While most of this advice can assist you in becoming more productive, there are plenty of myths out there as well. They may seem helpful, but these myths, such as the following 9, can actually do more harm than good.
1. You must be a morning person.
If you read any article sharing productivity tips, I can almost guarantee that “waking-up early” is one of them. While there is some evidence to back this claim-up, such as from Christoph Randler (a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany), waking-up early doesn’t automatically make you any more productive.
Russell Foster, a circadian neuroscientist who studies the sleep cycles of the brain, found there is no gap in socioeconomic rank between a person who gets up early and someone who wakes up late. Whether you wake-up at 4am, 9am, or 8pm, logic tells us that we all have the same amount of hours in the day to get everything done.
Personally, I’m more of a morning person. But I also know plenty of other people who are night owls who get just as much accomplished. That’s because we all have different times when we’re most productive.
Often, the most productive people have a routine and are deliberate with their time. For example, some people prep for the next day by having their clothes laid out and their agenda set. This way they’re not wasting as much time when the alarm goes off.
2. Clean equals organized.
There’s a misconception that being organized means Mr. Clean just came-in and sterilized the place. However, just because your home or workspace is clean doesn’t mean you have all your ducks lined up properly. You might still waste a lot of time looking for items when you need them.
In the context of staying productive, being organized means having the items you use more close at hand. It means giving everything a home and putting those things back in their designated places to be easily retrieved. Some of us can work in clutter because we know where everything is. Others thrive in a spotless workplace. Either way is fine as long as you’re not misplacing anything.
3. The more hours you work, the more productive you are.
Just because you’re working for eight, 10 or even 12 hours a day doesn’t mean you’re productive. Between breaks, distractions and fatigue, the average employee working an eight-hour workday is only really productive for portions of the day.
Furthermore, working too many hours is detrimental to your health. According to a study of 85,000 people in the European Heart Journal, long working days can increase the odds of you having a stroke. Working more hours does not automatically mean you will get more done. Instead, block out times when you can work undisrupted by turning off notifications or closing your office.
Furthermore, make sure that you schedule time for breaks. Taking a breather will help you recharge and refocus so that you can get back to the task at hand. More on that in a bit.
4. You work best under pressure.
Some people claim that working under pressure boosts their productivity. That may be true in small doses. For example, you may have an upcoming trip and you need to hustle so you can get away. Living like this on a consistent basis however isn’t sustainable and usually only creates stress.
Stress impairs both your health and work. It’s long been linked to cardiovascular problems, and can certainly make you less fun to work with. Because of all this, keep stress to a minimum. One healthy tip is to not wait until the last minute. Be aware of deadlines and set priorities to help with this.
5. Jumping right in will help you get more done.
Some people recommend that you just jump right into your work, without a plan. The idea is that as long as you’re getting work done, you’re making progress.
This can be both true and not true. You may end-up working on a key project for an entire day without having accomplished, or even started, any of your other key tasks. You were so focused on getting certain items done that you did it all without a plan. That’s like driving across the country without a map or using GPS.
A more productive approach would be to kick off your day by identifying key tasks and mapping out work time. That takes some preparation, but it will help you stay on track when you come across obstacles.
6. You must keep working until you’re done with a task.
I get it. Why start a project if you aren’t going to finish it?
Because, sometimes stopping isn’t a bad thing. Instead of forcing yourself to finish a task — even if you’ve hit a wall — identify a good place to stop and switch gears to another item on your to-do-list. For example, if you’ve been doing data analysis all morning, take a break and respond to some important emails. This allows your brain to take a break from a problem it’s been tackling. When you return to the original task you may be refreshed enough to crank it out more quickly and effectively.
7. Multitasking is efficient.
I can understand the theory. Working on two or three projects at the same time means you’re getting more done. Unfortunately, multitasking just isn’t possible.
“The neuroscience is clear: We are wired to be mono-taskers,” writes Cynthia Kubu, PhD, and Andre Machado, MD. “One study found that just 2.5 percent of people are able to multitask effectively. And when the rest of us attempt to do two complex activities simultaneously, it is simply an illusion.”
If you take a good look at the times you’ve multi-tasked, you probably see that you switched focus from one thing to another too often to do either of them very well. This is deadly from a productivity standpoint.
In short, don’t multitask. Do one task at a time and then move-on to the next.
8. Rewards boost productivity.
While monetary or physical rewards can be used to boost productivity, they usually only last momentarily. Once a reward has been received, we eventually return to the same level of productivity.
Instead of relying solely on rewards and incentives, tap into your intrinsic motivation.What about a task is important to you and requires your effort? This probably motivates us more than any type of physical reward can.
To get started, get in touch with your life’s purpose. This is key when it comes to self-motivation. If you’re not passionate or excited about whatever you’re doing, then why bother at all? You may find that the more fulfilled you feel by the work you’re doing, the more productive you are.
9. Productivity techniques will solve all of your problems.
Go back and review any article providing productivity advice. You’re bound to see techniques like the Pomodoro Technique or Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain.”
Don’t get me wrong. These techniques can be effective. That’s why people swear by them. However, just because it works for them doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. So, don’t force yourself to use a productivity technique that isn’t working for you.
Try out a different techniques until you find the ones that work best for you. Personally, I live-by the Pomodoro Technique, which is working for around 25 minutes and then taking a five minute break (or a bit longer).
This can be altered to suit your specific work habits. For example, I can often work straight for an hour before I start losing focus. So, I sometimes work for 60-minutes straight and then take a 30-minute break.
As you can see, it’s all about what works for you. Keep this in mind as you test these productivity myths, and find the truth in them that helps you get more done.