The science of productivity is full of myths and hearsays. It seems like, over the years, we have heard them all. While some myths are harmless enough and go under our radar, many are in dire need of debunking.
1. Routine kills creativity
We often hear that you can’t simply turn on your creativity like a faucet. There has to be the right mood, otherwise inspiration will turn its nose up at you. However, it turns out our brain responds rather well to routine.
As a matter of fact, many influential creative people had their own daily routines that helped them achieve better results. The idea behind this is that you know exactly where and when you are going to do your work. When you don’t have to consciously make these decisions, you conserve your willpower and mental energy.
Creative work is no different than any other kind of work. It goes through different drafts and revisions, with final version often in stark contrast with what was planned initially.
Many how-to books repeat the old saying “practice makes perfect” but forget to add that it only works for good and deliberate practice. And good practice is impossible without a set routine. By going over it repeatedly, you rewire yourself into entering a deeper level of conscience and tap into resources you never even knew you had.
Don’t just wait for inspiration – schedule it!
2. Multitasking gets more things done
For the longest time, multitasking was the one technique everyone and their mother recommended as the ultimate solution to manage time. Thankfully, more and more people are starting to realize that it is really the bane of productivity.
(We like to think we’ve made our modest contribution to that, as well.)
Research conducted at Stanford University in 2009 found that not only does multitasking slow us down, it also increases the number of mistakes we make. This creates an interesting paradox: whatever little time we can conserve by multitasking is spent correcting these mistakes.
Heavy multitasking makes you underperform and takes a huge toll on your mental efficiency. Clifford Nass, a Stanford professor of communication and a renowned authority on the issue of multitasking, once said that multitaskers love irrelevancy. Juggling many activities at once makes it hard to filter out the information that is relevant to our goal.
Basically, our focus operates on the butter principle. Dedicate it to too many a things, and your focus, in the words of Bilbo Baggins, will feel “like butter scraped over too much bread”.
Concentrate on just one task but commit to it fully.
3. Working under pressure gives better results
This one, unfortunately, is here to stay. Even today, the idea of performing better with the gun of deadline pointed at your head is strangely alluring to students and employees alike.
“That’s simply how I do things”, you might say. If you get it done, there’s no harm, right?
Wrong. No matter how well you handle stress, last-minute panic still burdens your mental health and clogs your mind. The whole idea of working in crunch mode is based on the fact that humans are present-biased. This means that when faced with two rewards several days or week apart, we choose the more imminent one. The further in time the reward is, the less we think of its value.
Delaying the task until the last minute is all about self-deception. Saying “I work better under pressure” is you rationalizing your own procrastination. Instead, visualize your goal and use a to-do checklist to structure the smaller tasks.
You can use a tool like Weekdone as your own task manager to keep track of your progress and plans. If you have too much on your plate, you can also decide on the order of importance and stick to your schedule.
4. Busy mind equals higher productivity
We’re not exactly discovering anything new when we say that breaks are an important part of work. It’s in every self-help book and every productivity manual there is. The problem is not that we don’t know about the benefit of breaks – it’s that we often forget about taking them.
If you think breaks are a no-brainer, guess again. Having regular breaks takes as much discipline as maintaining a healthy diet. A single strategic lazy break can help you reboot your cognitive energy and regain your mental dexterity in the middle of the day.
Taking these breaks regularly will improve your productivity and mental efficiency. A recent study suggests that the optimal ratio is 17 to 52. This means that after every 52 minutes of work you should ideally take a 17-minute break.
If it seems like too much, you can opt for shorter breaks. For example, a simple 15-second break taken every 10 minutes reduces your fatigue by 50%. Regular 2-minute breaks increase productivity by over 11%.
Keep in mind that break are most effective when taken pre-emptively. Professor John P. Trougakos, author of multiple papers about the role of work breaks, compares mental concentration to a muscle. It becomes fatigued and needs some rest period to recover. So don’t wait until your muscles begin to ache, do a stretch right now!
You can do it in the middle of the office too, if you want to help others take their minds off work.
5. Regular planning takes too much time
While some systems of self-organizing can take more time to get used to than the others, they are ultimately designed to save you the time in the long run. Our data shows that 1 solid hour of planning equals roughly 10 hours of work.
You do the math.
A lot of these productivity systems are flexible, as well. They allow for differences in personality and work conditions. While many believe that their lack of any systematic approach is a system in itself, we encourage you to abandon chaos in your life.
We at Weekdone really believe in a positive power of weekly status reporting. This is the sole reason the Weekdone tool exists. Regular planning and reporting promotes productivity and teamwork. Not to mention, it makes troubleshooting a breeze.
In the end, great results don’t just descend from above – they have to be fought for and earned. So go and earn yours!