Most Common Productivity Myths Debunked

Throw ‘how to be productive’ into any search engine and you’ll find a confused and contradictory jumble of advice. Every article seems to be followed immediately by one that tells you to do the opposite: work when inspiration hits, but build a timetable and stick to it. Go for regular walks, but stop procrastinating. Work from home, but don’t get too comfortable. It can get a little confusing.

There are a million books, articles and videos out there claiming to have the secret of productivity. But among all this noise, is there any genuinely catch-all rules for increasing productivity, or is it too subjective? Experts over at Avansas have taken a closer look at some of the most prevalent pearls of wisdom, to debunk the myths and see if there’s any merit to them – and their conclusions will be valuable to anybody wanting to get more out of their 24 hours.

Myth #1: ‘Being productive’ is synonymous with ‘getting everything done’

In order to build healthy habits, it's important to feel encouraged; you’d never return to the gym if every time you stepped onto the elliptical the PTs started guffawing. If you hyper-focus on getting every single thing on your to-do list finished in one day, your productivity won’t last longer than a week before you burn out, and find yourself too stressed and depressed to achieve anything at all. By accepting the fact that sometimes you won’t be able to get everything done that you set out to, you’ll begin to build a healthy and positive relationship with your work.

Remember – even if you don’t achieve everything you intended, you’ve still made progress. When the finish line is a mile away, even a single step is progress towards your goal.

Myth #2: You should emulate the habits of successful people

Who cares if Elon Musk sleeps for 45 seconds a night, and Jeff Bezos locks himself into a cryogenic chamber to clear his head before big meetings? You are not them. Your brain is unique, and the mental processes and life experiences that make you ‘you’ are completely different to anybody else’s. Why, then, would you copy someone else’s regime entirely, instead of searching for the best ways of being productive for you personally?

Your journey towards success – and you will get there, if you’re able to learn and adapt and stick at it – will look wildly different to anyone else’s. Your friends are different, your upbringing is different, your environment is different. Instead of trying to be someone else, focus on becoming the best version of yourself.

Myth #3: You should always be hustling

See also: Rise and Grind. The mentality that you should always be working leads to an unhealthy work-life balance, and eventually, to burnout. Time with family is crucial. Time with friends is restorative. Time spent doing things you enjoy isn’t time wasted; it’s time invested in helping you stay healthy and happy, which in turn allows you to further pursue your work and ambitions. You can’t be productive if you’re stumbling around bleary eyed and haggard. Go put some cucumbers on your eyes and take an hour for yourself.

Myth #4: Working from [insert place] is more productive

Some productivity gurus will tell you working from an office is the key to making the most of your day. Others will say working at home is the answer. The truth, of course, is that you’re an individual, and what’s true for one person won’t necessarily be true for you. Instead of taking this sort of advice as gospel, test out different methods of working over several days and weeks, and track your progress. If you find your productivity shoots up when you’re working from home, but drops through the floor the second you step into the office, you know what to do.

Myth #5: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”

Sure, it sounds cool to say; makes you sound all Dirty Harry. The truth, however, is that you’ll be shuffling off the mortal coil a lot sooner than you’d like if you don’t give your body the sleep it needs. Sleep is restorative, and crucial for the proper functioning of just about every process in your body: creativity, optimism, drive, all of it.

Being physically and mentally healthy is paramount to being productive. We’re not saying you should be napping through meetings – just to make sure you get those hallowed eight hours of sleep per night.

Myth #6: Multitasking is bad

Not necessarily. It depends on what kind of brain you have. For some of us, the best way to work is to jump between several different tasks throughout the day. Taking a break from one task to work on another can allow you to reapproach the job later on with a refreshed perspective. Conversely, for people who work well in this manner, forcing themselves to work 100% on one thing may cause them to lose their enthusiasm and find it difficult to maintain concentration.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. For many people, the best way to work is to laser-focus on one task and grind through it to completion. For these people, other mini-tasks that crop up along the way act only as distractions, and can slow them down. Checking emails, holding discussions over messaging apps, jumping in and out of meetings can throw a spanner in a person’s workflow, and it can take a while to refocus again. If this happens multiple times a day, hours can be lost.

So – multitasking isn’t inherently bad; it all depends on you. If you’re not sure whether multi-tasking is the right method of working for you personally, A/B test it. Spend one day focused solely on one task at a time, and another day pinballing between many pieces of work. Which one worked the best?

Myth #7: Productivity apps will help you up your output

If there’s an overarching theme to this article, it’s that being productive isn’t an exact science, and the way to achieve peak productivity will differ from person to person. In keeping with this theme then, is our next myth: that by cramming your phone, tablet or laptop full of productivity apps, you’ll be able to become a better worker and get more done. Well… no.

Some people will be able to work better by installing apps that lock them out of social media/email them reminders/electrocute them when they stop working. And for those people that work best that way – fantastic! However, it’d be silly to believe that everybody will perform at their optimal level in this manner.

If you’re somewhat of a technophobe, then good, old-fashioned post-it notes might be the best way of keeping yourself motivated and focused. Maybe scrawling things in a notepad or on a calendar is the best way. Or maybe you just need to purchase one of those ‘hang in there’ cat posters to add a little fuel to your fire. Hey: if it’s stupid and it works, it’s not stupid.

The bottom line

There’s no right or wrong way to work. What’s important is to be self-aware and figure out at what times, locations, and methods you can be the most productive, and arranging your working days around this information. You may find you work your best by logging on at 3am, sitting in the dark, and chugging litres of green tea – hey, whatever works.

Good luck!

Read next: Burnout is real, but Bill Gates has happened to have avoid it all this time
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