by Josh Millar
Our beliefs play a significant role in how we operate on a daily basis and in our overall success. This is true on a general level and, more specifically, it’s especially true when it comes to our productivity efforts. While the right mindsets can propel you forward, misconceptions can limit your potential. Here are some of the most common misconceptions I think we encounter about productivity that can sabotage our success:
So many of us equate feeling busy with being productive. While theoretically, we may know that the two aren’t the same, this belief often operates on a more subconscious level. When we’re running around to different things, working to get through several tasks at once, and skipping lunch to complete a project on time, it can feel like we’re doing a lot. Unfortunately, this busy mindset tends to include a great deal of multi-tasking, distractions, and wasted time. Instead of letting busy make you feel like you’re accomplishing things, it should be a red flag. True productivity is about knowing how to prioritize your tasks and focus your energy. When you’re in that productive flow, you’ll feel calm, not busy.
Eating the Frog
Mark Twain’s advice about tackling your most daunting task first has made it into productivity articles across the internet. While there is definitely some benefit to this strategy, the danger is in mindlessly adopting it. To me, this tip is about beating procrastination. It’s about getting to that task that you’re most likely to avoid and gaining a boost of confidence and motivation from completing it. In that scenario, it’s often a useful strategy. I tend to see this tip used in a more time-focused way, where we commit to doing the most difficult task in the morning before any other work. While that may have been part of Mark Twain’s advice, I don’t believe that’s always the best thinking for today’s professionals. If you’re not a morning person, this strategy will probably backfire. With this and all other productivity advice, it’s essential that you adapt it to you. We all have unique needs and respond to things differently. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to productivity strategies, and we need to keep this in mind as we experiment with adopting new ones.
Finding More Hours in the Day
When we talk about productivity, we often talk about maximizing our time. This should mean better using the time we have and maybe even freeing some of it up as a result. Unfortunately, this quest for maximization often leads people to look for more time. Instead of working more efficiently or prioritizing more effectively, they’re searching for more time to get everything done. They’re waking up earlier to take advantage of their mornings and they’re staying up later to fit in the things they couldn’t get to earlier. They’re working through their lunch and avoiding breaks altogether. This kind of relationship to time can derail our search for improved productivity. Prioritize your sleep and your physical health and prioritize a healthy work-life balance. How much time does that leave you with to focus on work? Whatever your answer, that’s the amount of time you have to work with. Instead of focusing on the number and ways to expand it, focus on the productivity strategies you can employ within that window.
Getting More Done
Many people believe that the more productive they are, the longer their to-do lists can be. Instead of working all day to check 10 things off, they’ll be able to check 20 or more off in that same amount of time. While productivity does often allow us to accomplish more in a given time, this is more of a side effect than a main goal. When you focus on getting more done, you often get yourself in the busy trap I mentioned above. Instead, productivity is about doing the things that are important and doing them well. Prioritization is one of the most essential skills for someone looking to be more productive. Instead of adding tasks to your to-do list and pushing yourself to get them all done, I’d recommend starting with what you can eliminate. As you shrink your list to your most important tasks, you improve focus and reduce multitasking and distractions. As you grow accustomed to this strategy, you’ll often find yourself completing these important tasks in record time, leaving you more time for other tasks, both work-related and personal.
Envision a highly productive person. If they’re zipping about from task to task, not taking breaks, working long hours, and tackling a massive to-do list, it’s time to check in. That’s rarely the picture of productivity. Instead, productivity is about concentration, personalization, balance, and prioritizing. It’s important that when you think of productivity, you associate it with these things and not with being that busy person we first described. How you envision productivity determines how you practice it, and misconceptions can dramatically limit your potential.How you envision productivity determines how you practice it, and misconceptions can dramatically limit your potential.