Productivity has to be near the top of the list when it comes to often thrown around and rarely fully understood business buzzwords. Misconceptions are common. Confusion about which habits and strategies will theoretically minimize or maximize your productivity can have all kinds of real, measurable, detrimental effects on your actual on-the-job effectiveness. Here’s part one, the first five of ten common mistaken beliefs about productivity that may be affecting you right now and how you can work to fix them.
1. You’re at your best when you’re under pressure. Somehow, the idea that working under constant stress- facing pressure to meet deadlines, to perform at a high level, to work more efficiently- results in more efficient and effective work have become the norm, but this is far from the case. As this article from the Harvard Business Review details, high-stress work cultures result in more lost time due to diminished health and disengagement, resulting in accidents, errors, and defects in work. As much as you can, try to bring a positive outlook to work every day; the results will surprise you.
2. Stress is your enemy. Because why not start this list off with a contradiction? I wasn’t lying just a few lines ago; stress does diminish health, promote disengagement and result in decreased productivity… most of the time. I’d recommend everyone reading this right now to watch this Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist who explains how thinking about the stress response as a natural, beneficial process rather than a problem can benefit your health and increase your productivity.
3. Short interruptions to work aren’t problematic. It happens to the best of us. Just as you’re finally getting the ball rolling, getting some work done, a smattering of stupid little questions pop into your head for no reason- Who won the Stanley Cup in 2011? Who was the lead actor in Dances with Wolves? (Boston Bruins, Kevin Costner) The answers don’t matter; you know that, but there’s no harm in taking a couple of seconds to check, right? Wrong. It’s all too easy to lose your train of thought or spend half an hour lost in an endless chain of links. Next time you feel like you just need to look something up, or you’ll go insane, write it down on a sticky note instead and look it up when you have the time.
4. Multitasking is a great way to get more done in less time. Ask just about anyone, we all think we’re kings and queens of multitasking, but that’s far from the case. Recent research shows that only about 2% of us are effective multitaskers. For the other 98%, multitasking kills attention spans and productivity. Instead of loading up your plate and trying to do 15 things at once, stick to one task at a time and focus, really work at it until you finish, then move on to the next item on your list. Unless you’re one of those select few “supertaskers,” in which case congratulations, disregard this little piece of advice and know that I and many others are supremely jealous.
5. Caffeine is the key to increased alertness and renewed productivity. While most of us resort to energy drinks and extra-large coffees for the morning energizers and afternoon pick-me-ups we feel we need to power through the work week; this isn’t always the best way to go. While caffeine does have immediate and even long-term benefits in small doses, the negative health effects of chronic caffeine overuse and dependency are well-documented and can outweigh those benefits. The next time you’re feeling burnt out, and you want to reach for coffee #3 of the day, reach for an apple, power through 30 seconds of high-intensity exercise or go for a walk around the block instead.
That does it for part one. Hopefully, this has been as illuminating for you as some of these revelations have been for me over the years. Check back in the coming days for part 2 with five brand new misconceptions about productivity and five brand new ways to beat them.