Stop chasing the idea of productivity rather than productivity itself.
We all are chasing productivity; with tools, apps, and strategies at our disposal, we all want to become the masters of productivity. Great goal, except that along the way, we are ending up chasing the idea of productivity rather than productivity itself.
We do what productivity gurus ask us to do and expect that it will work. Truth is, it is not that simple at all. Your productivity recipe is your own and you have gotta figure it out; to do that, you must first start by being aware if some of the productivity myths and on that note, here we go.
1. You have to wake up early to get things done
There seems to be a lot of emphasis on the productivity boost caused by waking up early. The thing is we have been conditioned to think that waking up early gives you the whole day to get things done.
While it is not entirely true, the important thing to consider here, according to a study, is that - to be productive and creative, you have to work in hours that are best for you.
If you notice that you are really productive and in a high focus mode in the early morning hours then, by all means, become an early riser and finish all the important tasks before the afternoon slump sets in.
The same for late risers, if you are most productive in the evening and night times, then make sure to take advantage of that. What really hinders your productivity is to force yourself to work at hours that don’t really suit you.
2. You are most productive at the office
This may be the case a decade back, where we didn’t have apps and tools to help us, but in today’s professional culture that is no longer the case.
Many studies have shown that working at homes or in public places like cafes actually increases your productivity. With the right tools, virtual teams are known to be just as productive as the normal ones. In fact, it really is a matter of preference.
People who like working in the cubicle of their office, are naturally more comfortable and thereby more productive when they are working from office. For people who seek the comfort of home, working remotely seems to be a better option.
The bottom line, again, is that people are more productive when they follow what works best for them and the companies too should be flexible enough to facilitate that.
3. Sleep is only for slackers/winners
This is an overly-simplified conclusion. Sleep is a very subjective factor. Some people need more than 8 hours of sleep to recharge, while for some people 6 hours of sleep will do.
In fact, an individual’s need for sleep keeps changing from time to time as well, depending on our mood, season, mental exertion etc.
Some people say winners get high amounts of sleep and some say sleep is only for losers. Both are extreme conclusions and there is no uniform rule for the number of hours of sleep.
What really hinders productivity is sleep deprivation. Getting sufficient amounts of sleep relative to your capacity and your need is the secret here, be it 6 hours or 10 hours.
4. Being busy = being productive
Being busy only gives you the illusion of being productive and being in control of your time. For instance, even if you are checking things off your to-do list, it doesn’t mean you are being productive if your list is filled with low priority and low importance things.
In fact, occupying yourself with trivial tasks and dodging the important ones is a major sign of procrastination and a lack of productivity.
5. Aiming to beat the slumps
The common advice is ‘the trick to productivity is to power through the slumps’. I say, why to waste your limited willpower on ineffective hours of the day. Instead, use that time to finish up simple tasks that don’t require your mental energy such as arranging your desk, taking a few calls, or just take a break or a nap during this slump hours.
Don’t use up your precious energy on the off hours of the day. Instead, focus all your energy on the good hours of the day and relax during the slow ones.
6. Work before play
Truly productive and successful know that trying to put work before play/life is a futile strategy because it might seem like you are getting things done in the short term, but in the long run, your productivity will suffer.
They also know that a well-balanced life is the meaning of true success.
For instance, you decide to work for a while on the weekend, and what starts with checking a few emails, ends up consuming all of your weekend. You have not taken the time to relax and recharge and so the next week you end up working on very low energy levels.
So you see, by not balancing your life you are actually being less productive at work too.
7. Winners are multitaskers
It is a scientifically impossible for our brain to do two things at the same time. Multi-tasking is essentially nothing but shifting from one task to another in a given amount of time.
Every time you switch to another task, you require some time to focus on the new task and before you get into the focus mode, it’s already time to switch to another.
Additionally, another major disadvantage of multitasking is that it negatively affects the quality of your work. Because when you are shifting from one task to another, it becomes impossible to get into a flow state of mind that is needed to come up with creative and innovative ideas.
8. Disconnect to become more productive
Well, the advocators of this advice say that the internet is making us dumb by flooding our brains with useless information and that we rely on an internet search for everything without even trying to think for ourselves.
While there is definite information overload due to the internet, the conclusion that it is making us dumb is unfounded. Research states that some actually prefer to research the information rather than spend valuable mental energy memorizing it. We are actually able to choose the kind of knowledge we want to remember, not spending time and energy on memorizing chunks of data which can now be easily researched.
If anything, the internet has made us more productive.
9. Longer hours will get more work done
The idea that the longer you stay in office, the more work you will get done is absolutely baseless. In fact, according to Parkinson’s law, your work usually expands to fill the available time.
For example, if you decide that you want to leave your office at 6.00 PM, you will work hard to finish all your tasks within that time. On the other hand, if you tell yourself that you will work late, you will end up taking more than necessary time to finish the same number tasks and that is not productivity.
10. A clean desk boosts productivity
Again, this is an over-generalization. Whether a clean desk promotes productivity or not depends on the person and their individual preference. A study shows that the lack of order in the workspace helps some people be more effective and creative.
The bottom line is not everyone is made more productive by clean workplaces and not everyone is made less productive by unclean ones. It is really up to to the individual to figure out what works. Giving this generalized ‘advice’ to keep your desk clean to be more productive is really pointless.
I guess the problem with most of the myths mentioned above is that they are only partially true in that they don’t apply to everyone. We should focus more on figuring what productivity techniques and strategy work for your personality rather than chasing a standard idea of what productivity should be.
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