Although the industrial revolution is almost two centuries old, productivity remains an elusive unicorn that we all want to capture but do not know how. While there is something to be said about work ethic and tenacity, much of the struggle stems from bad advice and harmful behaviors. Below are five myths about productivity that are getting in the way of actually being productive:
Frequent Breaks Slow Down Progress
For years, taking breaks while working has been considered a luxury. Work through lunch or skip the late afternoon gossip in the break room are championed for their hard work. However, breaks are necessary for our brain to work more effectively. They minimize fatigue, improve learning and spark inspiration. Productivity methods such as the Pomodoro Technique incorporate breaks as part of your workflow. Of course, it is important not to take too many breaks. Focusing on a project for ten minutes and then spending fifteen minutes stalking your ex on Facebook is not productive. You should try to stay focused on a task for about 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Once you do take a break, take one that energizes you. A brief walk outside, a phone call to a friend or reading a chapter from that risque romance novel helps your brain recharge.
Focus On One Thing Until You Finish
I know I just discussed the need to stay focus on one task, but sometimes your brain needs to think about something else. Let’s say you are working on a long-term project for your company. It combines expertise and resources from other departments and requires a lot of small and large decisions. To tackle effectively, break it down into smaller pieces and give yourself permission to step away and do something else. Sometimes our most creative and innovative solutions come when we are doing something completely unrelated to the problem. Do not be afraid to work on a smaller assignment or busy work for a while when you have reached your mental limit. This ensures that once you return to the big task at hand, your mind is clear and energized.
Multitasking Helps You Get More Done
This is one of the biggest myths out there. Despite our ability to appear as though we are doing multiple things at once, science has disproved the existence of actual multitasking. Our brains are equipped to handle one thing at a time. Doing more than one thing at once splits our attention, which leads to low-quality work. We are unable to give 100% of ourselves to five different projects at the same time. The reason why this myth has persisted so long is that those who multitask get a sense of emotional satisfaction while appearing to be super productive. In reality, it takes longer to get things accomplished than if we just focused on one task. Letting go of this myth will be one of the best things for your productivity.
The Longer You Work, The More You Accomplish
The concept of working long hours to get more done needs to be thrown out. For decades, those who worked from sunup to sundown were considered the most hardworking, productive individuals out there. However, working fewer hours increases efficiency and quality. There are a few reasons for this. One, fewer hours of sustained focus minimizes stress and increases personal satisfaction. Two, knowing that you have a finite time to complete a task before moving on to more pleasurable activities motivates you to get more done quickly. Three, our brains naturally reach a point where we honestly cannot even (outdated reference, but still relevant). So do not feel guilty for leaving work early for happy hour. You work better when you are happy (just make sure you are fit to work the next day).
Work-Life Balance Is Another Word For Procrastination
As a recovering procrastinator, I know the slippery slope between self-care and simply avoiding responsibilities. I also know the reverse, where you believe working yourself into fine dust will be the magic you need to conquer the world. I am here to tell you from experience that neither method is effective. The key to work-life balance is to, well, find a balance. Working nonstop is just as bad as waiting until the last minute to accomplish anything. Give yourself a break when you do not feel like writing that ten-page report (though you should definitely get on it eventually). Coax yourself into working with kind words and rewards, like indulging in your favorite flavor of Häagen-Dazs. Your brain and your employer will thank you.
When searching for ways to maximize productivity in the workplace, think about making changes to your environment. Items such as calendars, timers, candles and stress balls can keep you relaxed and on track. Check our Choice Productivity collection to create a focused work environment.