but slower in that ideas couldn't be communicated