Increased productivity has been a human goal since the foundation of agriculture. Many thousands of years later, we’re still trying to perfect our work methods to achieve better results. Along the way, however, we have generated some misconceptions that could actually be hindering our productivity efforts.
1. Multitasking is a valuable skill.
Skim just about any job posting, and you’ll probably see “multitasking” listed as an essential skill. The problem is that multitasking doesn’t actually exist.
What we think is multitasking is really just switching focus back and forth between two or more tasks. And it’s not as effective as we’ve always believed it was. In fact, research shows that multitasking is really a brain drain.
Think of it this way: When you get pulled over for texting and driving, simply tell the officer that you were multitasking. See how well that goes over.
Avoid falling prey to this myth by focusing on one task at a time, even for periods as short as five minutes, and see the results improve. While you focus, limit the amount of information you receive (close out your email program, silence your phone, etc.) that can otherwise distract your mind and frustrate your efforts.
2. Be a morning person to be productive.
We hear it all the time: the most successful people are early birds, getting up at 6, 5, even 4am to tackle their to-do lists and change the world while making billions of dollars. Which is a wonderful routine—if it works for you. But many night owls and other less-early birds get frustrated trying to adopt the schedules of their morning cousins.
Are you meeting your deadlines? Communicating effectively? On your way to accomplishing your goals? Getting sufficient rest to stay alert and healthy? Then your current schedule is probably working for you, even if that means your most productive hours are 10am to 3pm, or 8pm to 1am. Forcing yourself into an unnatural sleep/work pattern and trying to power through less alert hours could be detrimental to your goals and even your health.
Instead, try to shuffle your schedule to better accommodate your natural circadian rhythm. If you’re tied to a specific or rigid work schedule, experiment with how you plan your tasks and meetings to find your most productive times within that schedule.
3. You need to clean up and organize all your email files.
Some experts will tell you that you need to clean up your email inbox and sort everything into specific folders to be productive.
Let me tell you a secret: My email accounts (personal, work, and spam) are more like e-disaster zones. My personal inbox is full of thousands of emails, dating back to 2006. Occasionally I will go through them to do a little cleanup, but at this point, implementing a new email system would take so much time it would be counter-productive.
My system for getting around this myth? I just archive emails I know I won’t need often, unsubscribe to stuff I know I don’t read anymore, and do a search for the rest. This saves me time, which is part of what productivity is all about.
4. There’s one key solution to your productivity issues.
Experts are always developing new productivity “hacks” or reworking old methods for the new age. Many people believe that there’s a single productivity technique that everyone should use.
The truth? Every worker, manager, and company is different. What works for one group or individual may not work for others. Even if your company uses one system for group projects, give your employees the flexibility to use their favorite productivity methods individually.
Personally, I have a few methods for (loosely) organizing my work projects and communications. But it’s not rigidly organized. I have tried to implement stricter methods, with no success. As I start or finish projects, gain or lose clients, I prefer to have space to bring new apps or techniques into my life.
The solution to this myth? If your current system or process works for you, keep it. If it isn’t working, try a different one. The best productivity technique is the one you’ll actually stick to.
Start increasing your productivity today.
Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is let someone else handle a task. That’s why I work with many different organizations on their marketing content and copywriting projects.
When there’s too much content to create and not enough time or people to create it, I’m there to help write the words they want to say. And I can help your team, too! Shoot me an email or visit my website at emjwriter.com to learn more about what I can do for your organization.