20 Myths About Productivity

7 minute read

By John Hardy

You’ve probably heard productivity myths like working longer hours equals higher productivity and meetings are always productive. However, those don’t hold. Fortunately, you can learn about being more productive with a search online.

Productivity myths can get in the way of actually being productive. With this in mind, let’s look at common myths. It’s also worth taking some time to explore productivity tips to become more productive at work.

Myth 1: Longer Hours Mean More Work

Most people assume that the longer you work, the more you get done. While in theory, this makes sense, in practice it doesn’t hold up. People, especially office workers, already admit to spending anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours a day doing items unrelated to work.

Myth 2: People Work Better Under Pressure

If you aren’t one of those people who claim they perform better under pressure, you know someone who does. Research says that procrastination does not lead to better productivity though. The stress of an impending deadline actually makes it harder for your brain to function, leading to more errors and oversights.

Myth 3: Multitasking is Key

It might sound like you’d get more done if you’re working on more than one thing at a time, but multitasking is ineffective. Your brain cannot jump efficiently between tasks and keep the same attention to detail. In the end, you actually spend more time doing the same number of tasks, and your risk of making a mistake is increased.

Myth 4: Breaks are a Waste of Time

Although taking time away from what you are working on might seem like a waste of your work hours, it’s not. Working continuously without a break is hard on the body and mind, causing you unnecessary stress. There’s a lot of social stigma around taking a break, but make sure to work some into your schedule for your mental health. It’ll help you feel refreshed, and ultimately increase your productivity.

Myth 5: Waking Up Early Makes You More Productive

This may be true for some people, but for others, it could have the complete opposite effect. Are you a night owl? Waking up early definitely won’t increase your productivity. The key to being productive is understanding when you are the most productive and doing critical work during those times. Know when you are at your peak performance, and schedule your day accordingly.

Myth 6: Working Remotely Increases Work Production

While a lot of companies are offering employees the ability to work from home nowadays, it doesn’t always make the work day more effective. Like the previous point, this is dependent on who you are as a person, and the work environment you set up for yourself. It’s important to have somewhere to work that is free if distractions. If working from home actually means spending 8 hours telling your kids to leave you alone, chances are you won’t be as effective as if you were sitting at work.

Myth 7: Start every day with a Clean Workspace

Yes, having a clean workspace is nice to look at and makes you feel organized. No, it is not necessary to have a spotless desk every time you start your work day. To be more productive, it makes more sense to keep those items that you use on a regular basis within arm’s reach. You’ll spend less time trying to remember where you strategically put it.  Your workspace should meet your needs.

Myth 8: Don’t Stop and Ask for Help

While stopping to ask for help or having to wait for help seems like it’ll slow down your productivity, in the long run, it’ll be much more beneficial. Having someone slowly walk you through the process of something is much more efficient than you having to redo something completely because you didn’t want to slow down. Most people understand that asking questions is part of any job, so don’t think it makes you look bad.

Myth 9: Tons of Meetings are Productive

Meetings are necessary for most workplaces. It might seem like those people who go from meeting to meeting are getting a lot done, but often they aren’t. Most meetings consist of listening while someone else is talking, planning, or even catching up with coworkers. Not a lot of actual work gets done while a group of people sit around in a boardroom. Try and space out your meetings so you have time to work in between them.

Myth 10: Focus on the Big Picture Only

The big picture is key, but the tiny details should not be overlooked. After all, those little details do make up the big picture when put together. Look at the overall goal you are trying to accomplish, then break it down into bite-size actionable goals. Accomplishing these small steps will not only give you the motivation to keep going, but it’ll ensure everything is covered when you do complete the big picture.

Myth 11: Sacrifice Sleep if It Means Getting the Work Done

Without proper sleep, it’s not possible to be productive. Lack of sleep can lead to various long-term health problems. Heroics aside, the brain just can’t function properly when it isn’t fully rested. A good night’s sleep is the underrated key to being productive.

Myth 12: If You Can’t Measure It, It Isn’t Effective

Measuring productivity is difficult because it can mean multiple things to people. Someone might measure their productivity based on projects being finished, while you might measure your productivity on how many tasks you get done in a day. Both are acceptable ways to gauge whether or not you’re productive, but don’t let other people’s definition of productivity deter you.

Myth 13: Always Say Yes

Always being the person that people come to for help is a great feeling, but it also gets in the way of your productivity. There are certain times and situations where it makes sense to help a fellow coworker out, but sometimes you need to say no. Taking on someone else’s work only adds to your workload and stress.

Myth 14: Make a To-Do List for Everything

While to-do lists can be effective, they can also be daunting. Have you ever made one with 10+ items on it, stared at it wondering how you’ll get everything done, and then promptly done something that isn’t even on the list? Your brain can get overwhelmed with long lists. Instead, try creating a list of your top three to-do items for each day. Once you’ve accomplished these, make another list of three items to accomplish. If this seems too time-consuming, break your list up into categories such as top three, want to get done, hope to get done. Work your way through these items.

Myth 15: One Productivity System Works

If you aren’t as productive as you’d like to be, it makes sense to go to someone who you see as productive to seek advice. You just need to remember one thing: one system does not work for everyone. Sure, that person excels with the system they’ve laid out, but it doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Take their advice and work it to fit your own habits.

Myth 16: Start Your Work Immediately to Get More Done

While it might seem like a good idea to start your work day by hunkering down and getting to it, it may not be the most effective. Look at the tasks you have to accomplish that day or that week, and form a game plan before starting everything. You don’t want to waste an entire day getting a huge task accomplished, only to find out you missed a couple of important ones that needed to get done.

Myth 17: Focus on One Task Before Moving On

We’ve all been there. Knee-deep in a huge task that you need to accomplish, and now you’re struggling to get it done. Most people think that to be the most effective, they have to complete a task before moving onto another. This doesn’t always have to be the case, especially if you’ve got some big tasks to check off. Take a break, knock off a couple of small tasks, then come back to the big one. You’ll feel refreshed and be a lot more productive.

Myth 18: Do What You Love, First

While it might be fun to start the morning by accomplishing all the tasks that you know you’ll enjoy doing, it isn’t the most effective. Chances are, if you leave everything you don’t want to do until the afternoon, you’ll probably end up spending more time on the fun tasks so you don’t have to face the others. If you get the not-so-fun tasks out of the way first, you’ll find the rest of your day a little more enjoyable and productive.

Myth 19: If You Want It Done Right, Do It Yourself

This sounds great in theory, but it doesn’t work from a business point of view. If you have to do all the tasks assigned to your team, how can you ever expect to get them all done? Do not be afraid to delegate to other team members. If you are the person on the team who is delegated, make sure you know the priorities of the items you were given. You, and the team, will be more productive.

Myth 20: Productivity Only Happens While Sitting at Your Desk

Just like some of the points above, this is solely based on who you are as a person. Some people do work better sitting at a desk. Some people work better standing at a desk. Some people work better lying in the grass. If you think you’d work better somewhere else, talk to your boss to make it happen, or test it out and see. Sure, it might seem weird for a bit, but if it works for you, that’s what matters!

John Hardy