Productivity Myths You Need To Stop Believing


We all want to get more done in a day and become the masters of productivity. Be it through improved time trackers or through smart hacks, we keep chasing productivity. I believe that in this process, many of us are losing focus on what productivity truly means and are more focused on appearing to be productive.

Here are some myths we should stop believing in, right away:

Myth #1: Multitasking is the key to time management

If you think reading case law, responding to emails, and talking to a colleague at the same time increases productivity, you are absolutely mistaken.

It is a scientific fact that our brain cannot do two things at the same time. Despite the serious name, multitasking is nothing but shifting from one task to another, several times, and it’s a productivity killer.

Every time you switch tasks, you require time to focus on the new task and before you get focused, it’s already time to switch to another.

From personal experience, another major disadvantage of multitasking is that it takes a toll on the quality of the work product. Shifting between tasks makes it hard, if not impossible, to get into a flow state of productivity. I find that without being in such a state, it is harder to produce out-of-the-box, creative ideas for the task at hand.

Myth #2: Work comes first for successful people

There is no doubt that someone with a successful career understands the value and importance of work, but that doesn’t mean they are workaholics. There are a lot of critical aspects of life which need just as much attention (if not more) such as health, family, hobbies, etc.

Successful people are aware that a well-balanced life is the key to true success.

What starts with reading a few emails and taking a few calls on a weekend, turns into working for hours on a Sunday and ... POOF! Your weekend is gone. You had no time to buy groceries, plan out meals, do household chores, or to simply relax. And because you didn’t take the time to relax and recharge, you end up spending your week running around like a crazy zombie.

It is an absolute myth that work comes before play. Balancing both is the secret to professional success and personal well-being.

According to Parkinson’s law, taking on work outside of work hours will eat up the time you have available for living. Your work will never seem like it’s done, but it is up to you to come to a hard stop and focus on other aspects of your life.

Myth #3: Having no free time means you’ve reached a high level of productivity

Being busy is being productive” is one of the most counter-productive ideas ever.

Your calendar is jam-packed with meetings and calls; you are constantly checking and responding to emails; you are knocking off things on your to-do list, so you must be productive, right? Not necessarily.

Being busy only gives you the illusion of being in control and being productive. For example, if your to-do list is filled with low priority, low importance activities, then even though you are checking things off your list, it doesn’t mean you are getting the important things done.

Occupying yourself with trivial tasks and dodging the important ones can result in a lack of productivity and procrastination.

Get out of the habit of being busy and get into the habit of being productive. Here are some thoughts on how-to:

  • Practice ruthless prioritization. Across each task on your list, mark its priority level.

  • Ask yourself, will doing this task take me significantly closer to my objective? If not, eliminate or push back the task.

  • Control your urge to be a perfectionist on any given task.

Remember that working smart, not hard is the key to winning.

Myth #4: Sleep is for slackers

Of course, sleep deprivation is something attorneys get accustomed to in law school. Unfortunately, it can become a habit that continues into the later stages of your career.

The truth is, a lack of activity impacts our productivity just as much as sleep does. It is a critical factor in driving peak performance.

Sleep enhances our creativity, concentration, attention, mental and physical health, decision-making and social skills. Sleep reduces our stress, anger, impulsiveness, weight gain, moodiness, and tendency to drink and smoke. Despite this, sleep deprivation is so widespread in America that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have deemed it an epidemic.

Remember: sleep deprivation due to productivity is not something to be proud of; in fact, it is the opposite. If you are losing sleep often, you are not managing your time very well.

With these four myths in mind, take stock of your day and ask yourself, are you busy or productive? The answer may surprise you.

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort” - Paul Mayer