We all want to use our time wisely and make the most of the hours we have. However, some of the tips for productivity you may be familiar with can have the contrary affect. Here, we debunk four common productivity myths.
Successful people start their day early. At least, so says the Wall Street Journal: it claims the most successful people wake at 4am. This way, they can get to the office early and achieve more – gaining vital quiet time to complete important tasks before anyone else makes it into the office.
It sounds like it ought to make sense – but this kind of schedule is not sustainable. We know that getting enough sleep is important for good health, lower stress and improved productivity.
So, an early schedule, outside normal sleep patterns, that doesn’t allow for the requisite seven to eight hours of sleep per day cannot offer a fast track to greater productivity.
Busy-ness isn’t a prerequisite for good business.
While the pressure to “look busy” in the office might still hold true for some managers, most of us have experienced the benefits of flexible working practices through the pandemic. We’ve experienced how a good work-life balance is a much better factor in increasing productivity than packing your schedule with tasks.
Everyone – especially creative minds – needs to enjoy a bit of downtime. When our minds are relaxed, we are free to consider new approaches and solutions to problems.
We know that pressure not to take our annual vacation time is self-defeating: stress and burnout are likely to result – culminating in lower productivity. Instead, we need to remember to leave a bit of slack in our schedules, switch off at the end of the day and take vacation leave when we need it.
This is a much better route to increased productivity – as well as good health, employee engagement and happiness.
Time blocking is another popular productivity technique. It’s great for blue-sky thinking. Giving ourselves time to mull over or explore a big challenge or to dedicate quiet time to completing the writing of an important paper or presentation is a great way to get things done.
But not all of us have that luxury. Sometimes it isn’t possible to block out big chunks of time from a busy schedule. What do we do then? This is when time blocking can end up being a barrier to our productivity: encouraging us to put off tasks until we have “enough” time to think about them properly or complete them fully.
Business coach Deborah Hurwitz warns of another danger. She founded Productivity for Perfectionists in 2017 and told Forbes magazine, “Postponing action until a block of time is available and then failing to make meaningful progress during that block causes negative conditioning. You’re teaching yourself to avert and avoid.”
Instead, we need to be able to make meaningful progress – even when we don’t have enough time to conclude the task. This means that being prepared to be flexible in our approaches is probably a better way to ensure a boost to our productivity than fixating on particular approaches or “the right way to do things”.
When staff are engaged and happy in their work, they will be more productive. Of course, it makes perfect sense… But there is a downside to the (well-intentioned) goals of ensuring staff are happy and engaged at work.
The Conversation warns of the dangers of toxic positivity – when staff feel pressure to always be upbeat, it can be harmful to mental health. It’s been shown that people who experience emotional invalidation are more likely to have depressive symptoms – and that’s a blow to staff morale and productivity.
Being positive isn’t about only seeing the positive, its being positive about how you can deal with and move on from the negative too. That’s why acceptance and resilience are important facets of a positive mindset – and productivity.
It’s important to recognize how we feel and to make space for that. Sometimes getting the job done is enough in itself.