There are many tips on how to boost one’s productivity, and many of them really work (maybe not for everyone, but still). Meanwhile, there are numerous productivity myths and half-truths, which may be keeping you from getting stuff done. Because instead of boosting your effectiveness, they make you organize your work in unnatural and unproductive ways.
Here are six of the most common productivity myths, which are disproved by research.
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#1: If you work longer hours you’ll get more done
The logic of ‘more hours equal more work’ is a pure myth. Working long hours leads to lower productivity, worse results and unhappy workers. The Economist recently put together data from 1990 until 2012 and found that that longer working hours don’t correlate with higher productivity. For example, each year Germans work about 600 hours less than the Greeks, but their productivity is about 70% higher. Sounds convincing.
In short: it’s okay work shorter hours and take frequent breaks, since happy and well rested employees mean more productive employees.
#2: Multitasking is key to achieving more in less time
Multitasking has for a long time figured as a top technique for maximizing your output. In fact, it actually slow us down and increase the numbers of errors we make, as found by a study conducted at Stanford University.
The study proved that people prone to multitasking were less likely to remember information, often were unable to pay attention and generally found it harder to switch from one task to another when compared to people who liked to complete one task a time.
In short: switching tasks in quick succession leads to bad results and, consequently, more corrections and rework done later.
#3: Disconnecting is good for your brain
The Internet has changed the way we think. Today we don’t memorize information, instead we turn to the web and get bombarded with even more information junk. Yet that might not be as bad as it sounds. A study from Columbia University examined the effects of using Google on human memory and concluded that some people simply prefer to research information instead of storing it in their memories.
In short: we become more careful about the information we decide to store in our brains. That is, we remember the important and useful information, and that leaves us more energy to focus on something that really matters.
#4: Employees are unproductive outside the office
Working from home can indeed be a challenge – everyone who’s ever done that will probably agree. But sometimes working outside the office can increase employees’ productivity, as shown by one Stanford study. Meanwhile a different study found that background noise, usually found in cafes and other public places, is good for creativity and helps us focus.
In short: it all comes down to your preferences. Some find it great to work outside the office, while for others struggle to focus in environments where people do other things besides working.
#5: Day-dreaming is counter-productive
Today’s culture favors the idea of ‘being busy’ and leaves no mercy for boredom, procrastination or day-dreaming. In fact, all three are essential to our mental health. Recent research proved that ‘non-productive’ periods actually improve our focus once we get back to work.
In short: lazy breaks let us recharge our brains, consequently positively affecting our productivity.
#6: Keeping a clean workspace helps you to be organized
Those perfectly organized desks we see in glossy magazines… yeah, they not only don’t exist in real life, but also won’t make you more organized. Contrary to the common view that clutter decreases productivity, sometimes a decent mess on your desk can actually make you more efficient, creative, and better at decision making, as found in one study. Put simply, good space organization doesn’t mean taking everything off. It means that things you need most are nearby and those you don’t use often are out of the way, but can be easily found if needed.
In short: as long as you can find everything you need on your desk, you can consider it perfectly organized.