Since France passed a law in May giving employees the right to ignore work-related phone calls and emails outside of office hours, productivity and work-life balance are the new buzzwords du jour.
The news has sparked debates over whether or not our ability to be productive is too often measured in hours worked instead of the quality and relevance of our work. Smartphones have made it all too easy for us to remain “plugged in” at work even during our off hours. However, it’s been shown time and again that being able to have genuine off time is essential to maintain a healthy approach to both work and life.
In our obsessive quest for productivity, many of us cling to certain concepts that trick us into believing we’re being more productive when, in fact, we’re not.
Check out these common productivity myths and make sure you haven’t fallen prey to one of them:
Myth #1: Working More Hours Makes Me More Productive
Researcher Erin Reid published a study titled “Why Some Men Pretend to Work 80 Hours a Week.” In it, she describes the pressures in various industries for employees to appear busy and to visibly make personal sacrifices for the sake of the company. Competitiveness and constant vigilance create an atmosphere of high stress. Reid reports that “They complained to me of children crying when they missed their soccer games, of poor health and substance addictions caused by how they worked, and of a general sense of feeling ‘overworked and a lack of family time.’” But is all this work providing results that match the sacrifices and the hours? The Bureau of Labor Statistics has shown that while Americans are working longer hours, their productivity has gone down. Instead of filling your days with empty hours, learning to work smarter, not longer can solve some of the problems generated by this productivity myth.
Myth #2: I Should Do All My Busywork First
This may seem like a good idea. Get the dull stuff out of the way so you can work on the things that are really important. Kind of like warming up before a race. Except that for most people, what ends up happening is they miss the race altogether and the mundane tasks become their focus rather than their warm-up. Instead, use your energy and momentum to work on key projects first. Like, your 3 must do’s. Then, whatever time you have left later on you can use to knock out some of the less pressing work. Or better yet, delegate the busywork to someone else if you have an assistant or someone being paid to do that sort of thing. By training yourself to make your day about the things that have the greatest impact on your business and career, you are tackling the challenges of your field head-on rather than hiding behind menial tasks.
Myth #3: Procrastination is Bad
Probably the only thing worse than procrastinating is beating yourself up for procrastinating. Human beings aren’t machines and there are likely some days when you’ll be more on top of things and other days when you won’t be. Health, personal problems, and just the regular ups and downs of life all affect us every day. Don’t waste time feeling bad if you’ve put something off. Consider that maybe there’s another reason why this task is particularly challenging for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with something if you need it. Figuring out the snags in your workflow is an important part of learning how to be productive. Face it and analyze it. Don’t ignore it or waste time punishing yourself for it. If you are stuck, break the task down into smaller action items. Ask yourself, “What is the next right thing to do?”
Myth #4: I Do My Best Work Under Pressure
Everyone knows that feeling of cranking out a project under a tight deadline. There’s no wiggle room left and you just muscle through, fueled on coffee and adrenaline. Such circumstances are unavoidable sometimes, but this is certainly no way to live and work. Some people claim that their best work is done this way, but in fact, studies show that work produced under tight deadlines is more likely to be mediocre. Under time constraints, people tend to choose more obvious and familiar ideas instead of risking a new one that they haven’t had time to explore fully. Research and support are often superficial and holes in logic or missing steps can be spotted easily. Giving yourself time and space to work will allow you to be more creative and more thorough.
Here are some blog posts on productivity that might be helpful:
Question: Do you have any productivity myths to add? I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.