5 Productivity Myths, Busted by Data

Business.com / Entrepreneurship / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Ever get caught up with productivity tips but never see any results? We debunk five popular and dangerous misconceptions about productivity.

Do you work, or do you simply “rework”?

On average, 30-35 percent of all project work is rework; that is, redoing the same tasks while you try to remember where you left off before you got distracted or lost in another task.

What causes rework? To a large extent, it’s a result of wrong beliefs about what actually makes people productive (or unproductive) in the first place.

Here we debunk five of the most common and dangerous misconceptions about productivity.

Myth 1: Goal Setting is for Dreamers

Career advisor and blogger Penelope Trunk states, “The core of productivity is self-knowledge, which is emotional intelligence.” In other words, one must know what he wants in order to prioritize. How can anyone expect to effectively meet their goals if they have no idea where they intend to go?

Feasible long- and short-term goals should be set before any work commences. (Note the word “feasible.”) Setting unrealistic milestones, deadlines, and measures of effectiveness will squash morale; which will, in turn, kill productivity. Setting achievable, measurable goals also allows everyone on a team to understand the prize they’re working towards.

Related Article: Inspiration Awaits: 5 Influential Business Books You Need to Read

Myth 2: Higher Salaries Keep Workers Engaged

Studies conducted by creative communications agency Mad!son, state that engaged employees are 38 percent more productive than non-engaged employees. Employers often make the mistake of believing that salary is a primary motivator; however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While a potential financial outcome can influence a person’s desire to pursue a specific career path, it almost certainly won’t make them more engaged in their work.

Judging from her own experience in business, content marketing blogger, Katrina Pfannkuch, believes that making employees feel appreciated and valued is far more important than salary. Fundamentally, everybody has a different motivation to work. Most of us do it because we have to; but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable and provide a viable social and creative outlet.

Myth 3: Multitasking is for Superachievers

Multitasking is the bane of productivity. When too much is going on at the same time everything slows down, work quality suffers, and everyone involved starts to feel overwhelmed. The idea of focusing on one task at a time may seem frustrating to some, especially when enthusiasm gets in the way, but it’s essential.

Delegation is not a skill; nor is it an art form; it’s merely common sense. Gary Keller, author of The One Thing, summarizes this philosophy with one simple question, “What’s the ONE Thing you can do that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?” Finding that task can have a rolling effect on everything on the list that precedes it, which can result in a streamlined operation.

Related Article: The Global Time-Wasting Epidemic: Stop the Meeting Madness

Myth 4: Quantified Productivity Data is Just for Geeks

Stanford University PhD student, Andrej Karpathy, used software to monitor his computer activity over a three month period. The purpose was to collect data that would allow him to visually assess his work habits using a set of graphs. His study monitored everything from his keystrokes to the time he spent using certain applications. By the end of the experiment, he discovered that he wasted more time during certain hours of the day. He then used this data to create a more productive routine.

Run a quick Google search, and you’ll find a variety of programs out there, some of which are free and open source, that can be used to measure IT-based activities. Nowadays, most of us spend a big chunk of our working hours in front of a computer screen. Checking emails, browsing social networks, surfing Spotify and YouTube; these are all habits that become ingrained into our daily routines, and together they add up to a lot of wasted time. As Bruce Lee once said, “It’s not the daily increase, but the daily decrease. Hack away the unessential.”

Myth 5: Training is an Unnecessary Expense

Training is just one of the many necessary evils of the business world; it costs money, but without it, everything will suffer. Yes, people can learn on the job, but during this transition period productivity will inevitably suffer.

Justin Cooke of Empire Flippers uses a method called the Skill Transfer Process (STP) to ensure his new employees perform to the highest of their abilities from the very start. STP is a five-tier process that consists of: explaining, demonstrating, practicing, observing, and providing feedback. This enables new employees to adapt as quickly as possible. In short, there is no way to completely eliminate training costs, but there are ways to limit them and get a better end result.

Be a little skeptical the next time you hear someone utter a little chestnut of “productivity wisdom.”  People will always try to find shortcuts and hacks to make their working life easier, and some will prove to be useful. But in the end, you’ll take control of your own productivity not through a list of hacks--but by identifying your (or your organization’s) biggest goals and biggest time-stealers. Once you identify both, leverage the dreams and kill the thieves. You’ll be halfway to your next giant accomplishment.

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