3 Lies You Tell Yourself About Your Productivity

Busy vs Productive

After consulting with dozens of businesses over the years, I’ve taken a lot of notes. One of the most common behaviors is seeing people getting caught on whatever is in front of them, rather than focusing on the things that really matter. They are not aware of their productivity. I watch people work tirelessly reworking the colors on their new website, wondering why it doesn’t seem to be bringing in new people. They will spend our crafting and re-crafting the copy of an email they never get a chance to send.

For whatever reason, being busy has become a badge of honor for people everywhere. Year by year, the number of hours we work increases, but are we really getting more done? For most of us, the answer is “no”. We have created new ways to stay busy doing things that don’t really matter. One of the best ways to achieve your goals is to start big and work your way down. Start with a year or so outlook and then break that down into smaller and smaller pieces (quarter, month, week, etc.) until you have bite-sized tasks that can be accomplished on daily basis. If you’re currently working on something, and you’re not sure how it fits in this plan…you probably need to stop. You need to consciously take stock of how you’re spending your time.

I am the Master of Multitasking

The term “multitasking” has become increasingly popular among the crowd that prides themselves in being super-busy. The fact is, there’s no such thing as multitasking. The brain can only really think about one thing at a time. We can definitely go back-and-forth between multiple things, but we need to factor in the task-switching time. This is the amount of time it takes for you to switch your focus from one thing to another. This is typically not a long time, but it certainly adds up over the course of switching tasks thousands of times per day.

According to Bergman, multitasking leads to a more stressful work environment and as much as a 40% drop in productivity.

I am Always Super Busy, So I Must Be Productive

False. Most people spend their time doing things that don’t really matter. We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule (20% of your actions make 80% of the results), but this goes out the window when we plan our tasks to complete. Many of your have probably heard of Eisenhower’s Principle, for those of you who haven’t, you are likely working in the wrong part of the grid…you’re staying busy and not getting anything done. Look at the chart below, where are you working?

Eisenhower's Principle

Who Uses Schedules Anymore…I Know What I Need to Do!

The truth is, schedule are pretty boring, may seem corporate…but they work. Whether you’re using an old-school planner (like my wife) or some new fangled todo app (like me), getting your tasks down somewhere can bring a lot of clarity to your day-to-day workflow. Nothing feels better than crossing something off the list and taking that momentum to conquer whatever’s next.

This goes for free-time too. Sometimes taking a break really can help you come back to whatever you’re working on with more energy and some fresh perspective. So don’t be afraid to block-out some “me time”.

With products like the famous 4-hour work week by Tim Farris, there does seem to be some hope for future of more efficient workflows. His views are definitely more extreme than most people are ready or willing to commit to, but I think the general concepts can be used by almost anyone. There’s been lots of talk about that magic number of how many hours / days a week we should be working to maximize our time. New research suggests that a 25 hour (4 days) work week seems to be the optimal time to work to get the biggest bang for your buck. On the other hand, this seems quite contrary to the increasingly full schedules we work ourselves into. Most Americans are working far more than the 40-hour quota.

On the other hand, this seems quite contrary to the increasingly full schedules we work ourselves into. Most Americans are working far more than the 40-hour quota. Personally, I think it’s possible to work an efficient 80 hours week. It becomes more important, however, to take stock of how you’re spending your time. You must be sure you’re working dilagently on things that will help you win long term, rather than perfecting things that really just don’t matter.